UAE: Pregnant woman hopes to give birth to healthy baby boy after shocking colon cancer diagnosis at 26 weeks

Abu Dhabi: Rania Fuad Alsheikh, a 36-year-old Jordanian expat, was excited when she found out that she was going to be a mother for the second time. But as her pregnancy progressed, she began to complain of severe pain and heaviness in her stomach.

When he reached the sixth month of his term, his condition worsened and he could not get out of bed. The pain was excruciating, and despite doctors having previously told her it was pregnancy-related, her current symptoms, including lack of hunger and vomiting, required a visit to the ER.

At Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, the doctors treating her made it clear that she needed a thorough investigation to get to the root cause of the pregnancy. Dr Fady Georges Hachem, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology, prescribed a series of tests and to the surprise of Rania and her family, she was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer. It was a big setback, but Rania was determined to overcome it.

Hope is eternal

“I thanked the Almighty that we finally knew what was causing the pain. Although I did not expect a cancer diagnosis, I did not feel sad because I believe that everything that comes from God is good. All I wanted was for my baby to be healthy,” he said.

At that moment, he could barely speak. As Medical Oncology consultant Dr Mohanad Diab recalled, she was too weak to speak when he met her in April. The biopsies revealed an aggressive form of colon cancer called mucinous adenocarcinoma. Further tests showed that the baby’s condition was also unstable. A multidisciplinary team was immediately mobilized at the hospital to attend to this critical case.

Dr Mohanad Diab, Consultant Medical Oncology, with Rania Fuad Alsheikh and Fahed.
Image credit: supplied

“We had two options in front of us. The first was not to give her chemotherapy because she was pregnant. But her condition was so bad that if we chose this, she risked dying in a matter of days. The other option was to try chemotherapy on the pregnant patient,” Dr. Diab said.

The team organized a tumor discussion panel at the hospital to determine whether, around the world, there were similar cases of a pregnant woman in the 25th week of gestation treated with chemotherapy.

Chemo at 26 weeks

“While Rania was 26 weeks pregnant, we began treatment with the chemotherapy regimen to improve outcomes for both mother and baby. Miraculously, three days after chemotherapy, the patient was able to stand up. Before the treatment was administered, she could not eat a bite of food. But after chemotherapy she was able to eat normally,” said Dr. Diab, adding that she was discharged a week after the first chemotherapy session. She continued to have weekly medical appointments during which her team monitored her and the baby until her delivery.

Rania, who felt more energetic, had stopped complaining about the pain. The support of the doctors and her family, especially her mother, her sisters, and her husband, made all the difference. The sight of her firstborn, four-year-old Mohammed, made her more determined to fight the Oddas.

On June 8, while Rania was in the 35th week of her pregnancy, she completed five sessions of chemotherapy and underwent a cesarean section, giving birth to a healthy baby.

“It was an emotional moment for all of us in the operating room when we took the baby out and put him in Rania’s arms. Seeing the healthy baby, who weighed 2.32 kg, brought us joy and relief. I commend her brave decision to undergo chemotherapy during pregnancy, which certainly gave her and her baby the best chance,” Dr. Hachem said.

Brilliant Future

Rania, who cannot thank Allah enough for Fahed, prays and hopes for a bright future. “I thank the Almighty and cherish every moment I spend with my little one.”

If any woman feels any pain during pregnancy, she should consult doctors because they are responsible not only for themselves but also for the soul inside her, she warns.

Rania, who has to continue her cancer treatment, is a great inspiration to others, said Dr. Diab.

“It is extremely rare to be diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy, let alone undergo chemotherapy and give birth to a healthy baby. Rania’s courage and resilience are an inspiration. If she continues with the chemotherapy regimen, I am sure she will recover quickly,” she added.

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