Brave mom diagnosed with cancer while pregnant loses her fight

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by 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on June 22, 2014 at 5:36 PM

Updated Sunday, Jun 22 at 6:25 PM

VIRGINIA BEACH -- Sunday was a bittersweet day for friends and family of Gretchen Bell.

You may remember Bell's story, which we shared with you on 13News Now in 2013. Bell was 31 weeks pregnant, when she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.  She was able to have a healthy baby, but then had to face arduous chemotherapy treatments to try to save her own life.

We're told Bell lost that fight on Thursday.

Her cancer had progressed to stage four, and had also spread to her brain.

When she was diagnosed in March, 2013, doctors at Sentara Norfolk General were torn over what to do. Gretchen's oncologist wanted to take the baby immediately and start aggressive chemotherapy. The EVMS Maternal Fetal Medicine team wavered on whether to let the baby boy get stronger and age another two weeks in the womb.

"Certainly this is not the first patient we've had in this situation," said Vice President of Nursing at Sentara Norfolk General, Jennifer Burrows.

Doctors thought the best option was to deliver baby Jackson and start aggressive chemotherapy on the cancer that took over her breast in a matter of weeks. Bell said: "Right now I'm just focusing on delivering and bringing him into the world. And I'll worry about that later."

Doctors eventually decided to induce labor and start her on chemotherapy a couple of days later.

Jackson is now a healthy one year-old. Bell's friends promise they'll make sure he knows all about his mom.

As the disease progressed and her condition worsened, she was having trouble getting up and down the stairs in her home. In May of this year, Chris Smythe of Tycon, who works with Hampton Roads Mobility wanted to help. Both companies stepped up and installed a chair lift for free. 

But the Bell family is still facing huge expenses from Gretchen's treatment, as well now for the costs of her funeral. On Sunday, her family and friends held a "cut-a-thon" fundraiser to help the Bell family at Twist Salon in Red Mill Commons Shopping Center.

A fund for the family has been set up at the Navy Federal Credit Union.  If you'd like to donate, the account is under "Gretchen's Angels" and the number for donations is 3037810656.

 

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