Alicia Wynn couldn’t have been happier when she found out she was expecting her fourth child. But the 33-year-old mother’s excitement turned to anguish when she was diagnosed with stage 2 lobular breast cancer in the third month of her pregnancy.
“I never thought it would happen to me,” the St. Helena Island resident said. “I was so young.”
Just as her breasts were beginning to grow in the eighth week of her pregnancy, she noticed a small lump in her right breast. She brushed it off for a while, but the lump soon got bigger, prompting her to schedule a mammogram at the Beaufort Memorial Breast Health Center.
“I was terrified,” she recalled. “I didn’t know what was going to happen because I was pregnant.”
The imaging test was followed by a biopsy. Once the diagnosis was confirmed, the center’s breast nurse navigator scheduled appointments for Wynn with the three specialists who would be treating her cancer.
“With cancer like hers that’s HER2 positive, you get a better outcome if you have chemotherapy before surgery,” said Beaufort Memorial board-certified general surgeon Dr. Perry Burrus. “In her case, she experienced complete remission.”
But Wynn would pay a heavy price. Facing extensive treatment with the powerful drugs, she decided to terminate the pregnancy.
“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” she recalled. “When I told my daughter, she said, ‘Mom, I just want you to live.’”
Over the course of three months, she had six rounds of chemo. The vomiting and diarrhea began three days after her first treatment.
“I was miserable,” Wynn said. “When I started to lose my hair, I just cried and cried.”
To make her feel better, her brother and fiancé shaved their heads in a show of solidarity. Her mother accompanied her to most of the treatments and her kids made posters urging her to fight on. Having the support of her family helped her get through the ordeal.
After the chemotherapy, she underwent a lumpectomy and then 45 radiation treatments.
“So many people came together to help me fight the cancer,” Wynn said. “They made me feel protected and loved. I always felt everything was going to be OK.”