- Twenty-one days. That's how long Renea and Jeff Foster had been
married before the first signs of trouble surfaced.
Off to a rocky
start on their first Valentine's Day since their wedding, Renea
spent the day fighting not her husband, but relentless flu-like
the day went on, she went to the doctor, who said it was a stomach
virus. However, Renea was still sick two days later, and now severely
dehydrated, she was diagnosed again by another doctor - this time
point, all of this made perfect sense," said Renea, who graduated
from The University of Southern Mississippi in 1997. "It never
occurred to us that it would be anything else."
But it was.
As the symptoms intensified, Renea said she could feel her heart
racing, as though she could pass out any minute. Jeff rushed her
to the emergency room that evening, and doctors immediately began
were quick: Renea was pregnant for the first time - or so doctors
obviously in shock because we had just gotten married," Jeff
said. "They said she was pregnant, but there was something
wrong. So they were going to do an ultrasound and check a little
couple could recover from their first shock, they were hit with
a second. The ultrasound found a growth on her right ovary. They
determined that the ovary would have to be removed to prevent it
from bursting and possibly killing Renea.
While the couple
called their parents, Ron and Jackie Dockter and Jim and Wendy Foster,
the hospital called in a surgeon. Early that morning she was under
surgery, they were told that Renea wasn't pregnant; instead, there
was a grapefruit-sized tumor on her right ovary. Cancer was a possibility,
but they remained positive and calm. "I honestly don't remember
worrying about cancer because the surgery itself was such a big
deal," Renea said. "I was still recovering from that;
my mind was totally focused on that. I think that God gave Jeff
and me a peace about it. I just put that in the back of my mind
and concentrated on feeling better each day and didn't worry about
what was going to happen next."
confirmed their worst fears: The tumor was malignant and she would
have to undergo chemotherapy. "That was probably the most upset
I got about the whole thing, and I was probably more upset about
the chemo," Renea said. "I felt like they had probably
gotten the cancer, but the idea of chemo and all that it entails
was the scariest part of the whole thing.
that first day, like I said, we both had a peace about it. We decided
that if we could get through the presurgery and postsurgery, we
could get through the rest."
after her ovary was removed, Renea began chemotherapy in Baton Rouge.
She took an extended leave of absence from her new job and Jeff,
a senior at Southern Miss, completed some of that semester's classes
but had to withdraw from the rest. Even as the couple's cocker spaniel
was sent away to live with Jeff's parents for a while, wedding presents
were still arriving at their empty apartment in Hammond, La.
They were both
In the beginning,
the chemo wreaked havoc on Renea's body. The weekend after her first
treatment, she was weak and nauseated, her spirits flagging.
time, Jeff stayed upbeat for Renea, shouldering all of the couple's
responsibilities so she could save her strength. "We didn't
worry about what was going to happen tomorrow or how she'd feel
tomorrow," he said, adding that the couple took the situation
day by day.
worry about their ability to have a baby, however. Having just married,
they wanted to wait a few years to become parents anyway.
finally produced a clean bill of health, although doctors monitored
the situation for months. To this day, she continues her semiannual
check-ups and remains cancer-free.
health stabilized, the couple bought a home in Baton Rouge, where
they both worked. They settled into a "normal" way of
life, often spending weekends redecorating their home, traveling,
or hosting family and friends.
In early 2001,
Renea and Jeff decided they did want to start a family. Despite
her previous health problems, the doctors were optimistic about
her chances of getting pregnant and carrying a baby to full term.
In August 2001, after a few months of trying, Renea suspected she
might be pregnant. Because of her medical history, however, she
had to approach the situation cautiously optimistic.
the very first time I was pregnant, it was going to be a little
different," she said. "That's because of the type of cancer
I had, which shows that you're pregnant because your hTG level is
high. I did the blood work, and my oncologist was the one who checked
it. They felt like I was pregnant, but of course, they wanted to
do an exam immediately, just in case.
was pregnant," she continued, her voice growing soft. "That's
what it was. Everything else checked out great."
On her due
date - April 4, 2002 - Lola Katherine Foster was born. It was an
experience the couple called nothing short of incredible. "We
were amazed," Jeff said. "We kept on looking at her. We
still do that. We just look at her and think about how lucky we
are and how thankful we are."
With the baby
turning 1 in April, Renea and Jeff have admitted that, like other
new parents, their lives have changed since Lola's birth. "Your
time is not your own as much anymore, but she's always slept good
since she was born," Renea said. "We've been lucky in
that respect. And we look forward, every day, to seeing her when
she wakes up in the morning and when we get home from work. She
just brings so much happiness and joy to both of our lives, and
all of our families and the grandparents. It's just amazing. We
can't imagine her not being in our life."