“Happiness is a choice,” says Bridget Tyson, age 33 and mum to nine-month-old Mohi. “There is a time and a place for sadness, but I want to live, feel joy and have a happy life with my family.”
Bridget was six months pregnant when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. She had been living in Tokyo with her partner. Brandon. In February 2020, when they found out they were expecting a baby, they returned home to New Zealand. It was during their two weeks in quarantine that Bridget started to suffer with back pain.
“I had back pain but thought I was probably related to pregnancy. Then I found a lump in my breast and had various tests,” says Bridget. “Then one day, I couldn’t stand up at all.
“I went to A&E and eventually had an MRI scan, which showed that most of my spine, two of my ribs, lymph nodes all looked white instead of grey and I had two collapsed vertebrae. Then the biopsy came back a few days later and confirmed stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
“I couldn’t walk and had to stay in hospital for two weeks. The physios helped me learn to walk again and focus on how to do it with less pain. Brandon never left my side and took care of me. He is amazing. I also spent this time learning how to knit and kept busy making my baby a blanket!
“Then I started three months of chemotherapy. My oncologist, a specialist from Palmerston North, knew of five other women who had chemo while pregnant and this didn’t affect their babies, so that put my mind at rest.
“I had been booked in for a C section, but I ended up going into labour early and so delivered my baby naturally. Everything happened as it should. Due to my type of cancer, I know I can’t get pregnant again as the risk is too high.
“I’m so happy that I can remember everything about the birth – seeing his face, hugging him and to having that skin-on-skin contact right from the first few seconds.
“As soon as my son, Mohi, was born I was able to walk again unassisted and without a walking frame.
“Then when Mohi was three weeks old I started radiation therapy. I went into remission for a few months and then the cancer was back.
“But we’ve changed my treatment plan and we keep on moving forward. I try to focus on what matters.
“The hospital referred me to Sweet Louise. I like going along to the Sweet Louise meetings and find the group very helpful. We’re a small group in Whanganui. It really helps to have others to talk to who understand what I’m going through.
“Sweet Louise organised help with cleaning for a month when I moved house and was there for me over the phone when I was first diagnosed.
“I hadn’t heard of Sweet Louise before being diagnosed and I really want to help raise awareness of the work they do. That’s why I’m planning a fundraising exhibition for next year with local artists. I hope I can raise funds for Sweet Louise and raise awareness of the work they do.
“What helps me cope is I choose what to focus on. I am blessed with a baby who is so happy, healthy, sleeps and eats well! I feel so grateful to have him. My life is full of joy in so many ways.
“Brandon and I started a gratitude journal together, so we celebrate the wins rather than focus on the negative. A positive attitude helps us get through.
“I focus on my family. Stay present in the moment. Think about how far I’ve come.”