SAN ANGELO, Texas (Concho Valley Homepage) — One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime, according to National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc., with one out of 3000 being pregnant or just giving birth to their newborn.
San Angelo native Lisa Rios shared her story as one of these women facing this battle after giving birth to a newborn and how she continued fighting through her fourth pregnancy while receiving chemotherapy.
Rios’ story begins in December 2021, just a week before Christmas. After welcoming home their third baby in November, Rios noticed a small lump in her breast forming within a few weeks of her breastfeeding.
“While I was holding her on my left side I felt a tiny little pea-sized lump inside of my breast,” Rios said.
“I didn’t think much of it but it stuck with me.”
Once Rios noticed the lump, she contacted her doctor about her concerns but was not seen until the end of March. “They thought it could just be a clogged milk duct,” Rios explained. After doing multiple warm compresses as suggested, Rios told her doctor’s office that the lump was still present.
“They said to place a hot compress, hot showers, try to rub it out,” she explained, “so months go by and it’s growing.”
By this time, the lump that Rios had noticed in December as the size of a pea had grown to the size of a quarter. The mysterious bump was not causing Rios any pain, but her concerns about what this was continued to grow.
“When I did finally get my OB, I spoke with her personally, and showed her how it had grown, it did bring her a little bit of concern, ” Rios said. Her OB-GYN saw her in May of 2022. Following this appointment, Rios was sent to have some testing done.
“They did an ultrasound, and then they wanted to do a mammogram,” she explained. “I had never had a mammogram done before because I wasn’t of age.” During the mammogram, Rios remembers the staff whispering around her but she never got an answer as to what was going on.
At the end of June, Rios was sent to have a biopsy done at a breast center. There, Rios took the chance to ask what it could be.
“I remember I asked the lady who did the biopsies… ‘Can I ask you a question, I feel like everybody is kind of whispering behind my back, kinda not telling me what’s going on here and it’s making me uneasy, so can I ask your opinion?’… She said, ‘Well off the record, I believe that you have cancer and I believe it is at the worst stage possible’.”
After nearly seven months of trying to figure out what the growth was, Rios received the answer. “I froze, I didn’t have time to process,” she said recalling the day.
“When I had found it on my own and tried to bring it to their attention it was just stage one,” she said, “and now she’s telling me it’s the worst stage possible.”
At this point, Rios started having bone pain and was sent for a bone scan to find out what stage the cancer was at. At this appointment, two weeks later, Rios did a pregnancy test to ensure that a fetus was not going to be exposed to radiation. It was then that Rios was told more shocking news.
“He came back and said ‘We will not be able to do the bone scan today because you are pregnant’,” she explained.
Following the news that she was two months pregnant with her fourth child, Rios was sent to an Oncologist who was already planning an abortion. Rios explained that the office wanted her to travel out of state for the abortion since they were not being performed in Texas, but she refused.
“I was against it, I was against having an abortion,” Rios said.
Rios was further told that if she did not begin chemotherapy right away, she was looking at only having four to six more months with her loved ones. “I was angry with them,” she said while explaining the time that had passed before anything was done. However, the soon-to-be mom of four knew she needed to back off for a moment to figure out what would be best for her and her baby since she had to think of two lives now.
“I began doing my research, doing a lot of praying and I knew already that I wanted to keep her,” Rios explained. “I couldn’t give her up and she gave me a reason to fight and I just put all my faith in God.”
After receiving six rounds of three of the most aggressive types of chemotherapy while pregnant, Rios gave birth to her fourth child, who is happy and healthy. Within a few weeks of giving birth, Rios was back on chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
Rios urges others to advocate for themselves when facing a health problem. She shares that doctors give you paperwork, and you as patients put your trust in those educated in the field despite not fully understanding.
“It has been a battle and a fight this entire time since they woke it up with a biopsy,” the mom of four said while explaining how the most unlikely symptoms affected her. “So I do my part now if they want to put me on a different medicine I read into it, what it causes, what it can affect.”
“Listen to your body,” she said. “I could’ve blown it off like they did and where would I be right now if I did?”