My sixteen chances

organs12Just when I had started to mentally prepare for my chemo treatments, my surgeon raised a good question:

“Do you want to harvest your eggs prior to chemo?”

(A surprised look on my face)

“If you want to have children one day, I must warn you, the chemo can harm your ovaries making you infertile. I suggest you harvest your eggs prior to chemo. That is, if you want to be a mother.”

How do you answer that in the middle of a mess like cancer? While facing all kinds of uncertainties?

I was already dealing with the stress of starting chemo. Now I had to switch gears and reconsider the idea of having a child. I had already accepted that I was probably not going to be a mother after cancer.

“Can you be a mother after cancer, really?” I asked my surgeon.

He said it was a consideration. Hearing my doctor suggest this option gave me some hope.

You see, I had already made up my mind when I heard the words “you have cancer.” I did not even know if I would survive the treatments, let alone try to consider becoming a mom. Even if I survived the treatments, I thought, I would have been worried that my child was not going to have a mother for too long. I still worry about that possibility today.

I went home and talked about it with my partner, who I was only dating for about a year— talk about pressure! He immediately agreed I should harvest my eggs.

A friend of mine who was 28 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer had harvested her eggs. She suggested I do it too.

“You better do it! I promise you won’t regret it. You want to have options available in the future,” she said.

My friend explained the process though she left some details out so not to scare me, as she admitted to me later. But I was glad she convinced me to do it.

I decided to go to NYU Medical Center to harvest my eggs, where I learned my insurance was not going to cover the cost. This isn’t right! Cancer patients need more resources. I was lucky I had savings but it was still a financial hit for me— A big thanks to the Livestrong Foundation who helped pay for the fertility drugs.

The Endocrinologist asked a lot of questions about my cancer, my treatment plan, everything. It turned out I was “ready” to start the process on that same day and there was no time to waste. I was given a lot of paper work to sign. I felt pressured in a way, not just by the medical team but by life. Life was putting me in a situation where I had to rush. I felt overwhelmed.

I won’t go into details about what the medical process was like — maybe in a different post. As Carrie wrote in her blog, those self-administered needles weren’t fun — especially the last one. But it’s all very doable. What I will say now is that I would have never harvested my eggs if it wasn’t for my cancer diagnosis.

The cost of harvesting my eggs didn’t end with the procedure of course. I continue to pay a yearly fee to keep them in cryogenic storage — out of pocket — until I decide if I want to use my eggs, which will be another major cost.

Now that I know I carry the ATM gene, doing the in-vitro fertilization would probably be the best option for me. So I have no regrets I harvested my eggs. I also like having options. It’s too bad insurance companies don’t cover this part of the cancer cost.

But guys, I am starting to feel discouraged because I am not even sure I can carry a child. People say that I could always adopt, and I’m aware of that. But I want to be able to feel my child growing in my tummy; feel his first kick; hear his heart beat. I want it all. I mean, a lot of money has gone into this harvesting/storage business. After doing all this work and really wanting to be a mom, I would hate to lose the opportunity to use my eggs.

Surrogacy, you ask?

It’s just not affordable for me. I actually looked into it right after I was done with treatments. Not only is it expensive, but not all states support it—NY being one of them (unless the laws recently changed). This means if I found a surrogate mother for my child, she can take me to court to keep the child. So I would have to find someone outside NY. This may not be an option for me.

I remember the day I went in to retrieve my eggs. I felt so nervous. I also remember waking up from the procedure an hour later.

“We retrieved sixteen eggs,” the nurse said.

“I have sixteen chances,” I replied.

But today I am not sure how much of a chance I have. My doctor says that, in theory, there’s a risk of my cancer being restimulated if I get pregnant, although there is no research backing this up. I am also getting older. This makes me feel sad because I want to have my own baby. I want that right and I feel cancer has taken it away from me.

I will need to make the decision about having a child next year when my oncologist and I have that discussion about taking a break from Tamoxifen— I will have completed my 5 years on the drug. She wants me on it for 10 but is willing to let me take a break. The theoretical risk with pregnancy is that the hormone levels increase, including estrogen. My cancer type is fed by estrogen, which Tamoxifen blocks. All these decisions are difficult and scary.

