'A medical miracle:' woman with rare cancer gives birth to baby boy
A Door County woman is making medical history, becoming what doctors believe is one of just a few cases in the country where a woman has beat a very rare form of uterine cancer and was then able to have a child.
It didn't come without a lot of research, worry and faith in her medical team, but the result is bringing overwhelming joy to the family and her doctors.
Like every proud new mom, Whitney Everard is beaming with pride over the birth of her first child.
"This is William Lloyd Bittorf," Whitney tell us, holding her newborn boy. "(He's) seven pounds, three ounces, and 19 inches long."
The little guy is giving her the ultimate reason to glow.
He's a sort of medical miracle.
"Definitely not where I thought I'd be not even two years... a year and a couple months after, but really happy with what we have," says Whitney.
In late 2018, Whitney went to the doctor because she was concerned about abnormal bleeding.
Weeks of tests and waiting turned into a dreaded diagnosis.
Doctors found a tumor in her uterus that had to be removed just to find out what it was.
"Whitney had a low grade endometrial stromal sarcoma, which is less than 0.2 percent of the uterine cancers that get diagnosed every year," explains Prevea Health gynecologic oncologist Dr. Erin E. Stevens. "It's about a one in a million type of uterine cancer."
And it's almost unheard of in a 26-year-old, otherwise healthy woman.
Dr. Stevens remembers telling Whitney the best medical treatment was a second surgery to perform a complete hysterectomy -- eliminating any chance of her getting pregnant and having children.
"She said thank you very much for your opinion, but no, I'm not going to have a hysterectomy," recalls Dr. Stevens.
"I wasn't going to let not knowing what was going to happen decide that we never have kids, so I guess, instead of ignoring the unknown, we just, we'd find out what happens," says Whitney.
Dr. Stevens made her consult other medical experts who also advised surgery, not children.
But a determined Whitney and her family began researching their options.
They read medical journals, looking for other women with this rare cancer who also had kids.
Whitney tells us it was hard to find even a few in this country.
"I had my mind made up, but I was unsure if it was the right decision necessarily," explains Whitney, when asked if she considered having the hysterectomy instead.
"I think she very well understood the risks that could happen, but we can't predict the future, and just because cancer behaves a certain way in a text book, doesn't mean we have to follow the text book because cancer also doesn't behave the way we write about it in a text book," says Dr. Stevens.
So a few months after removing the tumor, and seeing no signs of more cancer, Dr. Stevens gave her the blessing to try for children.
Barely three months after that, an elated Whitney called with good news.
"How did this happen so fast?!" says Whitney, describing the reaction of her doctors.
Her team of doctors, including Dr. Stevens and Dr. Amy VanGheem, Whitney's Prevea OBGYN, carefully monitored her through the entire pregnancy, unsure what would happen.
"Pregnancy was really the big unknown, because this is a hormonally sensitive cancer. It grows with estrogen, and the risk of being pregnant when your hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone go sky high, is that if there were cancer cells left behind that I couldn't see with my eyes at the time of surgery, her cancer could grow during her pregnancy," explains Dr. Stevens.
But at 36 weeks and one day, Whitney delivered a healthy boy via C-section.
Dr. Stevens was there to make sure Whitney was healthy, too. She found no sign of any cancer.
"To be able to be a part of a young woman having a uterine cancer and then having a baby after that is really a unique and special experience," says Dr. Stevens.
While Whitney will still need a hysterectomy at some point, she hopes to add another child to their family, too.
"If it helps somebody else who's 26-years old and told that they have this, too, and they might never have kids, at least there's now one example of somebody who did, and we're doing good," says Whitney, smiling.