This holiday season, La Shunda Bowie-Minix has a lot to be thankful for.

She's happy just to be here but is most grateful for her 9-month-old son, Denim.

Four months into her pregnancy, she had difficulty breathing along with a horrible bout of morning sickness. By October 2014, Mrs. Minix learned she had a cancerous growth forming around her heart and lungs. 

Diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, she traveled often to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for aggressive chemotherapy treatments while also awaiting the arrival of her unborn son. While there, doctors said she was "in bad shape." Nonetheless, she perservered, mostly because of her faith. 

She has remained optimistic, wearing T-shirts declaring her victory against cancer and posting messages of gratitude on social media.

"I have been in the hospital more this year than I've ever been in my life, in 34 years," she said.

Denim arrived on Feb. 13 weighing 4 pounds, 3.1 ounces. Born six weeks early, he is now at a healthy weight, at 18 pounds.

He's a happy baby who calls his father 'baby' and clings to his mother, who clings right back. With his big bright eyes, wispy curls and busy hands, Denim was born with no problems and is developing well in spite of the strong drugs given to his mother before birth. 

"It really is a shock to his doctors - not me, because I know God - that developmentally and health wise, nothing's wrong," Mrs. Minix said.

Mrs. Minix's last chemotherapy treatment was on Feb. 27, and she completed radiation in April. She'll see a doctor every three months for scans to ensure the cancer remains gone.

The young mother had another setback just weeks ago. She was rushed to the hospital after experiencing a cold sweat, blurry vision, a racing heart and was unable to stand.

Doctors found that as a result of a chemotherapy drug, her heart's functioning, or ejection fraction, declined. Back in M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which she has frequented for the last year, doctors removed plenty of fluid from her heart and lungs.

On Nov. 6, she had a defibrillator implanted under her skin. If her heart is off rhythm or she experiences a heart attack, she'll get a shock from the device. She now regularly sees a cardiologist.

But even that experience hasn't completely dampened her attitude.

"That stuff is petty to me," she said. "I have a child that needs me. So if they have to give me a defibrillator, if my hair got to fall out again, whatever I have to go through, just as long as I wake up everyday to raise my baby, I'm fine."

A faithfully religious woman who is always smiling and in great spirits despite the health problems, Mrs. Minix admits she would momentarily get tired of fighting.

"Then I thought about my baby," she said. "(God) didn't give this little boy to me to leave him. I have to be here to raise him.

"That is what gets me through every single day," she added. "Every time I thought about saying ‘this is hard,' God stepped in right on time. Everything I'm going through, I'm going through it because he's preparing me for what I asked him for."

What she asked for is to be a stay-at-home mom. She never dreamed that being diagnosed with cancer and recovering from its side effects would factor into being homebound, but she remains grateful.

"I'm still able to enjoy my baby - the first sounds he makes, the first crawl and everything he does - I'm able to witness all of that," she said. "I'm not 100 percent healthy, but I'm a whole lot better than I was last year. I'm still here when I had all odds against me a year ago."

 

 

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