Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Feeling Wonderful

"I feel wonderful. I feel great after having him. Declan means 'full of goodness'. It is very fitting because he is full of goodness."
"Holding him in our arms and knowing how perfect he is, it is just affirmation that [the treatment] was absolutely the right decision we could have made."
"There are so many advances, especially with cancer research, I really think things can change on a dime."
"Everybody is tested in different ways. This is just another test in our lives and we are going to get through it just like we do with everything else."
"I think that is just where you have to draw your strength from [love of children]. Anything Dr. Clemons has suggested so far has resulted in nothing but perfection, so I know he is going to try everything absolutely possible."
"That is what I want. I want longevity for them and for myself and for us to be a family."
Jillian O'Connor, 31, mother of three, Ottawa
Dr. Mark Clemons, an oncologist and researcher at The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, spend time with his two patients Monday.
Dr. Mark Clemons, an oncologist and researcher at The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, spend time with his two patients Monday.     Julie Oliver / Ottawa Citizen

"Her friends think she is one of the most amazing women to ever draw breath and we cannot let this go, until she has help."
"Our goal is to raise enough money to cover her bills and provide some care for her three young children. It's time to care for the caregiver."
Beverley Hatfield, nurse, Queensway Carleton Hospital

Jillian O'Connor has experienced throughout her young life, some trying times. She seems to consider those episodes in her life to be "tests". Perhaps of her mettle as a human being, capable of enduring, of forging on, of hoping for the best, of making the most of whatever opportunities that fortune offers, despite that things can and do go wrong. For her the first real test occurred when at age 11 she lost both her parents, and although that was tragic, it had a good side to it, since she was raised by an older sister.

Now a young mother of three children, one three years of age, another 18 months old, she has given birth to another little boy, introducing him to life and his own place in the world on February 1st. It now seems that her three very young children may experience a repeat of what happened to their mother. They may lose her to the recently-diagnosed cancer that has metastasized from her breast into her liver and beyond.

Jillian O'Connor was placed in the care of Dr. Mark Clemons, oncologist and researcher at The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. His treatment -- considered as unusual as Jillian O'Connor's metastatic breast cancer, discovered in the early days of her pregnancy -- kept her alive while allowing the baby growing within her body to mature and even thrive, for he was born a perfectly normal, healthy baby to his parents' absolute delight.
Declan O'Connor was born Feb. 1.
Declan O’Connor was born Feb. 1.    Julie Oliver / Ottawa Citizen
During the pregnancy, the pregnant young woman, no stranger to hospitals through her occupation as a nurse, received chemotherapy. After her baby was delivered she was given diagnostic tests that had been delayed during her pregnancy. Those tests confirmed the further spread of the cancer consuming her body. Jillian and her husband David were originally given a choice; to continue the pregnancy while chemotherapy treatment maintained a balance in the cancer's inexorable spread.

They chose to proceed with that option while understanding there would be a risk to the developing foetus. Without the chemotherapy, however, the pregnant woman would not have survived more than a few weeks, and without the chemotherapy the developing foetus would never have had an opportunity to become a living, breathing child independent of its mother; healthy while his mother was not.

And now that the birth of little Declan is fact, his mother with terminal cancer still holds out hope for herself and for her children to continue to have their mother with them for a while yet. Her faith in the oncologist, internationally known for treating pregnant women with breast cancer, extends into the near future where new strides are being made every day in medical science finding solutions to some of humankind's most vexing problems in health care.

Former workplace colleagues of this stricken nurse and mother, applauding her courage and determination and her sunny outlook on life triumphing over death in the short run, have initiated a fundraising campaign to give aid to the O'Connor family with the expenses they face relating to her illness and the family's ongoing needs. David O'Connor works 12-hour shifts, and his wife had no sick leave, disability leave or other workplace benefits to help carry them through.

Dr. Clemens throughout his career has only treated three women with metastatic breast cancer, and he has great admiration for Jillian O'Connor's outstanding attitude to her situation. He is planning on altering her life-sustaining chemotherapy regimen to introduce drugs that could not be used during the pregnancy since they would have imperilled the outcome.

Given two years to live, the new mother hopes to defy expectations and stretch those meagre two years into two decades, to see her children grow and thrive and take their place in the world. In fact, Dr. Clemens' own plan for her with the aid of imaginative new therapies is to prolong her life beyond what seems most immediate, but in any event, to give her quality of life in the time she has left to live.                       

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