Skip to main content UVA Health logo of UVA Health
Healthy Balance

Cancer During Pregnancy: A Couple’s Remarkable Journey to Parenthood

Jenny faced rectal cancer during her pregnancy with Carter.

Happily married, Jenny and Alex Foltz of Mathias, West Virginia, were excited to grow their family when they learned Jenny was pregnant. But a week later, the couple got devastating news: Jenny had advanced rectal cancer.

The typical treatment for her type of cancer involves radiation therapy. But this would mean terminating the pregnancy.

Customizing Treatment for Jenny's Cancer During Pregnancy

At UVA Health, a team of cancer experts were able to customize a treatment plan to fight Jenny's cancer during her pregnancy. They would make sure she could become a mom and a cancer survivor.

Treatment for cancer during pregnancy meant:

Cancer Experts for You

UVA Health is Virginia's only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center

“The positive energy that Jenny was able to maintain throughout her treatment was contagious,” shares Kristie Coles. She's one of Jenny’s oncology nurses.

Jenny's surgeon, Traci Hedrick, MD, adds, “Not many people would have been able to handle that situation with such grace.”

Becoming a Mom & Cancer Survivor

After her treatment for cancer during pregnancy, Jenny delivered a healthy baby boy. “We were so grateful and beyond thrilled to be able to hold him in our arms,” Jenny shares.

But when Carter was just 2 months old, the new parents got more heartbreaking news: Jenny’s cancer was back.

Jenny and Alex share how this news would shape their future. Don’t miss their story. But first, grab a tissue.

View Transcript

JENNY FOLTZ: I was nine weeks pregnant we did a major abdominal surgery to remove the tumor, which was actually located behind the uterus.

TRACI HENDRICK: We had found that indeed, the cancer had spread to one of the lymph nodes that I removed during the surgery. It was clear that the treatment at that point was chemotherapy.

JENNY FOLTZ: I didn't know of anyone that had had chemo while pregnant. Kristie and Cara were my oncology nurses. And they supported me a lot to that first day and talk through it with me. After going through surgery first trimester, chemo second trimester, we delivered a healthy baby boy on time with a healthy weight. And so we were grateful and beyond thrilled to be able to hold him in our arms.

ALEX FOLTZ: When she gave birth, I mean, it was, I mean, he came out beautiful and healthy.

JENNY FOLTZ: Carter was two months old when we had our scans. At first, we were told that the scans were good. But there was one lymph node down on my tailbone that they weren't worried about yet. They weren't sure what it was. But they were going to check it out and see what was going on.

Eventually, I got a call back from Dr. Le, my oncologist, and Dr. Hedrick. They were actually concerned about this lymph node, that I do think it's cancerous. And that we're going to need to go back to surgery.

TRACI HENDRICK: So I had to operate on her again to remove that lymph node. And so at that point, the treatment options were clear that she needed radiation. And so we referred her to Dr. Janowski.

EINSLEY-MARIE JANOWSKI: I became a part of Jenny's care team long before I met her. We've discussed her case at our multidisciplinary GI tumor board multiple times. And then finally, I heard about her again unfortunately when she was diagnosed with a recurrence. While the goal for us was to preserve her fertility, there was never a guarantee that that was going to be the case.

JENNY FOLTZ: After the surgery, I remember, I was really excited that they were able to get this lymph node, but also heartbroken about not being able to have any more children. And Dr. Modesitt was in my hospital room and said, Jen, I know this is hard that you can't have more children. But you have fought this long for Carter. And now we got to fight a lot for you and to give Carter back his mom.

And so sometimes that you just see that perspective. It just helps you be grateful for what you have. I just always felt they were fighting for me. And that was so important to feel that you can trust your doctors and just to know that they really care about you.

TRACI HENDRICK: There's not too many people that would have been able to handle that situation with such grace.

KRISTIE COLES: The positive energy that Jenny was able to maintain throughout her treatment was contagious. She very much continued to live her life and did not let cancer define who she was or where she was in her life.

EINSLEY-MARIE JANOWSKI: Jenny's outlook is fantastic. She is several years out from her treatment with no evidence of recurrence. I expect her to be cured from this cancer and to have a long, healthy life.


Reply & View Comments Search Submit

Subscribe for Updates

Get stories & health tips every week