Andrea, 29 years old
In July of 2004, less than 2 weeks before my 26th birthday, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I had adenosquamous carcinoma. I was given about 2 weeks to decide what I wanted to do. My choices were to have a radical hysterectomy or a radical trachelectomy (keeps uterus intact and pregnancy is still a possibility). I chose to travel quite far to try to save my ability to have children. Everything went very smoothly.
Two weeks after I came home, I got a call to tell me that my cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and the further treatments would be required. So my husband and I were directed to a wonderful fertility doctor and underwent a crazy fast fertility treatment. We froze eleven embryos in a 3 week process. I started chemo and radiation not long after. I had a low dose of chemo one day a week for 7 weeks and radiation 5 days a week for 6 weeks. After my first week of radiation my doctor made a lead block to put on my radiation plate. This block was positioned over the inside of my uterus. It kept the inside of my uterus from getting direct radiation from the top and bottom. However, my uterus got direct radiation from each side. The reason they put the extra block on was because they thought it might give me a slightly better chance of having my uterus work after completion of my treatments. My radiation doctor was not very positive about this. He told me several times that this was a long shot that wouldn’t work. I would be in complete menopause when I was finished with treatments. I did start menopause during treatments. I went through night sweats and hot flashes at the age of 26.
I finished my last treatment December 1, 2004. It was a very happy day! My oncologist wanted me to wait 3 years before going to see my fertility doctor to see what state my uterus was in. I went to see my fertility doctor in January of 2007. He also told me not to get my hopes up that my uterus would probably not work. He gave me high dose estrogen and to all of my doctors’ surprise I made a very good uterine lining. This meant that if my husband and I wanted to we could do an embryo transfer and see if I could get pregnant.
My husband and I went back and forth for a while about whether or not to try to get pregnant or to find a gestational carrier. We did a lot of praying and talking and going over everything the doctors had been telling us for the past 3 years. We decided since we had eleven embryos we would try once to see how things went. So in August of 2007 we decided to give it a try. They gave me high dose estrogen again and my uterus formed a great lining. My fertility doctor decided that he would only put in one embryo, because with my lack of cervix it would be too dangerous if more than one embryo implanted. I was very excited until I got the call from the embryologist. While trying to thaw my embryo for the implantation, 8 of my embryos broke during the thaw process. I only had 3 left. He said he had been doing this for over 20 years and had never seen that many embryos break, it is usually the other way around, 3 break and 8 are good to go. So I had to decide if I wanted to continue and keep trying or wait for a gestational carrier to try the remaining embryos. We decided to go ahead. Our logic was that it wouldn’t matter if the embryos were thawed now or later, if they were going to break they would break. Embryo number nine thawed beautifully and we did the implantation on August 17. We found out 2 weeks later that we were pregnant! It was still a very scary time. I was in a doctor’s office about once every two weeks if not more.
Everything was going great. We were getting very excited about our new little boy. At 23 weeks and 5 days my water broke. I went into the hospital hoping I would be there for a very long time. On January 15th, at exactly 24 weeks I had a c-section. The incision had to be a vertical cut because he was lying horizontally across my uterus. I had a uterine infection that also infected the baby. I showed no signs of any infection until after they took the baby. We named him Joshua. He was born at 1 lb 8 oz. He started out doing good, very hopeful. His infection was too much for him to fight though. He lived for about 13 hours. My husband I got to be with him as he was taken off of oxygen and passed away.
Loosing Josh is the hardest thing that has ever happened to us. I don’t regret the decisions that I made, on most days. A major frustration for me is that the doctors don’t know why any of this happened. They don’t know if my water breaking caused our infections or if our infections caused my water to break. Did the radiation or the cerclage have anything to do with the infection? Or was it just a uterine infection can happens sometimes?
The doctors don’t want me to try to carry again with everything that happened with this pregnancy. We have 2 embryos left and we are praying when the time comes that they will behave. I have a wonderful friend that has decided to carry for me. We have just started the process, but things look good so far. It is hard to know that no matter how prepared you think you are or what all you do to try to preserve fertility, there are no guarantees. It is so important to do everything possible before treatments to preserve fertility. You just never know what is going to happen and you can’t change your mind. It has been a very long hard road, but having caring, hopeful doctors and wonderful friends and family have helped make things a little easier.