A North Carolina mom diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer while she was pregnant with her first child says God, family and friends helped her throughout her battle.
In September 2018, at just 19 weeks pregnant, Sarah Canovai, 27, was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma and triple-negative breast cancer. The diagnosis came after she noticed a lump in her breast.
“At first, I was pretty numb,” she told Fox News of her diagnosis. Breast cancer was the last thing on Canovai’s mind, as she was focused on becoming a new mom and her unborn son’s health.
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Prior to the biopsy that confirmed her diagnosis, Canovai was confident the lump was a fibroadenoma, a common non-cancerous lump, or a clogged milk duct, which can also produce small, hard lumps in the breasts.
What’s more, there was not a genetic cause of Canovai’s cancer, which made the diagnosis more difficult to wrap her head around, she said.
About 10 to 20 percent of breast cancers are triple-negative breast cancers, which means that the growth of the cancer is not fueled by the hormones estrogen and progesterone, or by the HER2 protein, so it will not respond to hormonal therapy medicines or those that target HER2 protein receptions, according to BreastCancer.org.
It’s considered to be more aggressive and have a poorer prognosis than other types of breast cancer, and is more likely to spread beyond the breast and more likely to recur after treatment. It’s also more likely to be diagnosed in people younger than 50, and in those who have a BRCA1 mutation.
After overcoming the initial shock of her diagnosis, an “overwhelming amount of support helped me to have that positive outlook that I wanted to have but struggled to find at first,” she said, noting her husband, family, friends and church groups greatly helped her throughout her battle.
Following her diagnosis, Canovai underwent a single mastectomy and several rounds of chemotherapy at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Health. The former cheerleader said doctors and nurses at the facility only added to her support network, becoming her new “team.”
“They were in my corner,” said Canovai, referring to the doctors who treated her, which included an oncologist, an oncology surgeon, a reconstruction surgeon, a genetic counselor and a high-risk obstetrician.
“Once I realized that treatment was an option, surgery was OK and chemo would be fine (…) I felt a lot more comfortable because I knew my doctors were not only there for me but for my child as well,” she told Wake Forest Baptist Health in a blog post.
At 34 weeks, about three weeks before she was scheduled to be induced, Canovai underwent an emergency C-section. She welcomed her son, Roman on the morning of Jan. 10.
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“He had more hair than me,” she joked.
Following Roman’s birth, Canovai continued treatment, which included more chemotherapy and radiation. In July, she was declared cancer-free.
“The whole time it didn’t seem real. I could feel him, but finally being able to hold him — it just made everything up to that point worth it,” she said. “Having him inside me gave me the extra drive [to fight] and an instant bond that I’ll be able to share with him later in life.”
Fox News’ Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.