Emmy Pontz-Rickert wakes up every morning feeling lucky to be alive.
In early 2013, Emmy attended a funeral for her aunt who died from breast cancer. Just three days later, Emmy felt a lump in her own breast— which she initially thought was a bad bruise — but she decided to go to her OB/GYN due to her family history and get it checked out. Further tests revealed she had invasive ductal carcinoma, which makes up 80 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses.
At just 24 years old, Emmy was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
Fewer than 5 percent of breast cancers occur in women under the age of 40, according to Susan G Koman, one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the fight against breast cancer.
“I wasn’t going to let it kill me,” Emmy tells PEOPLE. “I fought for my life.”
At a young age, Emmy had already experienced tragedy and loss. Two years earlier, her father had a heart transplant and then seven months later, when she was just 22-years-old, her mom died from a brain aneurysm while she drove home from work.
“I didn’t just want to live,” she says, “I wanted to start a family.”
After her cancer diagnosis, Emmy decided to freeze her eggs. Soon after, she reconnected with the love of her life, Kelly, who she dated in college. After deciding they never wanted to separate again, they got married and immediately tried to have children.
The couple welcomed their daughter, Grace, now 17-months-old, and are now expecting a son on Nov. 17.
“We have made it through so much together,” says Emmy, now 27. “We went through my father’s illness, my illness, my mom’s sudden death.. Now we’re enjoying the amazing parts of life. I’m so blessed.”
After Emmy had a bilateral mastectomy, she was told she would have to have a oophorectomy, which is a partial hysterectomy, because she has a 40 percent chance of getting ovarian cancer.
“They’re recommending I do that between 32 and 35-years-old,” she says, “so that’s why we’re trying to have kids as quickly as possible.”
Emmy wants to make sure she’s around for long as possible for Gracie and their second child, who’s about to join their close-knit family.
“You got through hardships and it makes you appreciate things on a whole other level,” she says. “Being told that it was possible I wouldn’t be able to conceive has made pregnancy such a gift.”
Emmy has been able to stay active and keep up with rambunctious Gracie, but over the last few weeks, she has started to slow down.
“Kelly has been amazing and so supportive,” she says. “He’s the best dad and husband. When I get nervous, he stays calm. We’re a perfect fit.”
He talks about the history lessons he wants to teach his children, the vacations he wants to go on and how he wants to rebuild cars with them when they’re older.
“He’s so excited for the future, which makes me excited,” she says. “I’m lucky.”