Pregnant Mother with Eye Cancer Opts to Lose Sight to Save Baby

A pregnant mother who found out she had a malignant tumor in her eye has elected to save the life of her baby by having her cancerous eye removed instead of having radiation therapy to save her sight – a procedure that would certainly kill her baby.

As a registered midwife, Chantal Gauthier-Vaillancourt of Edmonton, Canada, has spent years helping others give birth to their babies. But when it came time for her first baby, the woman found a harrowing health threat as an aggressive cancer attacked her, threatening her unborn child.

Gauthier-Vaillancourt learned she had cancer long before she became pregnant, but she and her husband held off on trying to have their first child until the cancer was vanquished. Early last year the couple and her doctors had thought that she had beaten the disease, and so they started trying to get pregnant.

Mrs. Gauthier-Vaillancourt had been in remission for five years, so they thought they were safe. But only two weeks after discovering she was pregnant, doctors informed her that the tumor had returned with a vengeance.

"It was a malignant melanoma in my right eye that could spread to the liver and the bones," the mother-to-be told Global News, Edmonton.

At eight weeks into her pregnancy, Gauthier-Vaillancourt was faced with some hard decisions: Undergo radiation therapy to save her vision and lose the baby, or wait for months to go by until her fetus would be strong enough for her to have her eye removed and forego any treatments that could harm her baby before that.

Her doctors also warned that if she waited until her pregnancy was done to do anything the cancer could spread to her baby, and if she waited too long to have the eye removed it might spread to both eyes.

Ultimately the couple waited until 28 weeks into the pregnancy until her baby was strong enough for the mother to be anesthetized for removal of her eye. "We’re at a point where we decided it’s time: the baby is strong enough to tolerate the surgery, and so I’ll be getting the eye removed next week," she said.

The family has been devastated by the prognosis and the hard decisions, but to help out a photographer friend of the family started a fundraiser and has raised over $20,000 so far.

The mom-to-be said her heart has been warmed by all the support she has received from family, friends, and the public.

"It's been a rough tide, but at the same time, I mean, everyone has problems, and I honestly feel it's just another bump in the road," she said. "I keep saying, 'This baby chose me, chose this situation and is very strong.'"

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.


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