Undergoing chemo while pregnant: A mother’s battle to overcome breast cancer for her family

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As Mary Harris sat in her chemotherapy treatments, her focus was on the little baby inside of her. That’s right, Harris was pregnant and battling breast cancer. She said it was like living two different lives at the same time.

Diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in September 2012, Harris received more shocking news just one day before she was scheduled to go in for a lumpectomy. Routine blood work found she was pregnant with her second child.

Doctors delayed surgery for another week, but quickly decided Harris should proceed with chemo and radiation, despite her pregnancy.

“Everyone realized the cancer had to come out and we wanted to make sure we did that, so it didn't grow more,” explained Harris.

Armed with research and calling in the top experts in the field of cancer and pregnancy to help, Harris was comforted she was making the right decision. Harris underwent four rounds of chemo for 12 weeks once she entered the second trimester of her pregnancy.

“It was really hard. You’re in a place where lots of people are really sick and you roll in with your giant pregnant belly and they stick a needle in your arm and the drugs start coming and I just waited for the baby to kick,” said Harris.

Chemo treatments stopped just four weeks before Harris delivered her beautiful, healthy baby girl, Stella. But when the new mother should have been home with her newborn, she was instead carrying her 5-week-old daughter on the train to the NYU Cancer Center for radiation.

Today, Harris is cancer free, and like so many other survivors, is giving back.

For Harris, it’s through a new WNYC podcast called "Only Human." She uses the platform to publicly talk about her unique challenge with breast cancer. The exposure she said is already allowing others to candidly talk about their own health issues.

“You don't take anything for granted when you have one of these experiences. I have one shot at this thing, so make the most of it everyday,” said Harris.

Harris’ podcast launched just one week ago and is already #6 on the iTunes podcast Top 10 Chart.