As 2015 drew to a close, Jolyn Anwender and Brad Rhodes were excited about the future. The couple was set to welcome twin boys in the new year and everything in their lives seemed perfect.
That all changed when Jolyn, five-and-a-half months pregnant, sensed something was wrong. She felt her body was changing as she experienced aches and pains beyond those normally associated with pregnancy.
On Dec. 24, her worst fears were confirmed when her biopsy revealed she had infiltrating ductal carcinoma – the most common breast cancer diagnosed in women. A week later, her oncologist delivered more bad news: ‘Your cancer is Stage III and we need to begin treatment immediately.’
“It didn’t register at first. My husband and I were in shock,” says Jolyn. “We went from preparing for the arrival of twins to facing the fight of our lives.”
At 25 weeks, she began aggressive chemotherapy. During this time, doctors advised the couple that due to her treatment, they could not wait for a natural birth. A plan was put in place to deliver the twins by caesarian section at 36 weeks. While Jolyn admits it was terrifying to be sitting in that chair week after week, worrying about her babies and her own health, she persevered thanks to the amazing people responsible for her care.
I give credit to the doctors and nurses. They really are the best of the best,” she says. “I was in the fight of my life. Then, six weeks into my treatment, they expressed concerns about one of the twins. It was an emotional rollercoaster.
On March 24, 2016, Carter and Beckett were born weighing 3 lbs 12 oz. and 4lbs 10 oz. respectively.
“Hearing them cry was music to my ears,” she says. “I was thrilled to see they had all their fingers and toes, and that they had hair – considering I was bald.”
Beckett would spend five days in the neonatal intensive care unit, with Carter staying for over two weeks under the watchful eye of a neonatologist. It was admittedly difficult to leave the hospital with no babies, and then only one, but Jolyn and Brad took comfort in knowing their boys were in good hands.
Regina’s Pediatric Services, an area Hospitals of Regina Foundation has helped grow into a key centre of care, sees about 5,000 outpatient pediatric patients every year. It continues to play a critical role in Beckett and Carter’s lives as the ten-month-olds receive regular checkups through the outpatient pediatric program to monitor their growth and development.
While Jolyn would prefer the focus remain on her boys, her own journey has been truly inspirational. She completed her final treatment in 2016 – a full year after her diagnosis. In that time, she overcame eight rounds of chemotherapy, 25 radiation treatments and a double mastectomy.
Now in the healing stage, Jolyn says she feels awesome and often reflects on how their lives could have taken a much different path had it not been for the support she and her boys received.
I can’t believe what I went through. I never thought I’d be 28 weeks pregnant with a shaved head,” she says. “Saying thank you to the Foundation and to everyone who supports our hospitals doesn’t seem like enough. You have given my family the gift of life. My boys are healthy and I am here today to enjoy every second of it. Brad and I owe you everything.