A Toronto family is the face of a recent public campaign celebrating motherhood and the team of health specialists at the city’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
“At Mount Sinai, they actually have a maternal mental health service where the women in the high-risk clinic can choose to go and see a counselor there and so the counselor there really helped us,” explained Margaret Loniewska, a Toronto mother who gave birth to a premature baby girl while battling cancer at the hospital.
Loniewska became pregnant in the summer of 2019. She and her husband had been trying for a few months and were thrilled when the test came back positive. But a day later, a doctor found a lump on the 42-year-old’s breast. From there, life as she knew it changed.
“We really wanted to have a baby it was definitely, definitely, it was very difficult because at that time she was growing and I was breaking, I was breaking apart. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t envision what my life would be once she came,” added Loniewska.
Even after vigorous treatment, Loniewska’s cancer spread from her breast and into her spine, which caused a number of vertebrae and ribs to break. Not long after she would learn her cancer was metastatic.
“It was terrifying. It really was because I didn’t know if I was equipped to be able to deal with all of those things,” said husband R.J. Pauloski.
“Things were going from worse to worse to worse to worse and I think it was a lot of unknowns.”
The coupled decided to go ahead with the birth of their daughter Marianna and she decided on an early arrival, born at just 27 weeks.
R.J had a wife who was still undergoing cancer treatments and a premature baby being treated in the same hospital. That’s when he quickly graduated from being just a husband to a father.
“This has all just made me realize that every moment is super duper important and precious down to the second and being present in those moments is the most important thing for me for my time with my daughter and my time with my wife.”
But that time is limited, Loniewska’s cancer is stable at the moment but the prognosis isn’t good. Marianna however is developing well at 17 months old. The trio spends many isolated days as a family, making memories.
“You have to walk through hope, you have to choose hope as something better for the future, for the next day for the next, the next moment, for the next hour because otherwise, everything else will just eat you up,” explained Pauloski.
As Father’s Day approaches, Pauloski wanted others to carry a little hope too and it’s because of that attitude Sinai Health wanted to highlight their story and others going through high-risk pregnancies.
“The campaign offers an inside look at the resiliency of parents during a high-risk pregnancy. We hope that through it all, Sinai Health’s world-leading care provides some comfort as they navigate through these challenging times,” said Dr. Cindy Maxwell, division head of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine program at Sinai Health.
“My husband said you have to choose hope and I really do believe we did that. We did it and we’re doing it,” said Loniewska.