Maryland moms on surviving cancer: Amy Babst

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CancerMomAmyWBy Kristy MacKaben

One Maryland mom was pregnant for the first time. Another had just celebrated her son's first birthday. Two more were in the throes of mom-hood, taking care of multiple children and working — when cancer struck.

According to the most recent statistics from the American Cancer Society, nearly 412 women out of every 100,000 in Maryland were diagnosed with cancer between 2005 and 2009. Not all of these women were moms but many were.

Over the course of the next few days, we are posting the stories of four incredible women: Amy Babst of Linthicum, Julie Lanahan of Timonium, Suzanne Ludicke of Columbia and Liz Park of Columbia who battled with cancer while raising kids.

At a time when their family needed them, they had to rely on others to keep going. Their ordeals were gut-wrenchingly difficult, but they managed to pull through, keep their families in tact and remain positive. Read on to find out how they did it.

Amy Babst's battle with Hodgin's Lymphoma

CancerMomAmy2Amy Babst of Linthicum had what she calls a dream pregnancy with her first child, Kira, now 5. Babst, who was 23 at the time, experienced no complications and loved being pregnant. At 38 weeks she was strutting around in five-inch heels at work.

"I felt great. I looked great," says Babst, who is now 28.

Then everything changed.

One night Babst had trouble breathing. When she mentioned it at a checkup, her obstetrician sent her straight to Harbor Hospital for a chest x-ray.

"My airways were really constricted. Basically I should have been dead," Babst says.

Doctors found a tumor the size of a "large Starbucks coffee" in her chest. Babst had stage three/four Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

"It was so big it was spreading," says Babst.

The next day she was admitted to University of Maryland Medical Center for testing. She was induced, but baby Kira wasn't born until two days later via Cesarean section.

"It's supposed to be the happiest time in your life and we didn't even know what to think," Babst says. "My husband [Craig] said he never knew if he was going to leave the hospital with me, the baby or neither one of us."

Kira was born at 10 p.m. Early the next morning, Babst was sent to the operating room for a biopsy of the mass. "I didn't even have a chance to bond with the baby," Babst says.

What ensued was a blur for Babst—six months of chemotherapy and radiation---all while trying to care for a newborn.

"It was kind of crazy," Babst says. "A lot of days I just didn't get out of bed. I had no energy and I was so sick. I felt like that whole first year was taken away from me."

Babst was unable to breast feed and she doesn't remember when Kira learned how to crawl or say her first words. She was consumed with her illness and trying to get better for her family.

"I remember just laying on the couch with the baby watching Jon and Kate Plus 8. My numbers were so low I couldn't even leave the house," Babst says, explaining she and Craig became closer through the experience. "We laughed. We cried. We went through all the emotions."

A positive attitude was crucial, as well as the ability to ask for help. Relying on family and friends was a source of survival for Babst. Her mom, who was a nurse, came over most days.

"She would take care of the baby when I couldn't. She was amazing," Babst says.
Cancer has helped shape Babst and her family. Kira, now 5, doesn't remember her mom having cancer, but she knows she wants to help people with cancer. Babst isn't afraid to talk about cancer with Kira and her 3-year-old sister Khloe, and eventually their new baby sister Kendall, who was born in July.

"We learned a lot," Babst says. "A good attitude and positivity are everything."

Read the next story in the series on Julie Lanahan's battle wtih breast cancer.


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