I have steered clear of all fertility talk thus far because initially it was simply too upsetting. But it is the hardest part of having cancer for me, so if I continued this blog without mentioning it, it would be rather like lying, presenting a big rosy picture and missing out the most important part. And now I’ve had some time to become at peace with it, and it might not be so bad, so here goes.
I was offered a last-minute appointment with a fertility specialist in Manchester today, so off I went, to discuss the possible effects of chemotherapy on my fertility and the preservation methods available. If I have understood correctly, chemotherapy targets cells that are multiplying, and thus it can confuse cancer cells with eggs, damaging some women’s fertility. However, since I will be only 30 years old when I have the chemo, I stand a very good chance of coming out of the treatment fully fertile with all my eggs in tact.
In addition to the chemo, my type of cancer is oestrogen-receptor positive, which means I have to take drugs for 5 years to lower my oestrogen levels to reduce the chances of the cancer coming back. This doesn’t make me in any way infertile, and the advantage is that if I wanted to have a baby after 2 years, I could stop the treatment, have a baby, and then continue the treatment for another 3 years. So the main concern is the chemo.
My only option to protect myself against the unlikely event of becoming infertile after the chemo is to freeze my eggs. However, freezing my eggs would mean stimulating my oestrogen production for 3 weeks, which is exactly the opposite of what we want to do and could increase the likelihood of my cancer coming back at a later stage. Egg freezing is also expensive at £5,000 (uninsurable) and also has an extremely low success rate of about 10%. Having the treatment would also mean going to Manchester most days for 2-3 weeks and having a couple of injections per day, followed by a general anaesthetic and a short procedure (but not surgery).
So, to freeze or not to freeze?
There is every chance I will come out of the chemotherapy still very fertile, and never need to use the frozen eggs. However, if there is a small chance the chemo will make me infertile, is it worth creating a low risk to my own health in order to gain a 10% chance at having my own biological children in future? Oh how I wish I knew.
On the upside, when I got back in the car after visiting the hospital, the first thing I heard on the radio was a woman talking about how she had accidentally fallen pregnant at 47, so there is plenty of hope.
Please don’t feel any need to comment on this one – I have published it in the interests of sharing and being honest about my whole experience, but I’m not looking for any words of sympathy. I won’t be having babies for a good few years yet either way, so I have plenty of time to keep enjoying life and working on the Things to do before I’m 40 list. Oh, and thanks to those of you who’ve so far offered me your surrogate children, your sperm and even hair transplants – hopefully I won’t be needing them! 😉