- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

GLEN BURNIE, Md. (AP) - Amber Blose typed up a few paragraphs and posted to the Internet. With the last few key strokes, she wrote:

“No sugar-coating will be found. That’s just not my style.”

In August 2012, Amber left the post office and got in her car. She was about to drive home when she noticed she had a missed call from her doctor. She called him back.

“It was like someone sucked the sound out of the room,” Amber says. “I got that high-pitched, flat-line noise in my ears.”

At the age of 31, Amber was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. It had only been a little over a year since she lost her son, Cameron, who was born four months premature and died nine days later in the hospital. Her gynecologist had just cleared her and her husband, Chris Blose, to try getting pregnant again. She thought she was in good health until she learned that odd thing she felt in her right breast was actually cancer.

Women her age don’t get cancer, she thought. And not on the heels of what she believed would be the biggest tragedy of her life - holding her baby in her arms as he died.

“I felt like that gave us this free pass in life for nothing bad to ever happen to us again,” Amber says. “A month after I said that and thought that, I felt a lump in my breast.”

Amber sat down at her computer. Instead of asking the universe why this happened to her, she wrote about it. A friend helped her launch a blog, called SurviveBer, a combo of the words “survivor” and “Amber,” where she documented the hardest moments of her battle.

A day after her diagnosis:

“When I pulled into the driveway the wave of emotions exploded. How could I have Cancer? This couldn’t be happening. WHY was this happening to me? I lost my son for Christ’s sake. Hadn’t we been through enough?”

A few weeks later, Amber had surgery at Anne Arundel Medical Center to remove the tumor. She opted for a lumpectomy rather than removing the entire breast, holding out hope one day she would be able to nurse another child.

After a successful procedure, she and Chris went to a fertility specialist to learn about having her eggs frozen. Because cancer treatments can cause early menopause, Amber spent two weeks injecting herself with fertility hormones. She underwent a minor surgical procedure to extract the eggs.

Then on Sept. 18, 2012, five days after her lumpectomy, she got ready for 16 weeks of chemotherapy:

“I’ve been given prescriptions for anti nausea medicine. Not convinced that they will help. Probably just make me fat. Steroids, gotta love them. Nothing like being fat and bald at 31 due to self induced poisoning. Oh yeah. I’m suppose to be staying positive.”

But Sarah Nees, who has been friends with Amber for 12 years, said Amber’s honest, straightforward attitude was inspiring. She stayed strong, even as her younger brother was deployed to Afghanistan.

In the face of a serious illness, one of Amber’s biggest anxieties was going bald. At the time, she had long cinnamon brown hair. It had become a physical trademark and a security blanket.

She and a group of about 10 friends, including Nees, went to a wig boutique in Wheaton, called Amy of Denmark. As if it were a bachelorette party, the girls sipped champagne while they took turns trying on wigs.

Amber fell in love with a beautiful long ‘do that was close to $1,000 but wasn’t covered by her insurance. She settled on another that was under her plan.

Then Amber and her friends decided to have a “wigging out” party. Everyone wore a hairpiece and went out for sushi in downtown Annapolis before she began chemotherapy.

At the party, Nees gave her a card and gift from all of her friends and Chris. They had chipped in to buy her the dream wig.

“She was convinced she was going to live in that thing,” Nees says. “We were showing her that if that’s what she needs, that’s what we would do to support her.”

On Oct. 12, 2012, Amber began chemo. When she started feeling foggy, she took to her blog:

“Chemo brain really does exist! I walk into a room and go, What was I doing? Only to remember I needed something out of the kitchen not the bedroom or the bedroom not the bathroom. It’s like someone has control over the puppet strings!”

The treatments starting taking a bigger toll. There were bouts of nausea and vomiting. In November, clumps of Amber’s hair fell out in the shower. Chris shaved her head down to the skin.

Through the toughest moments, Chris tried to be the rock. It was hard for him to keep it together, not knowing what was going to happen. On her worst days, Amber would curl up in a ball and sob. Chris would coax her to get up and do something with him.

“It’s your wife, it’s the closest thing besides something happening to yourself,” Chris says. “How do you sit there and console a mother who’s holding her baby who’s dying? Same thing with breast cancer.”

Jan. 7, 2013:

“The one side effect that there is no fix for is the hair loss. I was washing my face and noticed I had a couple of hairs on my hand when I wet my face. I knew they didn’t come from my head. Then it dawned on me. There goes your eyebrows and lashes, chick.”

A few weeks later, Amber had completed chemo and was on to radiation. By the end of March, she had completed all of her treatments. It’s tradition for cancer patients to ring a bell at the treatment center.

March 30, 2013:

“As I stood there ringing the bell I thought back to when this all started. How incredibly scared I felt the day I received my diagnosis. Thinking why God is this happening to me. Why can’t we catch a break? … The moment I stopped crying and got all the self pity out of my system, I knew I was going to be just fine.”

Less than two months after cancer, Amber and Chris began to put their lives back in order. They finished remodeling a home they purchased in Glen Burnie. Amber returned to work. And the couple went to visit their fertility specialist to see if Amber would be able to conceive one day.

The proof came not in the form of a doctor’s OK, but when Amber took a few home pregnancy exams. She was about to get an X-ray for her thyroid, and thought she better check just in case. After all, radiation can be harmful to a pregnancy.

“We had taken all of these precautions so that we could try to have a baby one day, and lo and behold, he was conceived au naturel,” Amber says.

“He” is Jace. On Jan. 21, Amber delivered a baby boy by cesarean section. His birthday was exactly one year after the date of her final chemo treatment.

“What a difference a year can make,” she wrote in her blog.

Dr. Carol Tweed, Amber’s oncologist, says she was a model patient for taking a realistic, balanced approach to a cancer diagnosis.

“I just think she represents it really, really well of what a patient goes through,” Tweed says, “and what good can come out of it.”

Most doctors in the cancer field ask their patients not to get pregnant within the first two years of treatment because it’s a high-risk period of recurrence. That can pose difficult choices if a patient is carrying a child while needing more invasive treatments.

But Tweed trusted Amber to make careful decisions for herself.

“It really was right after therapy, but we adore her, so we gave her a virtual punch in the arm,” Tweed says.

After some initial struggles, she was able to nurse Jace for four months. Today at 10 months, eating is one of his favorite pastimes. In a high chair at home, Jace wiggles his barefoot toes as he waits for another scoop of pureed spinach. He outstretches his arms and hinges his mouth wide open for applesauce. This baby likes to eat.

At times fear gnaws at her that the cancer could come back. Now 33 and a mother, she has even more to live for.

They continue to remember the life of their first son, who Chris named his business Cameron Contracting after, but Jace fills them with joy. Every day with him is a blessing, they say.

“He’s just taken over. It’s all about him,” Nees says, who has watched her friend transform over the past year. “And maybe it always was about him, we just didn’t know it yet.”

___

Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://capitalgazette.com

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