SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio mother is fighting each day for two lives. Women have a one in 13,000 chance of being diagnosed with colon cancer while pregnant. Tyisha Kemp, 27, has been dealt those odds and is determined to beat them.
Kemp glows with pride as she talks about her baby.
"He's growing fine. His heart rate is amazing. He's ahead of the growth curve," she said, with a smile on her face and her hands on her stomach.
Kemp has fought hard for that pride. This is no normal pregnancy.
"At 22 weeks, nausea and vomiting. (I) could not keep food down. I couldn't function, so I went to the hospital," she said.
To the shock of her family and even her doctors, Kemp was soon diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer. Like other similar cases, the cancer symptoms had been confused with pregnancy symptoms.
"I heard it. I cried about it," Kemp said from her hospital bed at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa-Westover Hills. Tears came to her eyes as she thought about her diagnosis. "You think about what it means. And for me, I go into 'What do we need to do?'"
With a 3-year-old daughter and a son on the way, Kemp said she has no choice but to be a warrior. Her situation is so rare that doctors have only documented about 275 cases, and each is different.
"She's not a candidate for surgery because of her pregnancy, so her only option is chemotherapy," said Kemp's oncologist Dr. Ed Hesita, with CHRISTUS Santa Rosa.
Hesita is a doctor with Texas Oncology, a network of comprehensive cancer care centers throughout the state.
Every two weeks, Kemp starts a 24-hour chemo treatment that drips through a tube into her arm. Tests show the baby hasn't been negatively affected, but Hesita said Kemp needs more aggressive chemo very soon.
"We're trying to figure out whether or not to deliver early or go more aggressive while pregnant," Kemp said.
It's a delicate and difficult decision that Kemp and her team of doctors will make together.
As Kemp deals with each tough choice, she continues to keep positive things in mind. She said she's far enough into her pregnancy for her baby to withstand chemo.
Oncologist Dr. Sukeshi Patel, with the University of Texas Health Science Center said, "In the first trimester there's an increased risk to the fetus than the later trimesters, so most people would recommend not to give chemotherapy in the first trimester. If it's absolutely necessary for the mother, then it may be recommended to terminate the pregnancy."
Kemp said that was something she had to consider in the beginning.
"I went from possibly having to terminate, to maybe deliver at 24 weeks, to now. I'm at 32 weeks pregnant still doing my treatment," Kemp said.
She considers that all a blessing.
"Despite it all, I'm still doing well, and I have a great support system. And I don't plan on losing," she said.
Kemp's family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for medical costs. If you'd like to make a donation, click here.