But — The thought of having my own child gives my life some meaning.

You guys might think I am crazy but…

…there’s a drawer in my bedroom full of baby clothes. I’ve been buying baby clothes for the last 5 years now–whenever I see something adorable I just buy it. At times I visit that drawer and start to fantasize about having a child. I keep telling myself I have sixteen chances. I have sixteen chances.

One of many pieces from my drawer.

 

About thesmallc

I'm Rebeca. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. But there's more to my story: I am an animal lover. I love to cook. I have a wonderful fiancé who doesn't mind walking my rocky path with me. We currently live in New York. ---------------------------------------- “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” ― Viktor E. Frankl
This entry was posted in Coping after cancer, Fertility and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to My sixteen chances

  1. Allie Moon says:

    Hi Rebecca, I read with great interest your post as I am also going through a similar experience with breast cancer and fertility treatment. It’s great you’ve decided to harvest your eggs – who ever thought this would be the way to get pregnant! They told me I had a 25% chance of getting pregnant via this route – 25 times more than 0 I think! The advances in science are so amazing and I wish you well in your treatment and look forward to continuing to read your blog posts. Kindest regards, Allie.

    • thesmallc says:

      Hi Allie! I am looking forward to learning more about your experience with this part of the process. I tell you, if I had a child, I would have stopped there but not having any pushes me to try all options, as I am sure you understand. And yes, science is amazing and I am glad we are able to take advantage of this — so many women aren’t able to.

      I wish you well too. You deserve this piece of happiness. Every woman does.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. Poly batista says:

    Rebeca
    la parte integral de las personas es tan compleja que cuando se presentan las pruebas nos ponemos tan sencillos y simples.
    siempre debemos confiar en Dios.

    • thesmallc says:

      Querido Poly, la fe nunca me falta. La vida en muy compleja y a veces no queremos aceptar las cosas que nos pasan — todo esto es normal. Ya vere el plan que tiene Dios para mi, lo cual lo recibire sin dudar, porque es mas facil aceptar con paz.

      Gracias por tu apoyo.

  3. Erica says:

    hi rebecca,

    That seems so risky to get pregnant. I know the desire so well. I waited till I was 36 to try because it took me that long to quit smoking. I had so much hard times trying, every year for 4years I got pregnant…and miscarried. One year I got pregnant two times. 2 times I had an ectopic. The 2nd ectopic I had a rush emergency surgery and almost lost my life, instead I had a tub closed up. 3 weeks later a month stay in the hospital from an infection. This was the hardest time in my life. I stared out the window and could see my rooftop. I just wanted to go home and cuddle up with my sweet kitty. I had blood clots the size of grapefruit in my belly. 104.5 fever and my hope gone. Not only that but my dog died and favorite cat ever all within 6weeks. Even after that I still tried to but I never again got pregnant.

    Following this hospital stay, financially it was the hardest time in my life. We live in SF and were a two person household. When I was hospitalized I was a few months past 40 years old. My husband and I were artist before this but this scared my husband into getting a 9-5 so we could have decent healthcare, without healthy SF we’d be bankrupted or worse! We never wee able to afford IVF this is what the clinics suggested from day one. I wish I had thought about harvesting my eggs. My eggs after 40 were poor in quality and sparse.

    It took me years to get over that ectopic. Financially emotionally, everything!

    We rented a room out to help us out financially. To my hubby’s best friends little sister. I never told her about my problems trying to conceive, till dec 31, 2015. I started crying after the first sentence. She replied, can I offer you my eggs? We looked into it and researched and contimplated to over a month, well into feb. the only way we cod make it happen anytime soon and without risking another ectopic would be to ask her to carry the baby with her own eggs.

    Long story short she said yes and is over 40 weeks pregnant now!

    Technically she has all the parental rights because it’s her egg, but I found the most awesome lawyer that HAS NEVER lost a case after 30 years that was willing to help us, and now my name will be on the birth certificate the hospital and state already recognizes me as the intended parent.

