Mom beats cancer and delivers a healthy baby

“It Feels Like a Miracle.” Diagnosed with Cancer During Pregnancy, First-time Mom Beats Cancer and delivers a Healthy Baby Boy.

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Erica Lucca Wish holds her newborn baby after successfully undergoing treatment for cancer during her pregnancy.

Ten weeks into her pregnancy, Erica Lucca Wish went in for a routine prenatal blood test. The results came back extremely abnormal and pointed to the possibility of malignancy (cancer) in the mother.

Erica's geneticist referred her to the NIH study IDENTIFY. The study enrolls women who have undergone prenatal screening and received an abnormal or inconclusive result, but where tests indicated the fetus was normal.

"After a full day at NIH, I got my results—there was an 8.1 cm mass in my chest. I was in shock. I had zero symptoms. Here I thought I was in the best health of my life, and in fact, I wasn't," says Erica. She was 33, expecting her first child, and had cancer.

Erica and her husband knew they needed to find a medical team fast. “A family friend, the Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Helain Landy, MD, recommended MedStar Georgetown for the biopsy and treatment because she knew they had lymphoma experts,” says Erica.

MedStar Georgetown is part of the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute. Our research engine, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Washington, D.C., region providing access to the latest cancer treatment and breakthrough therapies.

The biopsy confirmed Erica had aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She and her husband met with Joseph Roswarski, MD, a medical hematologist oncologist specializing in lymphoma at MedStar Georgetown. They arrived at the appointment with ten pages of questions.

"I am sure we had looks of terror on our faces," says Erica. "Dr. Roswarski spent nearly two hours with us. I appreciate how he took care to answer every scary and emotional question.”

"The first thing I let Erica know was that her form of cancer was a highly curable disease. However, because it was aggressive, we did not recommend she wait until after the baby was born to treat it. In general, treating lymphoma during pregnancy does not pose risks to the baby.

Erica Lucca Wish holds her newborn baby after successfully undergoing treatment for cancer during her pregnancy.After exploring several treatment options, Erica’s care team decided the best approach would be to treat her cancer with R-CHOP, a combination of chemotherapy and a targeted therapy (a combination known as chemoimmunotherapy). It's a first-line treatment for aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She had six treatments, a 5-8 hour infusion every three weeks.

"I was terrified to start treatment and worried about the baby, but the nurses and staff at the infusion clinic at MedStar Georgetown were amazing." says Erica.

Erica's prenatal appointments were with Daphnie Drassinower, MD, a maternal and fetal medicine specialist at MedStar Georgetown. They met after every chemo infusion and reviewed her sonograms. "I can't stress enough the importance of having a multidisciplinary team—especially in a situation like Erica's," says Dr. Roswarski. "Dr. Dassinower and I were in close communication throughout the treatment process."

On the morning of May 13th, two weeks after Erica's final infusion, her son was born. "The baby is beautiful, healthy, and growing–it is like a miracle to me. It has been quite a journey and I am grateful to the doctors who were with me every step of the way. Dr. Roswarski even came to meet the baby–that meant so much," says Erica.

After the baby was born, Erica had a full PET Scan and there was no sign of the cancer. She is in remission and feeling optimistic.

Although Erica admits she had many moments of "why me?", she believes now that everything happens for a reason. "If I weren't pregnant, I wouldn’t have known about the cancer. This baby helped save my life." Fittingly, Erica and her husband picked a name for their son that means protector.

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