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5/9/2023 8:18:49 PM Reporting from Detroit,MI
Pregnant mom of two-year-old twins celebrates Mother’s Day by raising awareness about ovarian cancer
https://www.beaumont.org/health-wellness/news/pregnant-mom-celebrates-mothers-day-by-raising-awareness-about-ovarian-cancer
5/9/2023 8:18:49 PM
The Bradley family of Northville, including mom, Melissa, Dad, Joshua, and two-year-old twin sons, Ben and Fitz, are building a special Mother’s Day tradition that includes exercise, advocacy and, most importantly, being together.

Pregnant mom of two-year-old twins celebrates Mother’s Day by raising awareness about ovarian cancer

Corewell Health

Pregnant mom of two-year-old twins celebrates Mother’s Day by raising awareness about ovarian cancer

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

The Bradley family of Northville, including mom, Melissa, Dad, Joshua, and two-year-old twin sons, Ben and Fitz, are building a special Mother’s Day tradition that includes exercise, advocacy and, most importantly, being together.

For the third straight year, they are marking the annual holiday with a 5K walk to support the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance’s annual fundraising and awareness event in Ann Arbor.

The first time the twins participated, they were just two months old.

“Walking in this event is an honor and privilege,” said Melissa Bradley, who four years ago, at the age of 28, was diagnosed at Corewell Health’s Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, with a rare form of ovarian cancer. “I feel fortunate that I’m able to spread awareness and inspire other women to listen to their bodies.”

Monday, March 8, is World Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day.

Bradley is so passionate about making an impact, she’s already midway through a master’s degree that enables her to switch careers from teacher to social worker. Her goal is to work with women, like herself, participating in egg retrieval/ preservation and embryo transfers.

“There’s a lot of mental and physical preparation necessary for a successful invitro fertilization procedure,” Bradley said. “It’s an area I can address from experience, and hopefully, I can make an impact.”

Increasing overall community awareness is also part of her mission.

“We know our bodies best and need to be our own advocates,” Bradley said. “In younger women, ovarian cancer isn’t always high on the radar. I’m living proof that post-menopausal women aren’t the only ones who should be monitoring and monitored for symptoms.”

The Bradleys were working toward having their first baby when Melissa began noticing irregularities; her periods were lasting longer than usual, and she started experiencing pain during sex.

Bloodwork revealed her ovarian cancer marker – CA 125 – was “mostly normal,” but an ultrasound scan uncovered a cyst on her ovary thought to be benign.

During surgery to remove the cyst, however, Bradley’s health care team discovered the growth was cancerous.

“Melissa woke up from the anesthesia to some pretty difficult news, but her spirit was strong,” said her physician, Corewell Health oncologist Dr. Zaid Al-Wahab. “Most people, understandably, feel overwhelmed initially for quite some time, but right away, Melissa was focused and determined.”

Within four months of receiving the shocking news she had ovarian cancer and both her life and desire to start a family were at risk, Bradley arranged to harvest and preserve her eggs with the help of Corewell Health reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Ahmad Hammoud and began a successful, five-month chemotherapy program.

Although the median age for an ovarian cancer diagnosis is 63, Dr. Al-Wahab encourages women to listen to their bodies: “If symptoms don’t resolve in a short period of time, tell your doctor. No matter where they are in their health care journey, I tell my patients, ‘I will fight with you every step of the way.’”

Three months after being declared cancer-free, Bradley got the greenlight to begin invitro fertilization. Her first effort was halted by the COVID pandemic. But her next effort – and first actual attempt in July of 2020 – was successful. Eight months later, Fitz and Ben were born healthy and at nearly full term.

Bradley is now happily pregnant again with Baby No. 3 – a girl.

“Words can’t express my gratitude,” Bradley said.

At some point in the next few years, Bradley will arrange to have her reproductive organs removed to reduce the risk of recurrence, and her health care team will monitor her for life.

“Before us, there were no successful embryo transfers in anyone with my subset of ovarian cancer,” Bradley said. “If sharing my story inspires hope in someone who needs to hear it, I’ll have accomplished what I set out to do.”