Ottawa mom, diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer while pregnant, delivers baby boy
Published Monday, February 9, 2015 5:40PM EST Last Updated Monday, February 9, 2015 6:36PM EST
An Ottawa woman who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer while pregnant introduced her little one to the world today. Declan O'Connor is the picture of perfection, to quote his mom. More than that, he's a medical miracle. His mother, Jillian, has an incurable cancer and underwent chemotherapy while she was pregnant so that she could carry the baby to term. Now that he’s born, the fight is on to keep her alive. Declan Kenneth O'Connor was born February 1st, weighing in at 7 pounds, six ounces. His mother says she was in awe when she saw him.
‘I was amazed,’ says Jillian O’Connor, ‘How he could go through so much: 12 rounds of chemotherapy, 1 general anesthetic when I had my mastectomy, mammograms, all of those and he came out perfect. He’s healthy.’
Healthy despite the chemo treatments that Jillian O'Connor was getting while pregnant - to keep her cancer at bay. Pregnancy should have been a time of incredible joy for the 31-year-old. Instead, that deadly diagnosis changed everything. With two little kids and another on the way, Jillian turned to Ottawa oncologist and cancer researcher Dr. Mark Clemons to help her bring this baby to term.
And today, Dr. Clemons got to meet the little miracle boy, who is now a week old.
‘I feel privileged that we've managed to give Jillian the choice to treat her and keep Declan alive and well and deliver a perfect little boy,’ says Dr. Clemons, with the Ottawa Hospital.
‘At a time when there is so much bad international news,’ he adds, ‘the love of a mother for her unborn child conquers all.’
While Declan is healthy, the prognosis is not as positive for his mother. Jillian's cancer, which was already in her lymph nodes and liver, has now spread to her bones. Now that she's delivered Declan, aggressive cancer treatment will begin tomorrow.
‘I think she has faced so many challenges at seeing this baby through to term,’ says Dr. Clemons, ‘her sense of optimism and sense of joy at holding Declan; we will face the future as it comes.’
And that's the remarkable thing about Jillian O’Connor, who is a nursing in the operating room at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital. Faced with the worst scenario, she has chosen to see only the best outcome.
‘I think things can change,’ she says, as she cradles Declan, ‘if you have hope, if you think positively and look to future, I really think things can change.’
Jillian is now the third woman that Dr. Clemons has treated whose breast cancer had metastasized while pregnant. Dr. Clemons says it is very rare.
“Declan” by the way means "full of goodness" and his mom couldn't agree more.