When I received a diagnosis at age 40 of invasive ductal carcinoma, I, of course felt shocked, confused, scared, angry and a number of other emotions. But beyond these feelings associated with the medical diagnosis, I started to think about something else… something that I had never really given much thought to in the past. What did this diagnosis mean for my chances of experiencing motherhood? Were those lost? I felt empty as I began to think about it. I had always thought I would be a mother, but the timing always seemed impossible, working full-time, working long and, often, odd hours and relocating several times. But as I imagined life without a baby, I experienced tremendous feelings of loss and even inadequacy. When my oncologist and I discussed what I was feeling, she referred me to a fertility clinic. I had never really thought about fertility and certainly never thought it would be anything I would need to explore, but I learned a lot, including that there was even a program that helped defer treatment costs for patients with a cancer diagnosis.
I was fortunate that my cancer was detected early through a screening mammogram. I was diagnosed as Stage 1 after a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy and none of my lymph nodes showed cancerous cells. Through close consultation with my oncologist and my fertility specialist, I was able to freeze my eggs before my radiation treatments. Then, after being on tamoxifen for about two years after my radiation treatments, I began the process for frozen embryo transfer. It took some time, but I was extremely blessed to become pregnant and deliver a healthy baby girl, Isabella Rose. Because my breast cancer was estrogen and progesterone positive, there was still some risk in exploring fertility treatments. However, because of the collaboration between my oncologist and my fertility specialist, my health and my goals of becoming a mother were met. I just celebrated my daughter’s one year birthday and I am approaching my five-year anniversary since my surgery. Even more exciting? I was able to breastfeed her for the first year from one breast. Even if I can’t protect her from cancer, the antibodies from my body will help protect her from other potential dangers.