Making Strides Moment: Kathy's story

By: Abby Walton | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 9, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- One in 3,000. That's how many pregnant women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

It's a slim chance of happening.

However that’s the story for one local woman, and her story is nothing short of a miracle.

The mother and son bond is strong between Kathy Brooks and 11-year old Parker.

"He's a fighter. Like I fought, but he really fights," Kathy said.

Their first battle was together.

At just 18 weeks pregnant, Kathy learned the large lump in her breast
was cancer.

"It was a major shock and extremely overwhelming," Kathy said.

Especially because the 32-year old was already a mom to six-year-old Bailey and four-year-old Landon.

"I mean the emotion of am I going to live? Am I going to see my kids grow up? Am I going to see this baby? Is this baby going to be okay?” Kathy said.

Kathy's cancer was aggressive, so chemotherapy was the next step. She said it was an extremely difficult, but necessary decision to save her life.

“What most of our advice was, that again, chemo affects the cellular level and I was 18 weeks pregnant. There was certainly still cellular growth to happen, but all the major things were developed,” Kathy said.

That advice was echoed by Tallahassee Memorial Hospital’s Dr. Karen Russell.

She didn't treat Kathy, but said most research doesn't show an increase risk in birth defects.

"The placenta protects against a lot of those poisons because that's part of its job,” Dr. Russell said.

But her cancer kept growing.

The next step was a mastectomy on her left breast.

"I just wanted to live for him,” Kathy said.

Ten days after surgery, Parker was born after an emergency C-section.

"Some of the emotions woman feel after their treatments are over, I didn't go through because I had a baby, who we came to learn, had special needs. He was born without part of his brain, so my focus was totally on him,” Kathy said.

And her health.

Kathy went through more chemo, radiation and the removal of her other breast.

"There was a point in time I couldn't even hold him because from the radiation, burned my skin so much," Kathy said.

It was a whirlwind year for Kathy who came to grips with not only her health, but also Parker's.

"Who knows if that was a result of the chemotherapies I received. I mean, I had surgery twice as well while I was pregnant with him, so depending on who you ask, most of the oncologists say it should not have affected Parker's growth in any way shape or form. That's hard to believe. I had to do it," Kathy said.

Ultimately, her decision saved both of their lives.

Today, Parker is an outgoing, happy kid and Kathy is now cancer-free.
She’s also in charge of TMH’s cancer center, using her story to encourage other patients.

“I'm thankful that all that has made me who I am,” Kathy said. Living proof anything is possible if you just keep fighting.

Again, having cancer while pregnant is rare.

However, Dr. Russell said as more women delay childbirth, we could see a rise.

That's only because cancer is more likely develop as people get older.

So it’s definitely something for women to talk to their doctors about if something is bothering them.

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