    With all these health problems and having Heath care from healthy San Francisco, and my husband concerned about a mass behind my nipple that I thought was nothing I got a mammogram at 40. And they kept an eye on it. That developed into triple negative breast cancer. This I found out after we decided to go full force and have this friend carry for us.

    We lived together through my partial mastectomy, chemo and radiation. We were both sick together. Her with morning sickness that lasted all day and night and me going through chemo and surgeries and radiation now I’m better, and we’re all waiting for this kid to show up! Not my ideal or conventional way to have a baby but I’m forever thankful for how things are shaping up and the kindness of everyone that helped this happen especially one special lady that is giving me her firt born.

    So 8 years later here I am. Alive and waiting for my son. This unconventional way we got to this point is hard for some to understand but we did make it happen and my life will never be the same, very very soon!!!

    • thesmallc says:

      Erica, you’ve been through so much!! I am so sorry this has been such a painful experience for you. Although it was so hard for you, in a way I am glad you tried. That is all we can do and hope for the best.

      This whole thing scares me a lot. Having my eggs gives me so much hope but it still seems so impossible for me to accomplish anything. I know the possible risks but it makes me feel frustrated not to know the accuracy of those risks. We just don’t know what will happen. I have about a year to think about this. Meanwhile I will continue to do research.

      I am so happy you are finally going to have that baby you always wished for. I am looking forward to seeing the pictures and hearing all about it. That is one very lucky child. That lady who is providing this gift for you is a wonderful human. May she always be blessed. And you too, Erica.

      Congrats to you and your husband. It’s a new beginning.

      Thank you for sharing your experience with me.

  4. Carrie says:

    Rebecca, I read this yesterday while getting my nails done and I cried my ugly cry in the nail salon. I share your concerns and fears about conceiving in the future. If you ever do consider surrogacy, I know someone who went through it after surviving ovarian cancer and now works for the organization that helped her. I know she could answer any questions or concerns honestly. I hope you get to use your 16 chances, if that’s what you and your partner decide is right for you. I wish there were an easy answer to all of this. But you and I both know, there is not. Life is a risk. We just need to decide which risks we want to take. (Huge sigh)

  5. Ninasusan says:

    Very tough decisions!!

    • thesmallc says:

      They sure are which makes survivorship so hard sometimes. There will be a time when I will have to be at peace with any decisions I make. I have to be in order to keep going.

      Thank you for commenting.

  6. Clarissa says:

    I am struggling with the same baby dreams post chemo. I did not have a chance to harvest eggs and my fertility did take a hit so who knows. But I did find a few interesting studies saying that my ER+ status does not make our cancer more likely to recur. 🙂
    http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/20130201
    Here is a link to an article on the Azim study.
    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/mar/21/safe-women-breast-cancer-pregnant
    Good luck! I am crossing all my fingers and toes until I get to try!

    • thesmallc says:

      Clarissa, I am sorry you are dealing with the same dilemma. Have you been trying to have a baby? Did you just complete your chemo? I went menopausal for a year post chemo, then came back to my old self (at least physically). So please don’t give up.

      Thank you so much for sharing these articles with me. This is encouraging.

      I wish you good luck too! Please keep me updated if you can (thesmallc@yahoo.com).

  7. Hhmm, I can relate to this post a whole lot. It’s funny though, when I approached my doctor about getting pregnant post-treatment, he said that it might be an idea. Apparently pregnancy seems to reduce chances of breast cancer in the first place, so perhaps it helps thereafter? Unfortunately there’s just so much speculation. Sometimes you need to lead with the heart. So glad for you and your 16 chances. 🙂

    • thesmallc says:

      Catherine, it is nice to know I am not alone, but even better, I am happy your doctors are flexible with the idea of you becoming pregnant. That is encouraging. My Onco feels so so about it but I fear I may be a mouse at Sloan since they focus on research. I want to be treated as an individual. (Sloan is a great hospital, but I need to speak my mind.) At the same time, although I want a child, it scares me a little too because of my case (and the ATM gene I have).

      You are right, involving the heart may be a great idea.

      I wish you good luck with any decision you make. And thank you for stopping by! xoxo

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