Stacey, 32 years old
In January 2006 my husband and I started trying to conceive our first child. Before we had started trying, we went to talk with our general practitioner about our plan. She mentioned to us that if we were not pregnant after 6 months we should come and see her for a referral to see a fertility specialist, just in case. Over the years she had seen too many families wait a year and then ask for a referral. It takes months to get an appointment and emotions such as frustration and self doubt build as you wait.
In May I found a small pea sized lump in my left breast. I went to see me G.P. and she sent me for an ultrasound to see what was happening. She was not concerned and told me not to be either. My ultrasound was done in late June. I was told that there was an infected cyst and was referred to the Women’s Breast Health Centre at the Ottawa Civic Hospital to have it drained. Due to the fact that the ultrasound results indicated that my “cyst” was just a “cyst” and not a malignant tumour, there was no urgency to have it drained and I was given an appointment for the end of October.
Over the summer the “cyst” grew to the size of a golf ball and you could see it through my shirt. I called the centre to let them know but they had ultrasound results that stated I had an infected cyst and it was not life threatening so I could wait. Because it was growing so fast and had become painful I knew something was not right. I basically had to insist that someone see me or I would go to the emergency to have it drained. Finally, I was given an appointment for September 1st.
September 1st came and I finally had my “cyst” drained. Yeah! Well, when the doctor tried to drain the cyst it did not collapse like it should have. Now I needed to go for another ultrasound immediately and then a biopsy on the 5th of September. September 11th I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer; an aggressive, fast growing tumour.
While sitting in the surgeon’s office on September 12th I was told that I needed to begin chemotherapy as soon as possible and then I would have to have surgery to remove the breast and lymph nodes. I am a natural health care practitioner, CHEMOTHERAPY PARDON ME. Then I thought, what about babies and at the same time, THANK GOD I AM NOT PREGNANT. Everything really does happen for a reason. I asked my surgeon “what about babies?” He said not to worry about babies and to focus on saving my own life and if I was successful with that then I should be happy to be alive, BUT he had just heard of a Dr. who was doing something to preserve eggs and/or embryos.
When I had been in to see my G.P. initially regarding my “cyst” she knew that I was still not pregnant so she put in a referral for my husband and I to see a fertility specialist. Our appointment happened to be booked for two weeks after my diagnosis. The fertility specialist that we saw was not very positive about my future fertility after 8 rounds of chemotherapy (that was the original plan, I only had 4.) He had heard a little bit regarding another fertility doctor’s work and thought maybe he would be able to help. I was given the number to that clinic if I wanted to look into it further.
The next day, while in a total panic of what to do and the choices to make while being terrified and pressured by my surgeon and my oncologist to start chemotherapy as soon as possible, I decided to take my life and the lives of my future children into my own hands and called the phone number of clinic that had been given to me. I got an answering machine and left a message.
Later that day I got a call from an nurse at the clinic. She was going to help me. That afternoon she had me booked in to see a local doctor, a fertility specialist who could do an internal ultrasound to see if I had enough follicles to be a candidate for IVM (in-vitro maturation). The nurse wanted to save us the long drive for the first ultrasound, if I could have it done in Ottawa. This nurse and the doctor I saw later that day were the first two people to give me hope and light in a very dark time. The performed my ultrasound and said, “Look, GOODIE there are 16 follicles, that is plenty.” He made me laugh and filled my spirit with positivity. He sent me on my way to have another ultrasound at the other clinic and that is where we set up my plan for IVM.
They were compassionate and organized; my husband Mark and I did not even really need to think, we just needed to do exactly what we were told and be where we needed to be when we needed to be there. The fertility team was wonderful and supportive. Within 5 days I had had my first ultrasound locally, then went to the out-of-town clinic twice and had 22 follicles extracted. My eggs were taken out on Thanksgiving morning and they were fertilized the next day, which was my birthday, what a priceless gift. We have eight frozen embryos and now I was ready to start chemotherapy.
Today I am happy, healthy and extremely grateful. I fought for my life with everything I had, with my beautiful loving husband by my side. I used complimentary therapies, such as energy healing, yoga and meditation, in conjunction with western medicine to support my body, mind and spirit. I did 4 rounds of chemotherapy and had a lumpectomy with no lymph removal. I believed in myself and made the best decisions for me. I listened to my body and made informed choices with all of the facts considered.
Knowing that my husband and I had 8 frozen embryos that would need a mom and a dad someday, I knew that I was going to be o.k. I also learned that even if I never did have children, I was enough all on my own. I think that may have been one of my biggest lessons learned. Believe in yourself and know that no matter what you are complete all on your own!!
Dreams do come true, that just might not be exactly what you thought you asked for.
P.S. I was just at the Dr.’s this week, one year later, determining my fertility after cancer treatments and I am FERTILE!!! YEAH!