Little Haven’s born healthy as her mom battles cancer

Her name is Haven, and to her parents she is exactly that.

“Haven Lee, it almost sounds like heavenly — which she is,” said Apryl Roberts, whose second daughter was born Tuesday. “It means safe place. With all that’s going on, she is our safe place.”

On Friday afternoon, with 2-year-old daughter Charlee looking on, the tired but joyful mom cradled baby Haven in her arms. Cozy in their new home near Martha Lake, she sang a soft rendition of “Rock-a-Bye Baby.”

“She’s so perfect. We couldn’t be happier,” the 36-year-old mother said.

Herald readers met Apryl and Peter Roberts through a front-page story May 15. It told how she was diagnosed March 22 with inflammatory breast cancer, which is rare and often deadly. There was more bad news. On that first day, a doctor at Swedish Cancer Institute in Edmonds told the couple that her prognosis likely means she has just a few years to live.

With the stubborn tenacity of an athlete, Apryl Roberts had climbed Seattle’s 69-story Columbia Center just two days before the diagnosis. It wasn’t her first time taking part in the Big Climb, a fundraiser for the Leukemia &Lymphoma Society, but it was her toughest time scaling the city’s tallest skyscraper. At nearly seven months pregnant, she made it to the top — 1,311 steps — in 16 minutes.

She was back in Seattle last week, with her husband and their extended family. Haven Lee Roberts entered the world at 3:10 p.m. Tuesday at Swedish First Hill Campus, part of Swedish Medical Center. At birth, Haven weighed 8 pounds 7.6 ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long.

Haven’s family is thrilled that the baby was born in great health.

“Everybody was so concerned, with all the chemo Apryl had. But everything was perfect,” said Cheryl DeBroeck, Apryl Roberts’ mom from Walla Walla, who was wrapping up a weeklong visit Friday. With her flair for decor, DeBroeck created a sweet nursery for Haven accented in pink and gold.

Roberts is under the care of Dr. Eileen Johnston, an oncologist at Swedish Cancer Institute in Edmonds. Before Haven’s birth, her mom endured four rounds of chemotherapy.

Doctors were concerned the baby could have blood-count issues due to the chemotherapy, Roberts said Friday. “Sometimes when a mom’s blood counts are fine, the baby’s can be off,” she said.

All went well, though. And Roberts said her labor, which was induced about 9 a.m. Tuesday, was shorter and easier than when Charlee was born.

“It was pretty exciting, actually. Pete almost missed her delivery,” Roberts said. Her husband, she said, had gone to the waiting room and for a milkshake with his father when a nurse said the baby was about to arrive.

From their lists of favorite names, they knew Haven was right. “She was in her safe place, her little haven, before she was born. I knew she was going to be healthy,” Roberts said.

There are arduous days ahead for this young family.

By mid-June, Roberts expects to begin chemotherapy again. She will be treated with three cancer-fighting medicines, Herceptin, Perjeta and Taxol. “It will be every third week for probably the next five or six months,” she said.

After that may come surgery, a mastectomy. Roberts can’t breastfeed the baby as she did with Charlee. She worries about the long hours that chemo infusion will keep her away from her girls. Yet it’s part of the fierce fight she’s determined to win.

“With all this going on, she is a little blessing,” Roberts said. “As soon as I held her, it gave me so much more fight. These little girls need their mama.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

How to help

Apryl Roberts is battling a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. Donations to help her Lynnwood-area family may be made at: www.gofundme.com/aprylsbigclimb

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