Sarah Mital underwent five rounds of chemotherapy while pregnant with her daughter, Sasha, now 8 months old.Photo: Stefano Giovannini
For Sarah Mital, the welcome news a year-and-a-half ago that she was pregnant was tempered by fears over a tiny lump in one of her breasts.
The Upper East Side resident was right to feel worried — she was diagnosed with Stage II brea*st cancer just two weeks after she found out she was expecting her first child.
“It was scary,” Mital, a 35-year-old lawyer, tells The Post. “But I was sure that, no matter what, I was going to do everything I could to keep and have the baby.”
She saw Dr. Sharon Rosenbaum Smith, a brea*st-cancer surgeon at Mount Sinai West, who found cancer in both of Mital’s breasts and supervised her treatments, which included specially timed surgery and chemotherapy. Eight months ago, Mital became the cancer-free mother of an adorable little girl, Sasha.
“She is beautiful and perfectly healthy,” says Mital. “I’m just so thankful that everything worked out for us both.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, 1 in 3,000 pregnant women in the US is diagnosed with brea*st cancer each year. In the past, terminations were often encouraged, but it’s since been found that this option doesn’t improve a mother’s chance of survival. There is also no evidence that a mother’s cancer can harm her unborn baby.
Mital’s treatment was delayed until her second trimester, at 13 weeks, after Sasha’s organs formed. Rosenbaum Smith performed lumpectomies on both breasts, and six weeks later, Mital underwent five rounds of chemotherapy.
“Some chemotherapy drugs, including Adriamycin and Cytoxan, are safe to take during the second trimester,” Rosenbaum Smith tells The Post, adding that on average, her practice sees one case per year like Mital’s.
“It was decided to postpone using the third chemo drug, Taxol, until after the baby’s delivery.” Taxol is a pregnancy category D drug, meaning it can be hazardous to the fetus.
The treatment took an emotional and physical toll on Mital. She was constantly tired during the chemotherapy and, despite being told the risks were minimal to her unborn baby, was understandably anxious about the outcome. She lost most of her hair and felt nauseated, but remained upbeat — particularly for the sake of her husband, Sachyn, 34.
“He was incredibly supportive but, when I was first diagnosed, I didn’t tell anyone else about the pregnancy,” she says. “It was in case, God forbid, anything should happen.
“It was really hard because it’s people like my mom, dad and brother, even my best friend, who I usually confide in, but I felt like I couldn’t.”
One of the biggest ordeals was the surgery, because a team had to constantly check on the health of the baby. “The stress was definitely magnified,” adds Mital.
Sasha was born naturally at 38 weeks on March 26, weighing 5 pounds, 9 ounces.
“They warned us that she might be on the lighter side, because I probably wasn’t eating as much during my treatment,” says Mital. “But she was healthy, and that’s all that mattered.
“I had a mammogram, surgery and chemo when she was in there cooking, and she came out fine. She also had tons of hair — much more than me!”
Doctors decided the new mom didn’t need another round of chemotherapy with Taxol, although she underwent six weeks of daily radiation beginning in May, while she was on maternity leave.
Now given the all-clear since completing her radiation in the summer, Mital is back at work while Sasha goes to day care.
“She is a delight, and every moment I spend with her is pure joy,” says Mital. “I want pregnant women with cancer to know that you don’t have to feel like you’re sacrificing the baby’s health for your health or vice versa.”
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