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Mom discovers that lump she thought was breast milk was actually CANCER

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An Ohio mom was shocked to discover that a lump in her breast that she attributed to breast milk was actually a cancer, while also finding out she was pregnant with her second child.

Stephanie Rifici, 35, of Cleveland, Ohio, said: TODAY that while she was breastfeeding her son, Luca, the milk often calcified in her breasts, causing hard lumps. However, they would soon come to a resolution and she didn’t think much of them.

However, one of these lumps in her breast lasted an unusually long time, which worried her and led Rifici to have herself examined by an OB-GYN – where she learned she was pregnant again.

A week after finding out she was pregnant, Rifici received the devastating news that she had stage 2 triple negative breast cancer.

Rifici (pictured) was initially concerned that cancer treatment would harm the unborn child, but doctors at the Cleveland Clinic were able to find a treatment plan that was safe for pregnancy

Stephanie Rifici (pictured), 35, of Cleveland, Ohio, found out she was pregnant with her second child and had breast cancer within weeks of each other. Rifici was initially concerned that cancer treatment would harm the unborn child, but doctors at Cleveland Clinic managed to find a treatment plan that was safe for pregnancy

“I was very excited, but also very nervous,” she said.

“A week after I found out I was pregnant…unfortunately I got the phone call that I did indeed have breast cancer.”

The diagnosis and news of the pregnancy put Rifici and her husband, Evan Thorkelson, in a difficult position.

They feared that cancer treatment would harm the unborn child, but if she died of cancer, it would mean none of her children would grow up with a mother.

‘Some people said, ‘You have to watch out for Steph [the couple’s first child]† She is the mother. You already have a son. You want to make sure Steph is there for your other son,” Thorkelson told TODAY.

“We were so happy to get pregnant and have another son… (but) we don’t want anything to happen to Steph.”

They were informed by doctors at the nearby Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation’s top medical facilities, that they could safely begin treatment in the second trimester of pregnancy, meaning Rifici would have to wait.

An expert from the Cleveland Clinic told TODAY that the pregnancy-cancer mixture is relatively rare, and multiple doctors with different types of expertise are needed to respond.

Rifici's second child, Leo, was successfully born last April and is now one year old

Rifici’s second child, Leo, was successfully born last April and is now one year old

“Timing is what becomes very important in caring for women with breast cancer during pregnancy,” says Dr. Erin Roesch, an oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Doctors at the hospital explained that there are types of chemotherapy that are effective against the cancer she had, that do not affect the placenta and protect the unborn child from radiation.

Usually in cases like this, doctors will recommend chemotherapy first and then surgery to treat the cancerous tumor, although they chose to rearrange for Rifici.

“The tumor board met and they basically decided that in my special case they would do my surgery first so they can get the tumor out of there with a low risk to the fetus so early in my pregnancy,” the mother-to-be explained.

“Sometimes going under anesthesia and having surgery can even put you into early labor.”

A delivery date was eventually set during a rest period between chemotherapy sessions and Rifici’s son Leo was born on April 21, 2021.

She later completed her cancer treatment and celebrated Leo’s birthday earlier this year, and even plans to go back to work now that she’s feeling better.

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