Bonnie’s Choice

Imagine: you are 8 weeks pregnant. And then you are diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctors say you must begin treatment right away; any delay, they warn, is life threatening. But chemotherapy will almost certainly endanger the life of the child growing inside you.

So here’s the awful choice:

> abort and get surgery and chemo to (hopefully) save your life;
> delay treatment until after you have your baby — and risk having the cancer spread, increasing the odds it’ll kill you.

Bonnie Rabin didn’t like either of those choices. What if she kept the baby – and got chemo too? She and her doctors started investigating online. And the information they turned up about the dangers chemotherapy poses for a fetus was, well, equivocal. It could lead to deformities, developmental problems – it could cause a spontaneous abortion and she’d lose her child altogether. But there were also cases of babies born perfectly healthy – cases where chemo had done no damage at all.

So Bonnie chose the path with the greatest risk — and the greatest possible reward. For 7 months she carried a child and got injections of powerful chemo. The doctors were conflicted. Her husband was a mess. But Bonnie said she never wavered.

This was my very first Dateline story. It has stayed with me ever since.

Want to know what happened?

Bonnie delivered a perfectly healthy baby girl. And those drugs did save her life. So far she’s cancer free.

Produced by the wonderful Ruth Chenetz — who probably wasn’t sure about the primetime magazine newbie she was partnered with, but did a magnificent job making me look good at Dateline my first time out.