When Jade Wyngaardt was told there were two heartbeats, she decided not to go ahead with the termination. Even though her pregnancy would only fuel her breast cancer and complicate her treatment. She shares this courageous decision with us.
Jade Wyngaardt (30) lives in Woodstock, Cape Town with her husband, George, and their four children, Kairo (5), Israel (4), Judah (2) and Kenya (2).
Diagnosed at 27
In June 2016, Jade noticed a lump in her left breast that kept growing. She also experienced a constant dull pain in her armpit. After a biopsy, at a public hospital, the lump was diagnosed as a Stage 3 hormone-sensitive breast cancer.
Due to the cancer being aggressive, Jade was put on tamoxifen immediately and her doctors explained the best treatment going forward would be surgery, eight cycles of chemotherapy, radiation and then a continuation of tamoxifen.
But three days before the planned surgery, Jade found out that she was four weeks pregnant.
Advised to terminate
The young mother was told by her treating doctors that the pregnancy would only complicate her case as her cancer was aggressive and hormone-sensitive. “They told me my pregnancy would only increase my hormone levels which would then fuel the cancer. Their priority was to take care of ‘patient A’ which was me. I was also told that the radioactive dye used in the biopsy may have caused complications in the development of the embryo; this could lead to the baby being deformed. The embryo was also exposed to hormone drugs and surgery would also be a risk. With all these ‘could haves’, I got so scared and reluctantly decided to save my own life instead,” Jade explains.
The doctors had planned to terminate during Jade’s breast surgery. Though, due to time complications, it was not performed. The doctors rescheduled the termination for two weeks’ time.
Prayed for a sign
The decision of termination was not easy for Jade (or for George – he couldn’t bring himself to accompany Jade to the app) so she prayed for a sign before she went to the hospital.
“George, my husband is fundamentally against abortion but he respected my decision for obvious reasons. He has always wanted twins and often joked about it. But this time it was different. It was as if he knew something was different with this pregnancy. I prayed for a sign.When I went to terminate the pregnancy, the radiographer noticed something peculiar. She asked me if I wanted to know anything about this pregnancy. I think she assumed I was underage and wanted to have this abortion willingly.
When I explained that I already have two kids, she was taken back and announced that I was carrying another two. That was my sign!
I got up immediately and left to share the news with my husband who had been mourning all day. When he opened the door, he looked devastated but frantically jumped on our bed once I told him the good news. The foetuses were around six weeks and four days at this point,” Jade explains.
The way forward
After Jade shared the news with George, he took it upon himself to educate himself about the type of cancer she has. He found several articles and case studies online that proved that Jade could successfully have chemotherapy during her pregnancy.Though, it would be risky and the foetuses needed to be older than 14 weeks.
Jade’s treating doctors were respectful and supportive of her decision to not terminate. They explained that the chemo should have minimal effects on her unborn babies but would cause her pregnancy to take a toll on her. However, that was the risk she was willing to take. “The doctors did everything they could to look after patient A, B and C,” she says.
Jade stopped taking tamoxifen immediately.
Chemotherapy during pregnancy
Next, Jade started eight cycles of chemo (doxorubicin and docetaxel) which lasted six months. The foetuses were 15-weeks-old. Jade admits she was always afraid. She explains, “I don’t think that feeling ever goes away; it’s just replaced by a different situation. George was by my side doing research and I felt pretty confident that we were going to make it out of the situation in one piece.”
Though, chemotherapy made Jade’s pregnancy extremely taxing. “I was exceptionally exhausted. I couldn’t eat and my fat reserves were being used up by my unborn babies. A twin pregnancy is no joke when you are on chemo. I was literally dying.”
Jade chose to end her chemo early (at six cycles opposed to eight) as a precautionary measure. She wanted to be strong enough to birth her twins naturally and to also ensure that there were no toxins in her body during this time. She adds, “To be honest, I felt like if I had one more chemo session, I would land up in a grave.”
Unfortunately, due to Jade’s decision of detoxing before birth, the window period for radiation passed.
On 1st February 2017, Jade went into labour and gave birth to her six-week premature twins – a boy, Judah, who weighed 1,4kg and a girl, Kenya, who weighed 1,8kg. The twins were sent to neonatal for observation though they could breathe and drink on their own.
She managed to breastfeed (from her right breast) for about two months. This was something she wanted to do as her babies were prem and needed mother’s milk.
Though, Jade’s breast milk dried up quickly. Plus, it was quite a task. “Having one breast was already challenging but feeding two hungry babies with one breast was virtually impossible,” she adds.
Unfortunately, Jade had a recurrence, in May 2018. “The second-time round,
I was more in tune with my body. In April 2018, I felt a lump under my armpit where the scar was and several other lumps started forming on my check and neck. I knew what they were but I just couldn’t find it in me to go and get them confirmed as cancerous tumours. When I went in to have it checked and my fears were confirmed. The test were positive for infiltrating ductul carcinoma with a lymphovascular invasion,” she says.
“I was completely shattered when I heard it was back. I just got out of this traumatic experience and was in the process of rebuilding my life. ‘Not this again!’ was my first thought. Though, a big part of me always knew that I was not out of the woods. But it was the sheer timing of it all. My twins were about to go to crèche in a few months. George had lost his job and we were struggling to pay the medical bills which accumulated due to the pregnancy and treatments,” she says.
Life spiralling out of control
A devastating moment was when Jade saw her file and the words Stage 4 breast cancer (inconclusive). A CT scan showed cancerous specs were found on her liver and bones. “This caused my life to spiral out of control. I thought I was going to die and leave my children without a mother. I struggled to deal with the mental and emotional stress
of the potential outcome. I went for counselling. My marriage was also under a lot of strain so we went for marriage counselling too.”
The planned treatment regime for the recurrence is: four cycles of chemotherapy, which Jade has recently finished. She is scheduled for 15 days of radiation, and then tamoxifen for five years.
“George is very helpful. He keeps pushing me forward especially through the moments when I feel I can’t do this anymore. He read lots of articles on cancer, treatments, diets and even joined breast cancer forums. I encourage all caregivers to do the same. The power of knowing is crucial in the fight against cancer.”
“With that said, George was also so desperate to save my life. So, he encouraged me to take all the possible buzzword supplements he read about, all the while I continued with conventional treatment. I was constantly given apricot kernels which was meant to boost my immune system, and CBD oil for pain. I also decided to cut out meat and sugar, and went on a vegan diet and juiced regularly. But it felt like I was wasting away. I lost so much weight and had no energy left to fight. While we thought we were starving the cancer,
I was also starving myself,” Jade honestly admits.
Aware of her existence
This caused Jade’s approach to change. She has started eating more and eased off her chosen complementary therapies.“I don’t want to lose more weight!”
Once she finishes radiation, she will go back to her holistic treatment.
She is feeling strong and is more aware of her existence – she is a mother and her children need her. She is a wife and has a loving husband, who wants to continue to do life with her, and has a supportive family and a business to be grateful for. Her decision was choose life and fight with all that she has got.
Two happy healthy toddlers
Judah and Kenya turned two this year. They are healthy and intelligent. “You would never say they went through this whole ordeal. I never for one second regret not terminating! In fact, the twins are a reminder of what God can do. They were not supposed to be here. They were exposed to life-threatening circumstances and were conceived while I was on birth control and hormone therapy. But, miracles do happen and in this case it was two miracles!”
MEET OUR EDITOR – Laurelle Williams
Laurelle Williams is the editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. firstname.lastname@example.org