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When Ashley Hallford, now 35, was diagnosed with cancer while she was pregnant in 2007, she had no idea what kind of battle she was in for. Ten years later, after doctors predicted she had just weeks to live, Hallford is the mother of three healthy children - and her story serves as a reminder that a devastating prognosis isn't always the end of the road for fertility.
Hallford first discovered the cancer when she was 33 weeks pregnant and felt a bump on her neck, according to TODAY. Doctors didn't want to perform surgery until her delivery, so labor was induced and she gave birth to a healthy baby several days after the diagnosis. The doctors removed the tumor, taking a part of her jaw muscle with it and damaging a facial nerve in the process.
It was unclear at the time what kind of cancer she had. "We could not determine the origin of her tumor," her oncologist, Dr. Debra Miller of Southeastern Medical Oncology Center in Jacksonville, North Carolina, told TODAY. "We consulted with other doctors all over the country, but couldn't figure out what it was."
A few months later, in January 2008, doctors found another tumor in her brain.
"That prompted a full body scan," Hallford said to 11Alive. "And that's when other spots were found. At that point, they stopped trying to figure out what it was, saying, 'We need to start treating her, or she's gonna die.'" Hallford learned the cancer had spread to her lungs and liver - doctors diagnosed it as stage 4, the deadliest type.
Hallford began treatment, and she start preparing messages for her son in case she passed. "They asked me to start taking pictures, videos, and writing a journal for my son," she said to TODAY. "My handwriting was terrible and I could barely see." Her right eyelid had closed as a result of the brain tumor, and she could no longer open it.
Despite the dire prognosis, Hallford learned that she was officially in remission in 2008, and she finished her treatment in 2009. The bad news: All of the cancer treatment caused her body to go into early menopause. In 2010, after seeing a fertility specialist and having doctors recommend a surrogate, Hallford had given up on having more kids.
But in 2012, a test revealed that she was pregnant...again. "The day I delivered all of my doctors breathed a sigh of relief," she said to Today.
And this past May, before taking a routine brain MRI (to keep tabs on her remission), she learned she was pregnant again. Hallford gave birth to a healthy boy this past January.
Unsurprisingly, Hallford and her family are thrilled with the events of the past 9 years. "You have to remain positive," she said to TODAY. "Doctors gave me a few weeks to live. Don't give up. I didn't lose hope. Don't ever quit fighting."
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