At the end of January 2017, Tara Verhaagh and her husband, Nick, found out they were expecting their second child. The pair was ecstatic. But less than two weeks later, Tara started feeling tightness and pain in her chest.
“I thought it was heartburn, but none of the over-the-counter medicines worked,” Tara said.
In early March, Tara went to her doctor for some tests that showed she was at an elevated risk for a blood clot. After performing a chest CT, enlarged lymph nodes and nodules in her lungs were found.
Two months to the day after Tara found out she was pregnant, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“It was quite a shock,” she said.
After considering all aspects of Tara’s situation, her team at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital Cancer Centers recommended starting chemotherapy as soon as Tara entered her second trimester. With 3-year-old Emmett at home, a baby on the way, and a cancer diagnosis, Tara felt overwhelmed. But her care team put her at ease, and she was impressed with the level of coordination between her OB physician and her oncologist.
“When I went in for an OB appointment, my doctor had already reviewed my oncologist’s notes and vice versa,” Tara said. “If I had questions they knew the other doctor could better answer, they pointed me in that direction. I never felt rushed at my appointments and knew I could ask anything.”
During her pregnancy, Tara and her husband did their best to keep things as normal as possible at home.
“Our approach was to stay as positive as we could; to find the blessings wherever we could, even in the little things,” Tara said.
On Sept. 1, Tara completed her last treatment. On Sept. 7, Scarlett entered the world three weeks early, healthy and happy, weighing 6 pounds, 10 ounces, and stretching 18 inches.
“If anyone in my life would go through (cancer), I would highly recommend HSHS St. Vincent Hospital Cancer Centers,” Tara said. “I was impressed and pleased with the entire staff, from the receptionists to the doctors to the nurses. They took the time to get to know us on a personal level. I didn’t feel like just another patient file. I felt a connection. It was that personalized level of care.”
Now, Tara is embracing being a mother of two, and will continue to receive routine follow-up care at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital Cancer Centers to monitor her health.
“I’m looking forward to getting my body back,” she said. “No cancer. No side effects from treatments. Just having some normalcy and enjoying the adventure of being a stay-at-home mom.”