Battling Cancer While Pregnant
Jeanie, an 8th grade Spanish teacher at Spring Ford Eighth Grade Center, and her husband Phil, a senior manager at Vanguard, absolutely love their jobs and had been happily married for 14 years.
After almost 12 years of trying to have children, they were thrilled to find out that Jeanie was pregnant. We couldn't believe it!" says Jeanie. "And then to find out we were having twins girls was the biggest blessing we could have asked for. My heart was melting."
But at only 15 weeks, fear and shock set in when Jeanie felt a lump in her breast and was diagnosed with stage II invasive breast cancer. "We are going to approach this head on. I just kept thinking about my girls, and how I wanted to get through this, and so I went to see the best," says Jeanie.
The Taddeo family turned to Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center and Susan Domchek, M.D., Associate Professor, Division of Hematology Oncology and Director of the Mariann and Robert MacDonald Women’s Cancer Risk Evaluation Center, for Jeanie’s care. “My sister-in-law had breast cancer and had a wonderful experience with Dr. Domchek, so as soon as Phil and I heard my diagnosis, we knew exactly where to go,” says Jeanie.
Almost an hour’s journey away from their home, “Penn was worth every mile,” according to Jeanie. “The idea of going through treatments for breast cancer is overwhelming and scary for anyone,” she says. “But the idea of going through it while being pregnant was especially difficult.” She continues, “Everybody we encountered was so amazing. They gave us both such positive encouragement and just wanted to help in any way they could. I never could have done it anywhere else.”
Dr. Domchek talks about the implications of cancer treatment for pregnancy: “Although careful planning and coordination with obstetricians skilled in managing high risk pregnancies is required, treating women for breast cancer while pregnant is possible; treatment such as Jeanie’s is tolerated well by the babies and provides women with their best chance at beating their cancer.”
Jeanie underwent chemotherapy, and after the babies were born, radiation therapy, a double mastectomy, and reconstructive surgery. Throughout her treatments at the Rena Rowan Breast Center of the University of Pennsylvania, she remained positive and even continued working and teaching. A staff member recalls Jeanie’s visits saying, “We were always so pleased to see Jeanie as she progressed through her treatments and pregnancy. For someone dealing with so much, she was still a ray of sunshine.”
Jeanie learned first-hand about the importance of a support system and most importantly caregivers. “My husband was an absolute rock throughout this time, from the pregnancy to the chemotherapy. I never would have made it without him being there every step of the way. Although caregivers may not be going through the physical treatment, they experience all of the same emotions that we do, and I think they deserve all the credit in the world.”
Jeanie gave birth to two beautiful girls, Giavanna and Gillian Taddeo. The girls were born two months premature, weighing only two and three pounds, but otherwise were both healthy. Truly a miracle, the girls celebrated their 2nd birthday in June 2010.
Jeanie credits her wonderful family and friends, coworkers, students, and Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center for providing her with the support she needed to fight this battle not only for her, but also for her girls.