This Mom Blamed Her Back Pain on Her Pregnancy, but After Giving Birth She Was Diagnosed With Incurable Lung Cancer


When Jessica Sherrie started experiencing severe back pain during the last month of her pregnancy, she chalked it up to the surgery she'd had in 2018 for scoliosis, as well as the physical stress of carrying a nearly full-term baby. But the pain didn't go away after the birth of her daughter, Regina.

35-Year-Old-Mom-Mistakes-Lung-Cancer-For-Pregnancy-Pain-GettyImages-544285039-74855234-3 35-Year-Old-Mom-Mistakes-Lung-Cancer-For-Pregnancy-Pain-GettyImages-544285039-74855234-3 that had spread all over her body.

"Once I had my daughter and the medication wore off, I still had pain," 35-year-old Sherrie, who lives in Glendora, California, told TODAY, recalling when she first realized something serious might be going on.

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Sherrie said she was "pretty freaked out" by the diagnosis. She'd never smoked, which made her lung cancer diagnosis even more surprising. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), women who smoke are 13 times more likely to develop lung cancer than those who have never smoked. Another risk factor, though, is exposure to secondhand smoke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 7,300 people who have never smoked die of lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke each year.

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According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), symptoms of lung cancer include a persistent cough, wheezing, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, and infections like bronchitis and pneumonia that don't go away or keep returning. If lung cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it may cause bone pain (such as in the back, as Sherrie experienced), swelling of lymph nodes, and nervous system changes like headache, dizziness, weakness, or numbness of an arm or leg.

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"I hope that people are not scared to go to the doctor and find out if they have cancer, because that could save their lives," said Sherrie. "I hope I can inspire people to take action right away when they experience symptoms."

After a tumultuous year, she's had some good news—the tumors in her brain have shrunk so much, they're now microscopic, and all but one of the tumors in her lungs have disappeared. New tumors have appeared in her liver and hip, though, and Sherrie is on a new drug regimen to treat them. In the meantime, one-year-old Regina is keeping her spirits up.

"I wasn't able to like carry her and walk around the house. I'd have to be sitting down… that was a hard time for me," Sherrie said of her postpartum months, after she was diagnosed. "I just want to hold my daughter. But it's OK now, I can hold her all the time."

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