A breast cancer survivor who had a mastectomy while five months pregnant marked the moment with a stunning naked photo shoot.
Terra Houska, 38, of Piedmont, South Dakota, was 15 weeks pregnant with daughter Zanni when she discovered a lump in her armpit. By the time she had a biopsy three weeks later the lump had grown to the size of an avocado.
The artist, who is also mother to sons Sinte, seven, and Mato, six, underwent a mastectomy and two rounds of chemotherapy before welcoming Zanni last month.
The mother-of-three has now shared the images from her stunning mastectomy shoot and says she will treasure them forever.
Terra Houska underwent a mastectomy and two rounds of chemotherapy before welcoming daughter Zanni last month. She marked the moment with a stunning shoot, pictured
The mother-of-three and her one-month-old daughter are now both happy and healthy
The single mother was 21 weeks pregnant when she received her cancer diagnosis – the same week she found out she was having a girl. Pictured with sons Sinte, seven, and Mato, six
Ms Houska said: ‘I decided to get the pregnancy pictures because I felt it important to document everything.
‘The pictures mark a time in my life I will always remember. I want Zanni to look back on them and see what we went through together.
‘Taking the maternity photos felt empowering. I felt beautiful and that my daughter and I could make it through anything.’
The single mother was 21 weeks pregnant when she received her cancer diagnosis – the same week she found out she was having a girl.
Doctors believe her pregnancy hormones meant the tumour grew at a faster pace than normal. Pictured, Terra with her mother Kathy (right) in hospital ahead of the operation
Terra was supported by friends and family in hospital ahead of her mastectomy, pictured
She said: ‘My two boys were very excited about getting a little sister but the news I had cancer was just devastating for them.
‘I was terrified Zanni wouldn’t make it. I didn’t take any price tags off gifts just in case she didn’t survive.’
Doctors believe her pregnancy hormones meant the tumour grew at a faster pace than normal.
‘By the time I got to the mastectomy the cancer had spread,’ Ms Houska continued. ‘I thought I was having four lymph nodes removed but when I woke up they told me they’d removed 47 in total.’
Ms Houska said she felt like her unborn daughter was ‘protecting her from the disease’
The mother-of-three said seeing her baby bump gave her hope after the operation
Ms Houska underwent the mastectomy and lymph node removal at Rapid City Regional Hospital in South Dakota in January.
Her loved ones showed their support by wearing personailsed t-shirts to the hospital on the day of the operation.
She said: ‘It was hard looking in the mirror for the first time after the bandages came off but when I saw my cute belly it took the sadness away.
‘Knowing my baby was inside of me and protecting me from this disease made everything feel so much better. She really saved my life and she and my boys keep me strong.’
Medics initially told the mother-to-be that she would have to choose between delaying chemotherapy to carry Zanni to full-term, or start the treatment and give birth to her daughter early at 24 weeks. Pictured, Terra and baby Zanni
However Ms Houska sought treatment from another doctor who gave her two rounds of chemotherapy while pregnant. Pictured, mother and daughter on a day out
Medics initially told the mother-to-be that she would have to choose between delaying chemotherapy to carry Zanni to full-term, or start the treatment and give birth to her daughter early at 24 weeks.
However Ms Houska sought treatment from another doctor who gave her two rounds of chemotherapy while pregnant.
The mother welcomed Zanni on May 3 and has since been given the all-clear.
Ms Houska said: ‘I did two rounds of chemo while pregnant. I took a break after that to deliver Zanni.
The mother welcomed Zanni, pictured, on May 3 and has since been given the all-clear
‘When she was born she needed a bit of help breathing but she was out of the neo-natal intensive care unit in no time and hasn’t had any problems since.
‘Now she’s five-and-a-half weeks old. I named her Zanniyanwin which means “healthy woman”. Her big brothers adore her. She stops crying when they hold her.
‘I have had chemo since giving birth and on my latest PET scan they didn’t find any evidence of cancer.
‘I’ve got another six weeks of radiotherapy ahead then will have to take Herceptin [a breast cancer drug] every three weeks for a year.’
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