Jennifer, 29 years old
Age at Diagnosis: 29
Current Age: 30
Type of Cancer: Cervical Cancer
Cancer Treatment Received: Radical Hysterectomy, Oophorectomy, Lymphadenectomy, Chemotherapy, Radiation Therapy
Relationship Status at Diagnosis: In a relationship
Current Relationship Status: In a relationship with the same partner
Were you a parent at time of diagnosis?: No
At the time of diagnosis I was 29 years old and I was not yet a parent. I was vibrant, glowing, excited about my future and everything was falling into place. I had started a job I was trying to land for months, but more importantly, I had developed a relationship with a partner that I could envision sharing the joys of parenthood with. I was excited to become a parent of a child that shared our genetic makeup. My partner and I have the same unique green eyes, we both have a great sense of humour – would our child take on those traits as well? I was excited to find out. In the months to come, I started to develop symptoms and after a few tests and exams, I went back to the doctor for my results. My partner and I sat down, definitely not ready for what we were about to hear…you have cancer. We were speechless but the looks on our faces said it all. We were in disbelief, shock and at the time, completely unaware that my fertility was about to be compromised by the treatment that would save my life.
At my next appointment, the nurse handed me a very informative brochure developed by Fertile Future; Cancer and Fertility: A Guide for Young Adults. My health care team needed to investigate further, not sure of my treatment plan and therefore unable to advise whether fertility was going to be a concern. Needless to say, it was on my mind. In the weeks to come I went for an MRI and CT scan which revealed that the tumour was bigger than initially thought and there was some minor lymph node involvement. After these test results I would find out that any treatment option was going to leave me infertile, it was almost guaranteed. I was shattered.
My oncologist referred me to the Ottawa Fertility Centre but in the meantime I had so many questions. I immediately turned to the Fertile Future website, a comprehensive education centre, focussed on fertility, cancer and cancer treatment. I had heard that fertility treatment and preservation was an expensive venture and I didn’t have extensive savings. I continued to browse through the website and found the Power of Hope: Cost Reduction Program. I immediately began to feel relieved that preserving my fertility was a possibility. I phoned Fertile Future, spoke to Liz Ellwood and received some well needed patient counselling. This would not be the first time I dialed their phone number.
All my appointments were becoming daunting. My doctors sent me for a lymph node biopsy to investigate further. After our first consultation with the Ottawa Fertility Centre I was unsure if I could also take on fertility preservation. I thought, “I’ll adopt, I’ll use donor eggs”, however further calls with Fertile Future indicated that these options become harder to access once you become a cancer survivor. After more encouragements from Liz, my partner and I went for our 2nd consultation at the Ottawa Fertility Centre. On that same day I learned that not only did I have cervical cancer but the lymph node biopsy revealed that I had a rare and aggressive form of cancer. My medical team had to act fast. A radical hysterectomy was scheduled at which point they would also remove my ovaries. After radical surgery I would go through 6 cycles of aggressive chemotherapy followed by 25 treatments of radiation therapy. I had exactly the amount of time needed to carry out fertility preservation before surgery. I am so happy to say that we have 7 frozen embryos ready to use with a surrogate mother when the time comes. With our plans for the future intact, our dreams of becoming parents helped me get through this difficult journey. The promise of a future family creates the Power of Hope everyday.