Cara, 24 years old

Age at Diagnosis: 24

Type of Cancer: Colon Cancer

Cancer Treatment Received: Chemotherapy

Relationship Status at Diagnosis: Single

Current Relationship Status: Single

Were you a parent at time of diagnosis?: No

Fertility preservation and fertility support services are important to me because:

Family is extremely important to me, and I have always known that I wanted to start my own family someday. When you receive a cancer diagnosis and believe that a possible future of kids can be taken away from you, it is a very difficult thought to live with. Fertility preservation is a glimmer of hope in an unknown future. Not only hope for family, but hope of survival.

At time of diagnosis, did you know that cancer treatment could affect your fertility?:

It was an unknown (and still is) whether or not my fertility will be affected by the treatment. Specifically in my case because it is so rare for someone my age to have this type of cancer and the statistics in regards to fertility after treatment just don’t exist.

Do you feel you received adequate information and/or support regarding fertility risks associated with cancer treatment and fertility preservation upon your diagnosis? Why or why not?:

Because the risks are largely unknown there wasn’t a lot of information my doctors could give me. I think that this topic is starting to take a greater priority for younger cancer patients, which is really nice to see.

If you were not already aware, how did you feel after learning about the possibility of cancer-related infertility?:

It frightened me. I knew that I wanted to have children someday, and as soon as you hear that it might not be possible it makes you very angry. It gave me the sense that I had no control, that there was nothing I could do about it. I wanted the control back and I wanted to do something about it.

Briefly describe your life prior to your diagnosis (work, education, family, location):

I had just graduated from the University of Waterloo with an Honours Arts degree in Political Science and Business. I was in the midst of determining career opportunities and the next course of action my life would take.

Did your diagnosis change your life or alter your plans for the future?:

It certainly changed my life. In the trials that it has brought I am still able to see the silver lining. I am now going in a different direction in terms of my career, and I am so very grateful to have had my eyes opened about what is important in life.

How did your diagnosis impact your desires to become a parent in the future?:

It bolstered and cemented the desire to become a parent. I’ve always known I wanted to become a parent, but it really hit home when a future you imagined looks like it disappears with the word “cancer”.

If you did undergo fertility preservation, please briefly describe your experience:

My story is quite unique. After my surgery, during recovery time, my surgeon mentioned to me that I should seriously consider fertility preservation before chemotherapy. I hadn’t met with my oncologist yet, but my surgeon called on Thanksgiving Sunday (a few days before my appointment with the oncologist) to remind me to bring it up with the oncologist in case she forgot or didn’t think of it. We met with her, and did in fact have to bring it up. Because most of her patients are well past having to worry about fertility issues she wasn’t as familiar with the idea but referred me to a fertility specialist at Mount Sinai. At that appointment we were given more information, and because timing is really important in this process I had to make a decision that day whether to go ahead with plans for fertiltiy preservation. Because this decision was extremely important to me we went ahead and I started injections that day. I never thought I would ever be looking for sperm donors, but there I was going through everything and often asking myself how in the world I got there! It all went well, and we harvested 19 eggs, 10 were fertilized (success rates are 85% with fertilized eggs compared to 4% with unfertilized), and the rest were frozen as eggs. The day after my eggs were harvested I started chemotherapy…talk about incredible timing. They certainly weren’t the easiest days of my life, but I know I would do it all over again just to make sure I get to rock my own baby in my arms someday.

Have you become a parent post cancer treatment?:

Not yet:) Still in treatment, but my mind is certainly much more at ease knowing that I have a back-up plan.

What advice would you give newly diagnosed cancer patients who are facing the possibility of infertility?:

If having children of your own is something that is really important to you I am sure you will take this decision under serious consideration. It may not be the path for everyone, but it is something you can choose, an option that cancer can’t take away from you.

If you would like to add any additional information please do so:

The Power of Hope program is a fantastic and worthwhile cause. I can’t begin to describe how deep my gratitute goes for all who make such a program available. Many many sincere thanks!

How did you hear about Fertile Future?:

I heard about it through Mount Sinai’s Fertility Clinic.