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Manteca miracle: Pregnant mother contracts leukemia, delivers healthy baby
Janet O’Laughlin Gomes is shown while pregnant with daughter Alexandra Faith, her first child with husband Phillip. - photo by Photo courtesy Gomes family
Alexandra Faith Gomes is living proof miracles do happen.

She was 31 weeks old and still in the womb when her mother, Janet O’Laughlin Gomes, was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia on Aug. 5, just before the start of the school year.

Instead of reporting to her job as a special education teacher at Woodward Elementary School, the first-time mother found herself being admitted to the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center for what turned out to be a five-and-a-half-week hospitalization, during which time she received a round of chemotherapy treatment. It was also during that difficult time that baby Ally was born. Her birthdate: 9/9/09. Three days later, the happy new mom and her miraculously healthy baby came home to Manteca.

Gomes said the doctors kept her at the hospital and placed her on round-the-clock monitoring “as a precaution, to make sure there weren’t any complications” with her pregnancy.

But the doctors were very optimistic, she said. “They really didn’t think (the chemo) would affect the baby at all,” she said.

Baby Ally, she happily reported, “is doing great. It’s a miracle, definitely a blessing.”

Gomes was diagnosed on Aug. 5 when she went to her doctor for a routine blood work for her baby. That’s when it was discovered that her blood count was low.

“They did a bone marrow biopsy and they told me it was leukemia. They admitted me to the (UCSF) hospital the next day and had a round of chemo (right away),” Gomes said.

As to how she is responding to the treatments, the young mother said, “I’m doing pretty good.”

She has already started her second round of chemo in Stockton and will be done with that in December, she said. After that, she will need to go through two more rounds of treatment at UCSF which will require three-day stays at the hospital at least a couple of times until the treatments end in February.

She said she and her husband of five years, Phillip, are receiving tremendous support from their close-knit family and a host of kind people during this ordeal.

“I have a great family support – my mom, my sister, my mother-in-law, sister-in-law. Different people come on different days; everybody’s been a huge help. I’m very lucky,” said an overwhelmed Gomes, enumerating just a few of the generous souls who have extended their hands to her family.

Gomes, who grew up in Sunol, and her husband met at a car-racing event. She was not really into that spectator sport but she had a friend whose neighbor was racing at that particular event and that friend invited her to go. Phillip, whose family is into car racing, happened to be at the same event. They were introduced by mutual friends, and the rest is history. Phillip is the son of longtime Mantecans Joe and Cathy Gomes. Joe is a retired deputy sheriff from the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department, and Cathy works at the office of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca where the whole family is actively involved. Phillip is a shop manager at a company in Manteca.

Replacement blood and marrow drive for Janet Gomes on Dec. 12
A replacement blood and marrow drive for Janet Gomes will be held Saturday, Dec. 12, at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the cafeteria. The church is located at 525 E. North Street (at the corner of Fremont Street).

The drive is being sponsored by the Delta Blood Bank.

Blood Bank volunteer Bob Pico, a member of St. Anthony’s, said this drive is not just for parishioners.

“We want the whole community to come out, everybody that can spare an extra pint (of blood),” he said.

Also, this drive is not just for Gomes but “will cover anybody,” he added.

For more information about this blood and marrow drive, or to make an appointment, call Bob Pico at (209) 481-5005.

All donors will receive a gift, he said.

Prospective blood and marrow donors must have a valid photo ID showing date of birth, in good general health, and at least 17 years of age with a minimum weight of 110 lbs. Donors may be 16 years old but should have a signed parental consent and weigh a minimum of 115 lbs. Additionally, donors should not skip meals and must drink plenty of fluids prior to donating.