A year to last a lifetime

Jodi Sorenson found out she was pregnant six days before her wedding. Three months later she had a dream about a lump in her breast. Upon waking, she searched for it. It was right where she had felt it in her dream. After an ultrasound, a biopsy, appointments with a radiologist and a surgeon, she got a call from the surgeon.

There was some small talk. The doctor’s voice faltered. She said she would call back when Jodi was at home with her husband.

“God, this isn’t good, is it?” Jodi said.

The lump was a tumor. Breast cancer.

Jodi has the most aggressive tumor grade. Her cells are rated “poorly differentiated” which occurs when tumor cells do not resemble normal cells.

She remembered thinking about so many things in that moment: her pregnancy, the house she and her husband were building, her and her husband’s recent five-month anniversary, that she had to tell her boss at her new job, that her grandfather had just undergone surgery for lymph node and tumor removal.

A co-worker at Jodi’s new job, who had breast cancer, got her in to see the best oncologists in Austin. The information was positive—that treatment is possible while the patient is pregnant. Within a week Jodi had a chemo tube inserted into her chest with treatments occurring every three weeks up until 2 months of her due date. Once the baby’s due date was two months away, chemo treatment would have to be suspended.

“I wanted to have the baby as early and as safely as possible. Two months is a long time to go without treatment,” Jodi said.

On the 10th day of her second chemo dose she went into labor. She was six weeks early. Jodi could not have an epidural due to concerns that it would cause complications. She remembers little from that day, but she will never forget how she felt.

“I really thought my husband was going home alone with the baby and I was going to die in the hospital,” she said.

There was a team of doctors waiting for the baby and another for Jodi. Her baby, Sven spent eight nights in the hospital and Jodi spent six nights there.

“I was just a couple of floor below [Sven] and the nurses would wheel me up there to see him,” Jodi said.

Jodi had a blood transfusion to replenish the high amount she lost during delivery, followed by the replacement of her chest tube that malfunctioned due to a blood clot.

Jodi’s chemo treatments began again, but with a different therapy that is referred to as a “cocktail.”

“The second type of chemo, called Taxol, was supposed to be easier to manage than the first, but I had so much leg swelling I could not get off the couch,” Jodi said.

Jodi’s mother-in-law, Jan Sorenson was helping Jodi and her husband, Adam, during the treatments after the baby arrived.

“[Jodi was] so sick. That was a horrible time,” Jan said.

It was during this horrible time that Jodi found out her grandfather and uncle died of cancer.

“I did not realize it then, but I was in a deep depression. I could not stop crying for days,” Jodi said.

During all of the treatments, family and friends were joining together to raise money to fund the medical experiences that had quickly accumulated.

“We had an online fundraiser and some friends in Minneapolis held a benefit where bands played and there was a silent auction. Venues donated concert tickets and furniture,” Jodi said. “We had a way bigger response than we were expecting: $20,000 raised from friends and family, from people of all walks of life, strangers, people from around the country.”

But this year has continued to be financially difficult. The Sorenson’s current house flooded in Austin’s most recent downpour on Oct. 30, the same week of Adam, Jodi’s husband’s, birthday and their anniversary.

Adam had a lump in his leg removed Nov. 12. The doctors think it is likely just a case of melanoma.

“They got it all, but we will have to wait and see if it is sarcoma,” Jodi said.

But Jodi has missed minimal days of work this year. However, in this moment, she has rushed home to be with Sven, her baby, after Jan called to say he has been crying all morning. Jodi rocks him back and forth rhythmically, her chest tube scar emerging and then disappearing from underneath her sweater.

“Chemo has put me in menopause, so I went right from being pregnant to being menopausal. But that was the good thing about being pregnant when I was diagnosed because I can never have more children,” Jodi said as she rubbed more teething gel on Sven’s gums. “Every time I want to say it has been the worst year, I think of Sven. We are very lucky.”

This week has been hectic for the Sorenson’s who have been planning their move to a new house this Saturday, while also battling head and chest colds. Sven has stayed home from daycare to protect Jodi and Adam’s fragile immune systems.

“Even with all the chemo I only missed one day of work,” Jodi said. “But I have stayed home with this cold. Colds really suck.”

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