A single mum who had a mastectomy while five months pregnant claims her unborn daughter saved her life – and now she’s taken part in a stunning photoshoot to commemorate their fight.
Terra Houska, 38, was unsure whether she or her daughter would survive when a lump near her left breast swelled to the size of an avocado in just three weeks.
Terra had a mastectomy and had 47 lymph nodes removed – which left the mum-of-three feeling depressed. But her spirits were lifted when she focused on her blossoming baby bump.
‘It was hard looking in the mirror for the first time after the bandages came off but when I saw my cute belly it took the sadness away,’ Terra from South Dakota, USA, says.
‘Knowing my baby was inside of me and protecting me from this disease made everything feel so much better. She really saved my life and she and my boys keep me strong.’
The brave mum - who gave birth to a healthy baby, Zanni, on May 3 - decided to commemorate her ordeal with a photoshoot showing her mastectomy scars and baby bump.
‘The pictures mark a time in my life I will always remember. I want Zanni to look back on them and see what we went through together,’ she says.
‘Taking the maternity photos felt empowering. I felt beautiful and that my daughter and I could make it through anything.’
Doctors told Terra they thought pregnancy hormones had made the disease progress more quickly.
Following the surgery the mum was told she would have to choose between delaying chemotherapy to carry Zanni to full term or start the treatment and give birth to her at 24 weeks.
Instead she found a doctor able to treat pregnant women for cancer in Sioux Falls – a five-hour drive away.
After two rounds of chemotherapy before her daughter’s birth and subsequent treatment scans showed no further signs of cancer.
Terra, who is also mum to two little boys, says: ‘I did two rounds of chemo while pregnant. I took a break after that to deliver Zanni.
‘When she was born she needed a bit of help breathing but she was out of the neo-natal intensive care unit in no time and hasn’t had any problems since.
‘Now she’s five-and-a-half weeks old. I named her Zanniyanwin which means ‘healthy woman’.’