At age 39, Noemi Nieves went to her gynecologist due to irregular periods and blood discharge from her right breast. The tests revealed that she was pregnant, yet that was not the source of her pain. Her doctor urged her to get a mammogram, and the results were the opposite of the joyous news of being pregnant.
At age 39, Noemi Nieves was pregnant with twins and had breast cancer.
Her doctor urged her to make a choice due to the possible aggressive nature of the cancer.
Nieves was shocked by the cancer diagnosis since she had no family history of breast cancer and felt overwhelmed, so she decided to get a second opinion and made an appointment with Priyanka Raval, MD, a breast medical oncologist at the Georgia Cancer Center who performed an ultrasound on Nieves.
“This is an aggressive cancer, you will have to make a treatment choice,” Nieves recalled Ravel saying once they had gotten the results back.
Being pregnant rules out many treatments, especially in the first trimester, including chemotherapy. With her doctors and family urging her for a decision, Nieves decided to undergo surgery and get a mastectomy.
“After the mastectomy, that is when we found out how aggressive it was,” Nieves says and was thankful she got the surgery so they knew the scope of her cancer.
Her tumor was so large that it took up almost the entire breast. Along with the large tumor, she also had a large amount of lymph nodes that traveled down her arm.
After the surgery she started her chemotherapy, using doxorubicin, which is better known as ‘Red Devil.’ It earned the name due to its color and aggressiveness, but it is one of the safest options for pregnant women.
While undergoing this treatment, Nieves continued her job as a registration specialist here at the Georgia Cancer Center. She would schedule her treatment on Friday afternoons so she would not suffer the side effects while working.
It was difficult at first for Nieves to balance her treatment with work and providing for her family, but her friends and family, including her children, stepped up to the plate and provided support for her every step of the way. Her best friends even shaved their heads with her so she would not go through it alone.
“She said we are going to be twins and we are going to do this together,” Nieves said about her best friend who shaved off her dreadlocks that she had had for years.
Alongside her support system at home, Nieves was under the watchful eyes of multiple doctors. While being pregnant and undergoing cancer treatment is not unheard of, it is still a rare occurrence, especially since Nieves was expecting twins and also had a heart condition.
“When I tell you I was seeing a lot of doctors…I was seeing my surgeon, Dr. Raval, Dr. Guha, the lymphedema doctor due to all of the swelling that I had,” Nieves said when talking about her care. She also was seeing an OB Cardiologist and two fetal medicine doctors.
After six treatments of chemo, Nieves gave birth to her twins at eight months.
“They were great,” she said. “They were preemies. My son was four pounds and my daughter was 3 pounds.”
She continued chemo treatment with 12 rounds of Paclitaxel, also known as Taxol, and was finally able to ring the bell. She followed that up with radiation treatment and has a few medications and infusions that she has to continue taking, but she is officially cancer-free.
Nieves loves to share her stories with the patients she sees at the clinic and hopes that she can help inspire them to continue the fight. She always reminds them that they are never alone in their journey and that she will be there every step of the way. She even spoke at the Breast Cancer Survivor Community Social that happens at the M. Bert Research Building once a month.
“There is hope, do not give up. Do not give up because you can fight and you can get through it.”
If you would like to schedule an appointment or a screening with our Breast Cancer Team, you can visit our website here or you can call 706-721-6744. If you would like to learn more about Nieves’ story, watch her patient profile on the Georgia Cancer Center’s YouTube page.