Shelly Battista received her first diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer at just 34 years old.
An Illinois woman discovered a lump while breastfeeding her first-born daughter in 2020. Shelly Battista was just 34 years old when she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. Despite the aggressive form of the disease and having her ovaries removed during its treatment, she gave birth to identical twin girls.
When Shelly first heard of the cancer diagnosis she was caught completely unaware. She and her husband, Robert, felt like "we were just starting our life together, and we get this shocking news," she told NBC's Kate Snow in a March 20 segment on the TODAY show. Shelly was also diagnosed with a "BRCA1 mutation" which, according to a January press release from Northwestern Medicine, comes with an increased risk of "other types of cancer." Along with chemotherapy, Shelly went through a double mastectomy as well. During the treatment, she also had her ovaries removed. The mom chose to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer but had already frozen her embryos prior to the treatment.
Dr. Kara Goldman, a reproductive endocrinologist and medical director of fertility preservation at Northwestern Fertility and Reproductive Medicine said the type of "chemotherapy that is used in young patients with triple-negative breast cancer is very toxic to the ovaries." Goldman added, “We started her fertility preservation journey two days later. She started medications, and two weeks later, she had eight frozen embryos.” One year after treatment, the couple was ready to expand their family. As the mom's uterus was intact, she was healthy enough to go through with the pregnancy.
"The ovaries and the uterus function very independently of each other," Goldman explained. "In Shelly’s case, because she did not have ovaries producing hormones, we were able to provide her the hormones necessary for pregnancy." On the third embryo transfer by Dr. Goldman, Shelly’s pregnancy test turned out to be positive.
During her first ultrasound appointment, Shelly was told she was "having identical twin girls. It's like the best celebration of Shelly's cancer journey," her husband Robert said, "It's like, you've beaten cancer, and now here's this extra love you get on top of it." Exactly two years after she was deemed cancer-free she welcomed her babies, twin girls Nina and Margot on December 9, 2022. "I'm blessed to have a medical team who let me advocate for my medical needs and the future of my family," Shelley said on her second chance at motherhood. "It's a true miracle. My heart is very full."
Cover Image Source: YouTube | TODAY