The biggest worry for Stacy Gross before going into breast cancer treatment last year is now her biggest joy – her daughter, Mickaia.
The bubbly and beautiful girl, who went through chemotherapy with Gross in her third trimester before she was born Nov. 13, is now the center of attention and lights up the waiting room at Doctors Cancer Care Center while Stacy finishes her radiation therapy treatment. As she walks out of the curtained treatment room, she gets a hug from administrative assistant Christy Reynolds and a hug and Certificate of Achievement from lead radiation therapist Brandy Johnson.
“Yeah, it’s graduation day,” Reynolds said.
“I’m so happy,” Gross said.
But when her mother, Jessie Gross, carries Mickaia in, all eyes go to her.
“That’s my world right there,” Stacy said.
She was more than four months pregnant when she found a lump in her right breast and underwent a lumpectomy and a round of chemotherapy interrupted by Mickaia’s birth. On Wednesday, Stacy finished her 33rd and final radiation therapy treatment. Other than a follow-up exam in a month, she is done with treatment. The therapy left a “sunburn” patch on her side, Stacy said.
“It’s real rough and sore right now,” she said, but it is about what she was told to expect. The exam in a month is just to make sure the skin is healing right, said physician assistant Meg Baura, who is expecting herself.
“Oh, you are just so cute,” she said as she spied Mickaia on Stacy’s lap. “Look at those big eyes.”
Baura can’t stop smiling at Mickaia, who smiles back.
“It’s exciting,” Stacy says of pregnancy, “all the way up until …” And she laughs. Mickaia made her wait 13 hours before she decided to come out. But no one can seem to resist the bouncy little girl and strangers beg to take her in their arms as her big eyes drink it in.
On Stacy’s lap, she kicks her feet as Stacy holds up her arms.
“I swear she’s going to walk before she crawls,” Stacy said, and Mickaia looks as if she could leap onto the floor.
Baura checks over her chart before giving her the good news.
“You’re done,” she said. “Congratulations! You handled it so well.”
And she has. Except for her hair, Stacy looks just as she did before all of the treatment began. Jessie leans over and with her hand smooths down the short strands on Stacy’s head, which itch as they come in.
“It looks like every day it’s getting a little longer,” she said.
Stacy also hit another milestone last week.
“I’m done with school,” she said, although she’ll have to wait until August to complete her master’s degree in community counseling. She would like to find work with a hospital or oncology clinic as a counselor and patient advocate – particularly for pregnant patients with cancer. Although it is rare – the American Cancer Society says breast cancer occurs once every 10,000 pregnancies – there will be women out there who could benefit from her unique perspective. But for now she looks happy to walk out of the cancer clinic holding her little girl.
“We’re done,” she said. Her father had a stroke in December but has recovered, and Jessie looks relieved and smiles as she says, “Everybody is fine now.”