EDMONTON, AB – An expectant Canadian mother is asking for prayers and financial support after the cancer she beat nearly five years ago returned just after becoming pregnant with her first baby.
Chantal Gauthier-Vaillancourt, a popular midwife in Edmonton, was first diagnosed with malignant melanoma in her right eye in 2009. Ocular melanoma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that can be fatal if left untreated, as it often spreads to the liver and other organs.
Gauthier-Vaillancourt underwent radiation therapy and natural treatments to fight the cancer, and she was soon told by doctors that the cancer was in remission. However, they warned her to wait to become pregnant, as the biggest risk for a recurrence of cancer is within the first five years of remission. It is not considered safe to undergo radiation therapy during pregnancy due to the high risk of injury to the baby.
Gauthier-Vaillancourt followed her doctor’s orders and waited five years before trying for a baby with her husband. The couple were overjoyed when they learned they had conceived, but just eight weeks into the pregnancy, doctors delivered some devastating news: the cancer was back. Even worse, there was a 25 percent chance it would spread to the baby through the placenta.
Gauthier-Vaillancourt had a choice to make: abort her child and treat the cancer, risk her child’s health by pursuing radiation therapy or surgery while continuing the pregnancy, or wait and hope for the best.
“Abortion, radiation, surgery: none of those seemed appropriate for us,” Gauthier-Vaillancourt told Canada’s Global News. She said she was concerned that if she had surgery to remove the tumor too early in the pregnancy, the baby would be too weak to survive if anything went wrong.
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The couple opted to pursue natural therapies while monitoring both Gauthier-Vaillancourt’s and her baby’s condition. For the last few months, the first-time mom has relied on nutrition, acupuncture, cranio-sacral therapy, supplements, and intravenous vitamin C to help her fight the aggressive tumor. Unfortunately, the tumor has continued to grow.
At 28 weeks, Gauthier-Vaillancourt’s doctors gave her the bad news – while her placenta is still free of tumors, the melanoma’s continued growth means the chances the cancer will spread to her baby have jumped to 70 percent.
That risk was too great for Gauthier-Vaillancourt to accept, but she still did not want to undergo radiation therapy that could harm the growing baby inside of her. So she made a drastic decision – in order to save her baby, she will let doctors remove her entire eye.
“We’re at a point where we decided it’s time: the baby is strong enough to tolerate the surgery and so I’ll be getting the eye removed next week,” Gauthier-Vaillancourt told Global News. Her surgery is scheduled for June 11.
A friend of the family has set up a fundraising page where the couple is asking for prayers and financial support, as Gauthier-Vaillancourt has already taken time away from her work as a midwife to undergo costly natural therapies not covered by her provincial healthcare, and will now be taking more time off for surgery.
“The vitamin-C I.V. treatments alone can cost anywhere from 300-450$ per week (not covered by our province’s healthcare),” wrote Gauthier-Vallaincourt’s friend Helga Himer. “Her condition, along with the pregnancy, have forced her to leave the midwifery work that she loves much earlier than expected, in order to focus on her healing.”
“Please pray for her, that everything will go well and that she will be cancer-free for the rest of her life,” Himer added. “Please also pray that her little baby will arrive on his or her own time in peace, surrounded by loved ones, and perfectly healthy!”
So far, the fundraising effort for Gauthier-Vaillancourt has raised $4,600 toward its $10,000 goal.
To read more about the family, or to contribute to the fundraising effort, click here.