A local woman is about to give birth to new life while she battles to save her own. She's 38, almost seven months pregnant and recently found out she has stage four breast cancer.
Last year, Michael and Amy Vallarino decided their son should have a sibling. Amy went for a check-up and mammogram in September. All was clear, and she soon became pregnant.
But in December, she felt hardness in her breasts, tightness in her chest and shortness of breath.
"Most of that stuff gets written off as pregnancy," she said. Two medical examinations found nothing. When her symptoms persisted, a sonogram and biopsy uncovered breast cancer.
"I was kind of surprised," she said. "In my life I just don't get sick."
A lingering, deep cough and intense back pain concerned oncologist Carolyn Hendricks. More testing found the cancer has spread to Amy's lungs, liver, spleen and spine -- where she also has a fracture.
"That puts very big challenge for a young woman and family to deal both with the demands of pregnancy and with stage 4 breast cancer- it's uncommon," said Dr. Hendricks.
There is no cure for stage four breast cancer. Amy is unable to receive critical treatments like radiation and an antibody called Herceptin until the baby is delivered. For now, she's being treated with pain meds and chemotherapy.
"There's no evidence that chemotheraphy will harm the baby because the placenta protects the infant," Hedricks said. She said ideally, doctors would be able to help Vallario reach 32 weeks of pregnancy, "but each week is a challenge for both mom and baby."
Michael knows he could lose his wife. "I can't believe the lord's plan in this is for Amy to be taken and for me to raise an infant and a two-year-old by myself," he said.
Amy, too, is relying on her faith. "I choose to believe that it's God's will that I raise my children and in order to do that, I need to get better," she said.
Dr. Hendricks says it's difficult to predict Amy's outlook until she begins those very important treatments. So far, the baby is healthy, active and kicking. Amy is doing all she can to make it to 32 weeks for delivery.
Amy Vallarino has set up a website at http://www.Mylifeline.org/amyvallarino that includes a calendar to indicate when the family might need help with meals, babysitting or other errands.
A fund has been established for the Vallarinos:
Amy Vallarino Cancer Fund Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit UnionAcct: 000439650Routing # 255077477PO Box 2270Germantown, MD 20875
For questions about the fund, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.