Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lisa's Choice: Protect Her Baby or Stop the Cancer 

Posted by James at 11:59 AM ET

by Kim Christiansen 9NEWS Anchor/Reporter
It happened within minutes. For Lisa Pevateaux one of the happiest times of her life became one of the saddest.

On March 16, Lisa and her husband Chris heard the heartbeat of their second child. Then her doctor found a lump in her left breast.

Four days later Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"All of a sudden everything was flashing in front of me like oh my God, here's my time, I can't believe that it's come," said Lisa.

Lisa is a former Denver Broncos Cheerleader and Denver Nuggets Dancer. She owns Elite Dance Academy in Broomfield. Despite being incredibly fit and healthy, Lisa knew she was at risk for breast cancer because she had tested positive for the BRCA1 (breast cancer 1) gene. This is an inherited gene that greatly increases a woman's risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers at a young age.

A few years ago, Lisa learned of the breast and ovarian cancers within her family and that's when she chose to have the gene test. Although it is a test that many women are afraid to get, Lisa said, "Rather than live in the dark, I wanted to live in the light of knowledge."
Lisa, Broncos Cheerleader
As soon as Lisa knew about her risk for breast and ovarian cancers, she consulted with her doctors. Lisa and her husband wanted children. The doctors encouraged them to have their family sooner, rather than later.

Lisa agreed to be closely screened for breast cancer. Her plan was to have her family and then take some preventative measures to deal with her cancer risk. For example, many women choose to have a preventive mastectomy and then have their ovaries removed.

Their plan seemed to be working perfectly until March. Their first son, John David, was born October 24, 2005. Then Lisa got pregnant again. Her second baby was due on the same date of this year. The baby's heartbeat was strong, but it was at that checkup that Dr. Samantha Patwardhan found the lump in her breast.

After the cancer was diagnosed, Lisa says she fell apart and then her survival instincts kicked in.

Lisa and Chris consulted with three oncologists about their options. The first oncologist they met with suggested she terminate the pregnancy in order to get the best care for her cancer.

"At the time we thought this baby was an angel that saved my life and we were trying to like deal with separation from that, and dealing with the termination of the pregnancy that we wanted so badly," said Lisa.

Lisa and Chris believe if it wasn't for that first pregnancy checkup, Lisa's lump may not have been found for months. They struggled to accept the suggestion that the pregnancy be terminated.

Lisa and her family

After two more visits with oncologists, they made their decision.

Dr. Virginia Borges at the University of Colorado Cancer Center told Lisa she needed one time of chemotherapy during the pregnancy and she could have the second after her baby was born.

"Once a woman is into her second trimester you can administer at least some of the chemotherapy, without anticipating any harm to the developing baby," said Borges. "Thankfully in breast cancer, two of the drugs that we use as the main backbone of breast cancer treatment we've know for over 20 years that we can administer these drugs safely to a woman in her second and third trimester."

On the day Lisa began her 21st week of pregnancy, she got her first dose of chemotherapy. Lisa reviewed everything with Borges one last time and kept an upbeat approach.

However, when the moment came she admits she was unprepared for her reaction.

"As I was sitting in the chair and looking across at my husband and realizing the gravity and weight of the whole situation, it was the hardest thing for me. It was harder than surgery, it was harder than anything because you see this big red liquid syringe being put into your body and you realize that you're trying to kill something. I thought about the baby right away," she said.

Lisa says what got her through that first chemo treatment was the acceptance that this was going to help her live to be a grandmother. Through the rest of her treatments Lisa stayed strong. She went to the CU Cancer Center before each treatment for acupuncture to ease any nausea. She also worked out at Navitas Cancer Rehabilitation Center in Westminster every week. After physical therapy (post surgical treatment) she would walk on the treadmill and lift light weights.

In the weeks during and after chemo, Chris says the movement of the baby helped ease his concerns. He was relieved to see the baby during an ultrasound.

"You're seeing motion, you're seeing movement, you're seeing the baby is healthy," he said. "They're looking at the baby's heart and the baby's heart is healthy. And that's our only link to him until we can hold him physically in our hands and tell him that we love him."

On October 7, Lisa and Chris and their son John David were joined by dozens of friends and family members in Denver's Race for the Cure. That night, at halftime during the Denver Broncos game, Lisa and her family stepped onto the field as the Denver Broncos presented a check to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.

Five days later, Lisa and Chris were in a delivery room at Rose Medical Center. Finally, it was time to hold their baby.

About 7 p.m. on October 12 Chase Christopher Pevateaux was born, weighing 6 pounds and 6 ounces. Lisa calls him "my angel baby." She gives him all the credit for saving her life and giving her the strength to face chemo during pregnancy and again right after his birth.

In the five weeks since Chase's birth Lisa has had two rounds of the second type of chemotherapy she could not have while pregnant. She has two more rounds to go. She'll finish chemo just before Christmas. Chase is growing quickly, he's gained 3 and half pounds and he's passed every newborn screening.

"I have a wall on which I have pictures of all the babies who were delivered of women who either I treated before their mothers became pregnant or while their mothers were pregnant and that wall gives me a lot of motivation to keep going on the research keep moving things forward," said Borges.

Make room for another photograph.

Watch a video of this story here.

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