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SC mom gave birth, then days later discovered she had cancer and her newborn might too

Birgit Corey, with sons Ben and Ryan
Birgit Corey, with sons Ben and Ryan

Days after giving birth to a baby boy, a Midlands woman got the news nobody wants.

She had been diagnosed with cancer.

Worse yet, the doctors found evidence of cancer on the placenta, which meant her then 5-day-old baby was also at risk of having the disease.

It was a dire diagnosis, but Birgit Corey did not face it alone.

The Chapin resident has her husband, Rocky Corey, an Army veteran who recently joined the Richland County Sheriff's Department, and her parents, who flew from her native Belgium, to help take care of Birgit and her sons — 3-year-old Ben and newborn Ryan.

Friend Robin Alexander, who is so close to Birgit that she considers her family and her own children call her their "other mom," has started a GoFundMe campaign to help provide financial assistance for the Coreys.

"The long journey to fight this monster is just beginning," Alexander wrote on the GoFundMe page. "We have food, family, and friends. What we need is financial assistance to keep them going. Cancer is NOT CHEAP."

Birgit Corey and son Ryan Robin Alexander

Alexander said Birgit went into labor with Ryan in April, five weeks before her due date. Although Ryan weighed less than 5 pounds at birth, he is a healthy baby, according to Alexander.

But just days after Ryan was born, his parents' world changed again. That's because doctors told Birgit that they discovered a large lump in her abdomen.

Soon came the diagnosis of cancer. Specifically, melanoma in her liver.

"She learned this when her son was 5 days old," Alexander said in an interview. "Then they found cancer on the placenta."

That caused even greater concern that the cancer had been passed to Ryan.

So far, the worst fears have not been realized. Alexander happily reported that Ryan is clear — for now.

"Right now the baby is OK. An MRI and ophthalmology have cleared him thus far," Alexander said. "But the first year will be a challenge. He will have lots of doctors' appointments and will require continual checkups to ensure there are no signs of cancer."

The news has not been as good for Birgit.

She has an aggressive cancer that has rapidly spread from her liver, to her spleen, both breasts, both lungs and her bones, according to Alexander.

"The prognosis is not good," said Alexander, who, in addition to being the Coreys' friend also works as a medical-based speech pathologist at the VA. "The hope is given her specific cancer, the treatment will shrink the tumors so that they can be removed with surgery."

But Alexander said that Birgit is a fighter and strong.

She lauded her for moving to a country where she didn't know anyone, save for her husband, became a U.S. citizen and graduated from working as nanny to Alexander's children before getting a job working for the Criminal Justice Academy.

Birgit Corey, with husband Rocky and son Ben Robin Alexander

That strength initially made accepting help difficult for Birgit. But Alexander said her friend soon realized the challenge required the support of others.

"I have to set my pride aside and accept help and receive," Birgit said to Alexander as she consented to the GoFundMe page. "I'm facing something terrible."

The idea of a GoFundMe was started when women who were planning on attending Birgit's baby shower reached out to Alexander, asking how they could help. The baby shower was postponed because Birgit got sick before the premature delivery of Ryan.

Rather than many of the gifts that they were going to give, these friends started providing the Coreys with things they needed. That ranged from groceries to more baby clothes for Ryan, who required smaller outfits because he was born earlier than expected.

That led to the GoFundMe, which Alexander set with a $5,000 goal. In less than a week, $1,280 has been donated to the campaign.

While the money will help the Coreys manage their routine life, it will also be used to help with medical expenses.

"Cancer is a billion-dollar industry. Cancer is expensive," said Alexander, who is asking for prayers, positive thoughts and money for the Coreys. "Anything people can give is helpful."

Alexander also said she is using the GoFundMe page as a platform to provide updates on Birgit and her family. It is also therapeutic for Alexander, who said she has felt helpless during the process.

"I don't want her to lose hope," Alexander said of Birgit. "There is always a chance."