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Pregnant woman with cancer welcomes healthy baby
VICTORIA – When we first met Alyne, she was walking towards a telescope that had been left along a popular walking path to gaze across the ocean.
When she looked through it and imagined seeing into her future, she saw nothing but celebration. After six years of trying to expand her family, Alyne was pregnant.
"The day that I figure out this," she says with a Brazilian accent and a big smile, "I just dancing around the house!"
Everything was going the way she planned. She had moved to Canada to build a better life for her husband and daughter, and was set to graduate from college so she could continue working as a civil engineer in the country.
But Alyne's plans changed when, six months pregnant, she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. "I was carrying the life and the death inside me at the same time," she said.
Hours after we randomly met, Alyne completed her school work. The next day, she was induced. The day after that, she gave birth to Isla Vitoria.
The baby's name was picked not because it sounds like the city they now call home, but because Vitoria is Portuguese for Victory. "I want she be strong," Alyne said. "They're the future. Never give up."
Two weeks after that first story, Alyne had to stop breastfeeding and start chemotherapy. During the months that followed, her husband Rodrigo had to miss work to care for their two daughters. Today, I'm focusing the camera on Ana Flor. The seven year-old is holding her baby sister, recalling what she learned from her mom. "Be yourself," Ana Flor says.
Be yourself. Be strong. Be grateful.
Alyne walks towards her daughters and kisses their heads. "I did all the scans," Alyne says with a bald head and beaming smile. "I'm cancer-free!"
Alyne says gratitude is the biggest thing she is feeling right now. She's thankful that baby Isla is thriving, and for the community of new friends who supported her through eight cycles of chemo ("the lovely chain that was built for me during this hard time").
Alyne says she's also looking forward to getting to know her post-cancer self. "I was working, studying, taking care if the kids, never stop," she says. "[Cancer] teach me – if you don't stop, life will stop you."
And if you stop worrying about the future, Alyne says, you can start appreciating the present moments. Like when your daughter's watching you try to cover your bald head with an uncomfortable wig, and she tells you, "You don't need to wear it. Just be yourself mommy."
"And I felt beautiful," Alyne says. "She said, 'You still my mom. Never anything change for me.'"
Alyne will eventually have to find work. But right now she is focused on her recovery, spending time with her daughters, and being the strong, grateful woman they will no doubt aspire to be.
Alyne's midwife has created a GoFundMe page to help support the family. You can find details here.