Making sure I have a Plan B

My name is Lacey. I recently found out that I have breast cancer. At 24 years old, with student loans and a career to build, getting cancer was the last thing I could have imagined. I’m only 24 for heaven’s sake. I thought breast cancer was something that happened to older women! It all happened so fast. In the shower one day I felt a small lump in my breast. I went to see my family doctor who sent me for an ultrasound and biopsy and several appointments later the oncologist told me: “You have breast cancer.” It seemed like a blur as I went from appointments for diagnosis to scheduling surgery and chemotherapy.

The doctor told me I’m lucky that they caught it early. Lucky isn’t exactly how I feel. She said that with a lumpectomy, radiation and possibly chemotherapy, my prognosis for a long and healthy life is pretty good. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the chemo and radiation could save my life but may damage my fertility. She said that if I’m planning on having kids in the future, I should consider fertility preservation before they begin treatment.

Having kids is not something that was even on the radar for me yet. I assumed I had lots of time to think about being a mom when I got other things in my life sorted out. Little did I know that life was going to take a huge unplanned detour from anything that I had ever pictured. But suddenly time was of the essence and my oncologist wanted me to move forward as quickly as possible with treatment. It was hard just dealing with the fact that I had cancer, let alone being faced with infertility and having to make such life altering decisions. I have to admit I was feeling overwhelmed.

So my oncologist referred me to a counsellor who was affiliated with the cancer centre. She was really nice and seemed to understand that I was terrified. She talked to me about my fears about the cancer, the treatments, losing my hair – and we talked about having kids in the future. I went back with my mom so she could also here about the options to preserve my fertility – egg cryopreservation (freezing), ovarian tissue cryopreservation, and ovarian transposition. Mom and I talked over the options, which really helped. My head was spinning with the cancer diagnosis and decision to start treatment, but the bottom line was that I knew I wanted to keep my options open, and preserving my fertility by freezing my eggs seemed right to me. Even if I don’t ever use them, I knew I wanted to give myself the opportunity to have kids in the future.

So I decided to go ahead with egg freezing. The procedure was a bit painful, but given all of the poking and prodding my body had been through over the last two months, this wasn’t too bad. In order to stay calm, I kept picturing myself 10 years from now, as a mom with a baby in my arms. It made me feel grounded and certain in my decision. They were able to harvest several eggs, which have been frozen and are now available and waiting whenever I’m ready. I’m not sure if I’ll ever need them – who knows, maybe I’ll still be fertile after chemotherapy – but I feel comforted by the fact that they are there if I need a Plan B.

Read one cancer survivor’s story of freezing and subsequently using her own eggs to create a family here.

Read more about cancer-related fertility preservation here.

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