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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

In Other Words: We Can Get Through Anything - Together

Jamie and Jonathan Rausch. Courtesy Jamie Rausch
By Chuck Keller

Being pregnant and getting sick is fairly common. What is not common is being pregnant and being sick with COVID-19. What’s even more unusual is being pregnant, having COVID-19, and being a cancer survivor. But that’s exactly what happened to Jamie Baker Rausch.




Jamie is a medical marvel. She developed leukemia when she was in college and after a long battle she beat it. That was over a dozen years ago. She has since married and had children but she wasn’t quite prepared for this.

She says, “Having cancer taught me many things. Probably one of the most impactful things was recognizing how strong I can be when I need to be. So with every challenge (health or anything else) since having cancer, I often remind myself that I’ve been through more challenging and scarier times. It helps me put things in perspective and reminds me to take things day by day... or hour by hour sometimes. I would say though... in the same breath... that having fought such a bigger battle before doesn’t mean I’m invincible to new battles.”

And that’s the complication. Cancer survivors will often think that the cancer has returned with every new illness or ache or symptom.

“My husband, kids and I had started quarantining ourselves that week since we had traveled to Florida the week prior and I wasn’t feeling well. Since my husband was around me constantly, he witnessed my energy levels decline rapidly. He was worried and started pointing out to me how exhausted it seemed I was, even for being 28 weeks pregnant. I wasn’t helping as much with the kids (he was a rockstar Dad holding down the fort). I didn’t care that the house was a mess. I dreaded making trips up and down the stairs. On my worst day, between conference calls for work, I preferred to lay on the hardwood floor to catch my breath or catch a few minutes of sleep.  I had trouble speaking more than a few sentences without needing to catch my breath. So as he started pointing these things out to me, I got worried.”

Understandably, she suspected the worst. It wasn’t cancer. But it was something.

OrangeTheory fitness, Newport Pavilion

“Deep inside I actually feared my cancer was back and I was rather certain my hemoglobin was low. So, I called my doctor back and expressed that I was feeling worse and more directly asked for a Covid test. I was able to get a drive-up appointment that day where I tested negative for Influenza A and B, diagnosed with some pneumonia and tested for Covid. I asked for a CBC blood test but didn’t get one. After 2 weeks of waiting for the test result we found out I was positive. By then I felt much better already but nonetheless our family followed the 2 week long government-mandated isolation protocol.” 

The worst days of my Covid19 infection were in March when I had about 3 days of complete exhaustion and shortness of breath. I never had a fever and really never had much of a dry cough. To some degree, I kept attributing the shortness of breath and exhaustion to pregnancy. Over the course of that week, I had 2 virtual doctor appointments but neither determined a need for a COVID test.” 

Most patients do not get approved for follow-up tests but Jamie was required to prove her recovery to the hospital. The worst thing was that they would take the baby at birth as a protective precaution.

She says, “They require 2 negative tests, otherwise special COVID protocols apply. The first test was taken over 4 weeks from my initial test, so we were certain it would be negative and it was. Relieved but not surprised. My second test that week came back positive which absolutely shocked us and the doctor. I was feeling pretty good, minus some newly discovered issues with my hemoglobin that didn’t have answers at the time. The positive COVID result just crushed me mentally and emotionally. We had to go back into another 2 week isolation period and report our temperatures daily again to the county. The OB office allowed me to come in under special rules so we could do an unplanned ultrasound which confirmed the baby was progressing just fine.” 

In the end, everything went well and Jamie now has a beautiful baby girl. But what a journey.

Courtesy Jamie Rausch

She reflects, “In a lot of ways this journey reminded me of the things I learned from my cancer experience. That having trust in God and his plan can provide peace over anxiety. That your village of family and friends will carry you through, if you let them. That we are strong and the depth of our strength sometimes isn’t found until we’re forced to dig for it. That I am blessed beyond measure. No one wants a major health scare but it sure does help slow us down and remind us of what matters most.” 

There is never a good time to be ill, but it’s always a good time to put life in perspective. “You may physically be separated from others but keep talking to them. Share your worries and fears and let them lift you back up. Let them provide a meal or do an errand for you. Our mental and emotional health is better when we let others ‘in’.” 

And that is how we will get through anything - together.

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