Sep 01, 2014 04:30AM ● Published by Jason Huddle
Perry and Kristen Seifert holding the newest member of their family.
Most women grow up assuming they’ll be mothers one day. Call it maternal instinct, call it the concept of the traditional American family. But even with all the wonders of modern medicine, some face the reality that becoming pregnant is not an option.By: Kim Cassell
The finality of that truth sends them on an emotional rollercoaster ride of disbelief, utter sadness, isolation and resentment at seeing other women pregnant. Still, we as individuals have coping mechanisms that help us get through situations like this: family, faith and strength of character among them. Time is also meaningful, a period to recover and reassess.
Some women then pursue adoption, others concentrate on their relationship with their spouse or discover their passions lie in community involvement, hobbies, career, volunteering, etc. Still others seek to fulfill that need for family in what are viewed as not-so-unconventional ways anymore.
Kristen Vogler Seifert is a Cabarrus County native. She met Perry at North Carolina State and they were married in 2007, a year out of college. Before the wedding, however, in June 2006, Seifert was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that grows in the peritoneum, a layer of tissue that covers our abdominal organs.
“The only symptom that I had was some bladder cramping,” Seifert says. “I am so thankful for my amazing gynecologist, Kelly Booth, MD. She found my tumor after a CT scan and validated my diagnosis after laparoscopic surgery.
“Dr. Booth brought my entire family into her office to go over the results of the biopsy. She gave it to us straight, but with total compassion. I remember my body stiffening. I kept a straight face and began to ask questions. As I continued to ask questions, tears began to run down my eyes but my stature didn’t waiver. I could see my family wiping tears from their eyes. I grabbed a (tissue) and continued. It felt like my body immediately toughened up and was ready for battle. After leaving her office, the tears really began to pour. I hugged my family and went home to relax. I gave myself a few hours to let it all out…to think it through and to…’get my game face on.’ I knew I had to have it together before I could start telling my friends. I needed them to know that I was fine, that we would be fine, and that it was just a bump in the road I had to pass.”
Dr. Booth conducted a national search for physicians that could take on Seifert’s treatment since her type of cancer was so rare. In the end, Seifert interviewed two of them before choosing the National Cancer Institute/National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, where she stayed for several weeks. She had her first surgery in August 2006, which consisted of a heated peritoneal chemotherapy bath while open on the operating table. That was followed up a few days later by pumping chemotherapy into her abdomen.
Fast-forward to 2008. Seifert had decided to go to nursing school, taking prerequisites while also working full-time. A check-up showed cancer and a need for more chemotherapy.
“Game face time again,” Seifert says. “I continued to work full-time and go to school at night. I received chemotherapy IV on Fridays and was pretty much out of it until the following Tuesday/Wednesday.”
Seifert received a treatment every three weeks for 15 weeks, feeling better around Christmas. However, in the spring of 2011, the cancer was back and surgery was agreed upon. Instead of going through NIH, she was referred to Dr. Edward Levine in Winston-Salem. Seifert had just started her job as a pediatric nurse at Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast, but had to take a leave for surgery and another heated peritoneal chemotherapy bath.
“I was back to work by the end of April! We are still watching spots on my CT scan, but my last appointment didn’t show any new growth,” Seifert happily adds.
Still, after the first surgery, she learned she wouldn’t be able to carry a child. “Of course finding this out was hard. It was a lot to take in, but I had the most amazing man, family and friends at my side. There was never a thought that I (wouldn’t) have a child.”
A member of that “amazing” family is Brianna, the Seiferts’ cousin. She stepped up and offered to act as surrogate and carry a baby for Kristen and Perry.
“Brianna has been fantastic! She videoed all appointments, sent pictures and videos of her belly all the time. I could call her at any time and she has been amazing at letting me talk out my feelings. She is an absolute angel!”
Scheduled for induction on August 13, the Seiferts now have a beautiful baby boy named Tucker.
“God has blessed me with this wonderful, wonderful life. Each day is a blessing, each battle gives me strength and each smile brings happiness to my heart. He is the reason I am here, and He reminds me every day that I have a purpose on this Earth. I can only hope that I never take this life for granted and that I enjoy every second with my new little family. I know my son’s smile will be a gift that I will cherish each and every day. My family and friends have been amazing, and my husband is the most incredible support system in the world. I am a very lucky girl!
“The entire reason I became a nurse was because of the amazing nursing and physician care I received during all my cancer treatments,” Seifert adds. “I knew that a smile from the nurse or a comforting touch could make all the difference. They made me smile. They made me laugh. They kept me safe and made me feel comforted. They helped me heal in ways I could never imagine, and I am forever grateful. I hope each and every day at my job I can touch someone’s life the way they have touched mine.”