A mother-of-four who was diagnosed with rare eye cancer at eight months pregnant gave birth to healthy twins despite fears that the disease would spread to the babies.
Jessica Boesmiller, 37, went to her doctor with blurred vision in one eye in November, and within days was diagnosed with ocular melanoma, a rare life-threatening form of cancer.
Her right eye was completely removed three weeks later with the hopes of reducing the risk of the cancer spreading to the babies.
The YMCA director, who delivered a baby girl and boy days before Christmas, said she and her husband, a North Carolina firefighter, were relieved when tests confirmed the babies’ placentas had not been infected.
Though the cancer had not affected the infants, the mother-of-four, her husband and their two older sons are waiting for the results of a CT scan and MRI to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of her body.
Jessica Boesmiller, 37, delivered healthy twins on December 21 after being diagnosed with rare eye cancer while eight months pregnant
The couple from North Carolina have two older sons, Caleb, seven, and Conner, nine, and are all waiting for tests to determine if their mother’s cancer has spread
At 32 weeks pregnant Jessica experienced blurred vision in one eye but thought it could be due to her pregnancy.
‘I expected to walk in there needing contacts, and I walked out of there with a diagnosis of OM,’ Jessica said in an interview with the Herald Citizen.
Just three weeks after the diagnosis, Jessica underwent surgery to completely remove her right eyeball at Duke Hospital in Durham, North Carolina more than two hours away from their home in Charlotte.
Ocular melanoma is a cancerous tumor that develops in the pigment cells that give color to the eyes.
The malignant tumor grows from the middle layer of the eye which you can’t see when looking in a mirror, making it difficult to detect.
Although produced from the same cells in the body, ocular melanoma is different from skin melanoma and is not believed to be related to sun exposure.
It is a rare disease that only effects about 2,500 adults in the US each year and is most common in men 55 and older with light-colored eyes due to the pigment production.
It is a potentially lethal disease killing half of those diagnosed, especially when it spreads to the liver.
Jessica and Mark’s decision to remove the eye on November 30 ensured the least amount of harm to the babies, whereas radiation would be an alternative.
A c-section was scheduled for the week before Christmas and an MRI and CT scan to determine the spread of the cancer and its stage was put off until a week after delivery.
The mother, who now wears an eye patch, gave birth on December 21 to Piper Marie who weighted six pounds eight ounces and Mason Dare who weighed six pounds one ounce.
Tests done of the infants’ placentas showed that the babies are cancer-free
Jessica had her eye removed just three weeks after her diagnosis and she gave birth less than a month later
WHAT IS OCULAR MELANOMA?
Ocular melanoma is the most common primary cancer of the eye in adults.
It is diagnosed in about 2,500 adults every year in the United States and occurs most often in lightly pigmented individuals with a median age of 55 years.
OM is a malignant tumor that can grow and spread to other parts of the body – occurring in about 50 percent of patients.
If the cancer spreads, there is a 15 percent survival rate and if it does not chances of survival are 80 percent.
Although produced from the same cells in the body, called melanocytes, OM is different from skin melanoma and is not related to sun exposure.
Ocular Melanoma is the second most common type of melanoma after cutaneous and represents about five percent of all melanomas.
Source: Ocular Melanoma Foundation
Tests were done on the twins’ placentas which revealed they are cancer free.
The couple also have two older sons Conner, nine, and Caleb, seven.
A GoFundMe has been created by family and friends to cover their out-of-pocket expenses of traveling to hospitals between North Carolina and Philadelphia, the costs of newborns and to make up for unplanned time off of work.
Mark took to Facebook to write about his wife’s adjustment to her eye patch.
‘After being up half the night due the plastic cap conformer not sitting correctly under Jessica’s eyelid, we found out the tissue around the eye lid is swollen and pushing the conformer out of place,’ he wrote.
She will get fitted for a prosthetic eye within the next few months.
While the mother-of-four adjusts to life wearing her eye patch and two new babies, she is awaiting the results of an MRI and CT scan that she had days ago to learn if the cancer has spread to other organs.
If so, Jessica will work with doctors to assess the stage the of the cancer and plan our treatment which will likely consist of radiation therapy.
‘If it’s somewhere else, we’ll start another path of getting rid of that one,’ she said.