Fertility and cancer

No matter what cancer you have, if you’re a premenopausal woman and facing chemo then fertility will become an issue.

Today it become my issue.

With all the speed and efficiency possible, the hospital arranged a meeting for Zsolt and I with a fertility doctor. So, today we rode the bus toward Princess Ann Hospital and for once I wasn’t anxious. Today I wasn’t receiving bad news.

We arrived, sat down thirty seconds, and were then (almost immediately) escorted into the doctor’s office.  This wasn’t a clinic and there was no gown for me to change into, and no bed for me to lay on. We sat opposite this charismatic man and had a simple discussion about our options.

Option 1: Get in vitro fertilization (IVF). This means that I’ll need to have estrogen shots for about 10-12 days straight. Then, I’d go into the clinic, get knocked out, and a needle would collect some eggs from my ovaries.   Those eggs would then be mixed with Zsolt’s sperm, and the resulting embryo would be frozen.

That’s my first hiccup. Embryos frozen. I remember when I was about twelve, the teacher asked if we’d ever donate embryos for scientific research. Lots of people said yes, me and a few girls said no. Of course freezing embryos isn’t scientific research, but it’s still freezing. Anyhow, I could get over this – but it’s a hiccup in my mind.

Here’s my second hiccup. Estrogen. Estrogen is my current enemy. Maybe not forever, but for now. This type of cancer loves estrogen. It rode on a wave of estrogen across my breast and riddled it with cysts. I don’t want those cancer cells surfing and settling anywhere else.  True, and perhaps quite validly, the cancer will be removed from my body by the time I’ll get the injections. And by then the chemo will be wiping all fast growing cells from my body, but it’s still an issue.

Which leaves me with option 2: take my chances.

This is where I’m leaning at the moment. The opportunity to have children in the future is incredibly valuable, but more estrogen in my body means more risk. Also, some courses of chemo are less likely to threaten my ovaries, so there’s a good chance my fertility will stand the challenge.

Anyhow, there you go. We’re considering both options and won’t make a final decision till the lab results come back. Then we’ll see.

So that was what I did today, no tests or results or anything. And yet this quick meeting pressed on my mind for the entire afternoon. I’d think of this pro, then that con – back and forth like a tennis game. It was exhausting, and emotional, and difficult. Mostly I feel selfish for considering my health before my future childrens’ lives . . . but there really won’t be any children if I don’t pull through 100%.

Battling it out in my head and getting nowhere, I wrote an email to Zsolt (because I was at work). Essentially – to summarize – it was along the line of, ‘I’m freaking out.’ And then he wrote back ‘Don’t worry, I’ve been researching and it looks pretty good.’

I didn’t know what looked good, or what he’d found – but that calmed me down.  Getting home we talked it over and decided to wait. There’s enough going on at the moment with my mastectomy fast approaching.

Ideally I’ll avoid the estrogen tsunami of IFV. However, if push comes to shove and the specific course of chemo is known to kill ovaries – then we’ll revisit the possibility.

One thought on “Fertility and cancer

  1. Hi Catherine,

    While reading your blog on your big decision relating to fertility, the words that come to my mind are “clarity and intelligence”. It takes me back to the eagle totem which I see in one of your earlier paintings. I feel a lot of clarity and intelligence surrounding you, Zsolt, Marcelle and Tony. When the time comes, the clarity will shine through, and you’ll know that you’re making the right decision for ‘you’. You are in good hands.

    Sending positive thoughts your way for your upcoming mastectomy,


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