A Kansas mother was 12 weeks into her second pregnancy when she discovered that what she thought was a growing embryo was actually a tumor in her uterus.
Sarah Lundry of Topeka, Kansas, became pregnant in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing her and her husband to wait three months for an appointment with their doctor.
At that time, she experienced some typical symptoms of early pregnancy, until she suddenly started losing weight.
After she was finally able to visit her doctor and have an abnormal ultrasound done, it was discovered that she had a molar pregnancy, a very rare complication that occurs when sperm fertilizes a defective egg and instead of forming a baby, abnormal tissue forms inside the uterus accumulates that becomes a tumor.
Ms. Lundry’s pregnancy was one of the less than one percent of pregnancies that become a molar pregnancy.
Sarah Lundry is shown with her husband Garrett and their son Brooks, now four years old. The Kansas couple was excited at the prospect of having baby number two when they received the devastating news about her pregnancy
Ms Lundry’s tumor was surgically removed within days of detection, but eventually returned several times and turned into cancer that spread to her lungs and uterus
It was not unusual for Americans to delay medical care early in the pandemic because they worried about Covid exposure or because their providers cut back on services like preventative screening to free up resources for other patients.
Mrs. Lundry, who was barely 30 when her life turned upside down, and her husband were excited to grow their family by one, giving their then-son Brooks a little brother or sister.
She told the Kentucky NBC affiliate KSNT that at first she experienced all the symptoms of early pregnancy, including nausea and fatigue, but soon she could no longer keep food down. She even lost weight.
When she and her husband were finally able to reach a doctor, they couldn’t find a heartbeat, which should be detectable at 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Mrs Lundry said: ‘They tried every source to find the heartbeat but they couldn’t find it. And I knew at that moment I was thinking, “This isn’t normal.” At twelve weeks you should be able to hear the heartbeat almost immediately.’
It wasn’t until doctors performed an ultrasound that they discovered she had a molar pregnancy. Where an embryo should have formed, doctors found a tumor.
Within a tight window of just three days, she would undergo surgery to remove the tumor from her uterus.
While she had the tumor removed, her health problems didn’t stop there.
In May 2021, she was diagnosed with trophoblastic neoplasia of pregnancy, an umbrella term for a group of rare tumors that begin when the cells that would normally develop into a placenta grow abnormally.
During normal conception, sperm fertilizes an egg containing genes from the mother. But in a complete molar pregnancy, the egg is empty and the only genetic material therefore comes from the father. This forms a mass of abnormal placental cells, but not a baby.
However, a pregnancy test will still be positive because it picks up the body’s release of a pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). In the case of a molar pregnancy, these hormones do not come from a fetus, but from the defective placental cells.
Ms Lundry had to undergo several chemotherapy treatments. She also underwent a partial hysterectomy to remove her uterus in June 2022
The Lundrys still want to expand their family and, with the help of their neighbors, have started raising money for adoption
Even after Ms. Lundry’s tumor-like mass was removed, other tumors continued to form, eventually becoming cancer that spread to her lungs and uterus.
She said in May, when she was first diagnosed with cancer two years ago: “No one prepares you for that moment. No one tells you how to deal with your mortality because of one short sentence. No one explains to you how hard it is to explain, or even put into words, your situation to other people.
‘Nobody tells you, because cancer does not have a one-size-fits-all mentality. It tries to kill. It seeks to destroy… Today I am so grateful to be on the other side of cancer. I am so grateful that my story includes more life on Earth.”
After multiple rounds of chemotherapy, she eventually had to undergo a partial hysterectomy to remove her uterus. Now Mrs. Lundry has been cancer-free for a year, but cannot have children.
She said: ‘I never expected to experience all this. Evidently! It’s not like someone wakes up one day and thinks, “Today… I’m going to beat cancer. I’m going to experience all these things.”
Mrs. Lundry and her husband Garrett, of six years, have not given up on their dream of expanding their family. They are now raising money to adopt with the help of a local company, Milk & Honey Coffee Co.
The coffee shop maintains a current account for the Lundrys’ adoption fund and people can donate by mentioning ‘The Lundrys’ when visiting.
WHAT IS A MOLAR PREGNANCY?
A molar pregnancy occurs when a lump of abnormal cells grows in the uterus instead of a healthy fetus.
A ‘complete birthmark’ is when there is no fetus, while a ‘partial’ birthmark is when a fetus begins to form but cannot develop into a baby.
About one in 590 pregnancies in Britain, and one in a thousand in the US, is molar.
Many women have no symptoms and are not aware that they have a molar pregnancy until routine ultrasound scans are performed.
Some may suffer from:
- Vaginal bleeding or dark discharge
- Severe morning sickness
- An unusually swollen abdomen
Treatment often involves removing the abnormal cells via suction.
Medication may also be necessary.
Treatment may also be needed to remove remaining abnormal cells, which can cause cancer.
Molar pregnancies do not affect a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant in the future.
Source: NHS Choices