I Have A Say Thanks to My Mom and Dad!!!

Being the oldest of 11, I am so thankful, especially now, for my Mom and Dad saying "yes" to life! Growing up, we never had a ton of money. My Dad was a high school chemistry teacher and my parents decided from the beginning that they wanted to have one of them home with us. My mom gave up her teaching career, and raised me, followed by 10 others! My Mom also taught all 11 of us at home for part of our childhood before we would head off to Nativity Catholic Grade School. My Dad worked long hours, eventually earning other degrees so that he could first become dean, then principal, and finally, when I was a sophomore, he was named Roncalli High School's first president. My Dad and Mom both sacrificed SO MUCH for us.

I remember, even as a young person, getting stared at by people, and I remember the comments they would make. I can still hear a dental receptionist asking my Mom "Are these all yours? You know how children are made right?" followed by a real insidious but ditzy chuckle, followed by a secretarial gum crackle. My Mom and Dad were always tight budget wise, and I'm sure at times ached with a desire to not have to take bags of clothes from other families so that we could have clothes. I'm sure my Mom and Dad had desires to simply go to Nordstrom and buy us and give us all our own new clothes and Gameboys and Reebok Pumps etc. I'm sure they at times really wished they could just get a new car and not have to drive a fifteen passenger van around. I'm sure at times they wanted really badly to just go to a restaurant and sit back and enjoy a big expensive meal instead of having to cut coupons and craft together economic meals on the stove.

But they chose life for us, and they chose sacrifice for themselves.

I often think about that ditzy secretary now when our family gets together almost every weekend for dinner to laugh and hang out. Some of the siblings might be out of town or busy with other obligations, but inevitably, all weekend long, every weekend, our family gets together. Sometimes, when we're out at a restaraunt, I see the couples who are alone with each other. They hardly talk to each other and the loneliness is palpable. A part of me feels bad that we're having so much fun with our 8 tables shoved together, telling stories, laughing good hearty and healthy laughs. Sometimes I wonder if one of the couples sitting in the restaurant quietly and solemnly is that dental secretary - who now has piles of money and can eat wherever she wants, but doesn't have hardly anyone to share it with. My heart breaks for the people who are alone, especially the ones who are alone because, when they could have been having children, they instead bought into the contraception lie and lived for themselves only.

I have a say today, and so do my ten younger brothers and sisters, because my parents chose life. Mom and Dad - thanks a million!!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pregnant With Breast Cancer, Erika Was Told to Abort

My daughter a say because I didn't take the popular breast cancer organizations' word about my breast cancer diagnosis. I was 28 years old and 20 weeks pregnant when I was diagnosed with BRCA1 breast cancer. The popular cancer organizations recommendation was to "terminate" my pregnancy so I could receive life-saving chemotherapy and surgery. As a Catholic I was appalled. As a mother who had miscarried four times previously, almost losing my life once, I could not imaging willingly killing my unborn child. However, I also was not content to sit idly by while my baby, and the tumor, grew.

I sought world-class help from MD Anderson Cancer Center. Once there, I learned that 1 in 3000 breast cancer diagnoses are made during pregnancy. MD Anderson had revolutionized breast cancer treatment while pregnant 20 years ago when it began giving a particular combination, strength, and schedule of chemotherapy to pregnant women. Not only were all the babies born side-effect free, the mothers that received treatment had better survival rates than their counterparts who aborted or were not pregnant at diagnosis.

I began FAC chemotherapy less than a month after my diagnosis. I was seven and a half months pregnant when I joined my eighteen month old son for his second annual Walk for Life in our hometown. On Thanksgiving day 2009, my beautiful daughter was born to a mother with as little hair as the newborn. There were no complications during the pregnancy or afterwards. Two or three short weeks after her delivery, I began another round of chemotherapy. When my daughter, Rachel, was only two months old I underwent a bilateral mastectomy. She is now 2 years old and the apple of everyone's eye.

She and I have given speeches to the local cancer organizations to enlighten women about the real options when faced with cancer during pregnancy. When she was a year old, I was given the local Right to Life groups "Life Award" in honor of not only talking the pro-life talk, but also walking the walk. I have made it my mission to educate as many people as possible about this frightening situation. It is my hope that my daughter will not have "termination" forced upon her if she inherits my genetic predilection for breast cancer. I have a say in her and my son's education about this horrible "choice". They have both "walked" for babies since they were babies. We will continue to have our say as we stand up for those who cannot.

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