Being diagnosed with breast cancer is difficult in and of itself, but it can be even more daunting to face when you're pregnant. This mom who was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant knows this firsthand, which is one reason why she's sharing her story — and an incredible postpartum photo — to help others in this situation feel less alone.
Maryland native DeShonjla “Shonni” Peterson, who runs the blog "Pregnant With a Side of Cancer," took to Instagram one week ago to share a birth photo with her then infant daughter, Zoe. But the snap isn't your average postpartum shot — that's because it features Peterson's mastectomy scar, and an incredibly moving caption about her journey leading up to giving birth.
Peterson started off her post by noting why October is a special month to her. For starters, it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and secondly, it's also Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. Not only was Peterson diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant, but she also suffered a loss prior to giving birth to Zoe.
"What many may not know is that October is special to me for two reasons," she explained alongside a stunning photo taken by Nikki Cee of NCeePhotography. "The beautiful baby girl in the background is my baby. Her sister Logan left me too soon. She would have been 6 now. It took @kjp_14 and I 7 years to have a successful pregnancy and see I knew in my heart God had/ has a purpose for me being pregnant and fighting cancer."
Peterson also discussed her decision to delay breast cancer treatment, all in order to ensure her daughter's health.
"Y’all will NEVER know how perfect an image this is to me. When I found out I was pregnant with breast cancer I was a wreck, but what I did know is that if there was a choice between me staying here, or bringing this baby here into this world healthy at my expense there was only ONE choice, HER," she explained.
Peterson continued, "I delayed treatment just to have this moment and I cry as I type this because God saw fit for me to have both. To have life, to bring in life, and to continue to live life with both."
The moving photo has received 804 likes as of Sunday, and Peterson is thankful it's resonating with other parents. "I prayed this message would connect with those who are feeling alone or that no one understands," she tells Romper via Instagram message. "If I have to be vulnerable to help then I will."
As for Peterson's advice to other parents who might be in a similar situation? "The advice I would give anyone in my position is that this is your journey and you have to walk it in a way that is best for you," she says. "Take all the information you get from the doctors and your loved ones and the make YOUR OWN decision. No one has to deal with the consequences but you."
Peterson, who often shares adorable shots and videos of Zoe to Instagram, is finished with cancer treatment and has one surgery left to go. And she tells Romper she'll be on the tamoxifen regimen for the next five years.
Hats off to Peterson for sharing her story and documenting what it's like to be pregnant while dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis. This photo is a testament to her resilience and her commitment to helping others.