When she found a lump in her breast in October 2016, Maria Crider, then 27, assumed at first that it must be a clogged milk duct. After all, her second baby, Liam, was only 9 months old and still breastfeeding at the time. She tried everything she knew to resolve it, but when she couldn't, Crider decided to make an appointment with her primary care doctor near her home in Orlando, Florida.
Her doctor told Crider the lump could be the result of a number of conditions — including pregnancy. Unbeknownst to her and her husband, Brandon, 35, they were already pregnant again. But the pregnancy wasn't the only surprise: Knowing she had a history of breast cancer in her family, Crider's midwife sent her for an ultrasound of her breast, which then turned into a biopsy and eventually a diagnosis.
"Two days after the biopsy, I got a call from the midwife to come in and discuss the findings," Crider told TODAY Parents. "At that point, I already knew. I felt it in my gut."
Crider was diagnosed with stage III triple negative breast cancer. She was 11 weeks pregnant with her third little boy, Logan.
Her doctors told her it was safe to begin her cancer treatment during the second and third trimesters of her pregnancy, but still, "The uncertainty and fear was hard," she said. She underwent surgeries, 16 chemotherapy treatments, and 28 radiation sessions during the process. The chemo itself didn't hurt her physically, but "I asked my nurses at every infusion, 'Are you sure it's safe?'" said Crider. "I asked the Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist and the tech, 'Is everything OK? Does he look good?'
"I could deal with the pain, nausea, exhaustion, and overall crummy feeling, but the anxiety for Logan's well-being and my well-being and prognosis was the worst feeling," she said.
In the midst of her treatment and her pregnancy, a friend tagged Crider in a Facebook post advertising a giveaway for a free birth photography session from Central Florida professional birth photographer Bonnie Hussey. Crider decided it was worth a shot to enter the giveaway. "I messaged Bonnie, told her my story, and she picked me," she said. "One of the BEST decisions I've made. Those photos mean the world to me."
Hussey was there for Logan's emotional birth at Florida Hospital for Women in Orlando last April. "I was so excited for his birth. I was ready to meet him, inspect him, have the doctors and nurses check him, to make sure he was healthy and then hold him and cuddle him." said Crider.
"I cried so hard when he was born. Ugly tears, but I was relieved that he was perfect, just the way he was meant to be."
Logan is now 7 months old and learning to crawl and trying to keep up with his big brothers, Tristan, 5, and Liam, 2. Crider is finally done with her chemo treatments and radiation."Things are good. Crazy, but good," she said. "It's been a long road."
In a few months, Crider will begin the process of reconstruction on her breasts — beginning with a 10-hour surgery, followed by four days in the hospital during recovery and two additional months of healing. She told TODAY Parents she could not do it alone.
"I have three kids; recovering from this surgery would be impossible without the support of my family and friends," she said. "My advice for anyone going through this is build your support system: spouse, family, friends. I love my tribe!"