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One evening in March 2022, Michelle Rosenlund, who was 12 weeks pregnant, suddenly felt weak. Her husband drove her to Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns where she learned that an ectopic pregnancy — which occurs when a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus — prevented her baby’s survival.
“This was my second miscarriage,” says Michelle, 36. “My first one was in August 2021. And because my husband had to look after our three-year-old daughter at home, I was alone in the hospital.”
Two days after her discharge, Michelle’s follow-up appointment detected abnormal hormone levels. She was immediately sent to the emergency department at Sharp Memorial Hospital. There, she received numerous tests, including a CT, or computerized tomography, scan.
A difficult diagnosis
Dr. Lindsey Charo, a Sharp Community Medical Group gynecologic oncologist affiliated with Sharp Mary Birch and Sharp Memorial, diagnosed Michelle with choriocarcinoma, a type of cancer that can occur during the early stages of pregnancy.
“That was the most difficult time of my life,” says Michelle. “I cried and cried. I’ll never forget the kind Sharp caregivers who comforted me.” According to Dr. Charo, choriocarcinoma is rare. The incidence after a spontaneous miscarriage is approximately 1 in 15,000 pregnancies.
Support through every step
Soon, Michelle met Dr. Eliana Kozin, a Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group oncologist, and in the beginning of April 2022, Michelle received her first inpatient chemotherapy treatment at Sharp Memorial.
“Michelle’s treatment necessitated her to be admitted every other Friday for a short overnight stay,” says Mykal Fernandez, a lead clinical nurse at Sharp Memorial. “The day I met her, I promised her that we'd be with her through every single step.”
As Fernandez and Patty Magdaluyo, a clinical nurse specialist, spent more time with Michelle, they decided to partner with Ripples of Change: The Drake and Kiersty Foundation to lift Michelle’s spirits.
“The foundation provides customized gift boxes to young adult cancer patients in San Diego. With their help, we were able to decorate Michelle’s room,” says Fernandez. “One decoration was a blue poster that said ‘TEAM MICHELLE.’”
Michelle was touched by everyone’s thoughtfulness. “I got to bond with the nurses as I walked the halls,” she says. “Mykal would always greet me by saying, ‘There’s my girl, Michelle!’ The amount of support I got at Sharp was unbelievable.”
Michelle Rosenlund (center) with clinical nurse specialist Patty Magdaluyo (left) and lead clinical nurse Mykal Fernandez (right).
From sulking to surviving — all part of the journey
Eventually, Michelle transitioned to receiving chemotherapy treatment at the Kevin H. Cook Infusion Center at Sharp Memorial Hospital. “Michelle has faced treatment with optimism and resiliency, enduring time in and out of the hospital while continuing to work and be a mom,” says Dr. Kozin.
However, Michelle admits she sometimes struggled with breakdowns. “When I started losing my hair, I contemplated whether I should shave it all off,” she says. “I also had thoughts like, ‘Why did I get cancer?’ and ‘Am I going to leave my husband and daughter?’”
Michelle credits her family for providing her with support. She also appreciates the knowledge and comfort she received from Sharp’s nurse navigators, oncology dietitians and social workers.
“With their support, I started to think, ‘Am I going to let this cancer control me or am I going to control it?’” says Michelle. “Yes, I can sulk, but I can also be a positive force.”
Today, Michelle’s Sharp care team continues to follow her closely as she recovers. She says Sharp is full of people with caring hearts.
“I’m really thankful for the care I received,” Michelle says. “Through my journey, I learned about survivorship and how to dance in the rain.”
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Charo or Dr. Kozin about this story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.
The Sharp Health News Team are content authors who write and produce stories about Sharp HealthCare and its hospitals, clinics, medical groups and health plan.
Dr. Lindsey Charo is a Sharp Community Medical Group gynecologic oncologist affiliated with Sharp Mary Birch and Sharp Memorial.
Sharp partners with the American Heart Association to raise awareness about women’s heart health.