For two moms with breast cancer, it was all about weathering the storm

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Oct 7, 2019

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Jessica Joachims and Naomi Allen became pregnant during cancer treatment. They now have healthy babies — both named for the surgeon who performed their mastectomies  


By Wyatt Stayner, Columbian staff writer

After more than 16 years in medicine, you’d think Dr. Toni Storm-Dickerson wouldn’t have any “firsts” left.

But within the last year, the surgical oncologist at Compass Oncology, who specializes in breast cancer care, checked off another honor. Two of her patients named their children after her.

“Life is funny, where things like that happen close in a cluster,” Storm-Dickerson said.

First came Naomi Allen’s son, Gabriel Storm Allen, on Nov. 13. Then Jessica Joachims’ daughter, Sonora Storm Hayes, was born on Dec. 12. Both children bear Storm’s name in their middle name, a thank you to Storm-Dickerson, who performed both of their mastectomies. Gabriel was also named after Dr. Allen Gabriel, who performed the women’s breast reconstruction surgeries.

“It’s crazy cool. It’s so much fun. It’s so sweet,” Storm-Dickerson said. “You see those little beautiful babies, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s such an honor they would do that. I absolutely love it. It’s very humbling. You have such a responsibility to these people, and you really need to do your very best for them every time.”

Allen, 36, of Gresham, Ore., and Joachims, 34, of Vancouver had the rare experience of becoming pregnant during cancer treatment. They were featured on the cover of last year’s Columbian special section on breast cancer.

Allen was undergoing herceptin treatment after rounds of chemotherapy and already had a double mastectomy when she discovered she was pregnant.

Joachims underwent a double mastectomy, but skipped chemotherapy and radiation. She discovered her pregnancy while taking a cancer drug called tamoxifen. Both women had to stop their cancer treatments, but Allen and Joachims are taking tamoxifen now. They are in good health.

“She was my cheerleader,” Joachims said of Storm-Dickerson. “That really helped. She kept pushing positiveness.”

Both babies are healthy and developing personalities. Gabriel, who is 10 months, loves to crawl. He is in the 99th percentile for his height and weight, standing more than 2 1/2 feet tall and weighing close to 25 pounds. Storm-Dickerson met him the day after his birth.

“He’s pulling himself up on things, crawling, getting into everything. I love it,” said Allen, a manager at Bonneville Collections in Vancouver.

Joachims, who works at a beauty salon in Portland, said Sonora is a mover and climber who’s got an “I’m hungry” attitude. After the birth, Joachims brought Sonora to visit Storm-Dickerson and they took pictures together at her office.

“She likes to make eye contact, and engage with people, and make them laugh,” Joachims said.

Storm-Dickerson explained that forming relationships with patients and keeping in touch is the most rewarding part of her job. In cancer care, “You get to know people intimately, emotionally, very quickly because they’re vulnerable and they’re relying on you to help them,” Storm-Dickerson said.

“It makes the times when it’s hard or you’re tired or you’re stressed — it helps you to keep things in context,” she continued. “You remember what an absolute blessing and honor, and how fun and cool, it is to do what we do.”

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