Coping with infertility during breast cancer treatment
In 2012, my husband and I moved back to Texas from New York City. We were excited to be back in our home state and ready to start a family.
Breast cancer, infertility and finding a surrogate were not part of our plans.
My breast cancer diagnosis
I remember like it was yesterday. One night in the shower, I stumbled upon a lump on my left breast. I knew it was not supposed to be there.
I called the doctor the next morning. After a mammogram, ultrasound and a biopsy, I learned that I had stage II ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer. I was stunned. I was young -- 30 years old -- with no family history of breast cancer. I had recently had my annual exam and thought I was healthy.
Learning about infertility during cancer treatment
I already knew of MD Anderson's reputation. Since it was in my new hometown of Houston, I made an appointment there right away.
At my first appointment, my oncologist, Daniel Booser, M.D., went over my treatment plan. It included Taxol and FAC chemotherapy, followed by surgery and ongoing hormone therapy.
I thought losing my hair might be difficult. Then, before I started chemo, I found out that my breast cancer was ER/PR-positive. That meant it was receptive to estrogen and progesterone -- two types of hormones. For my own safety, I was told I shouldn't get pregnant -- now or possibly ever. Pregnancy would mean a surge of hormones that could cause my cancer to spread.
I was devastated. As a woman and a wife, hearing that I shouldn't have children was perhaps the hardest part about having breast cancer. I was going to lose my hair and my breasts. Did I really have to lose my fertility? My husband and I were ready to have children. But now our dream was slipping away.
Visiting MD Anderson's Oncofertility Clinic and choosing the surrogate route
My husband and I made an appointment at MD Anderson's Oncofertility Clinic to find out about other options. We both met with Terri Woodard, M.D., whom reassured us and answered all of our questions about dealing with fertility while battling cancer.
Dr. Woodward and my other doctors advised that I undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments before chemo to preserve my fertility. But after starting IVF, I learned I would not be able to carry my own child.
That's when we were introduced to the world of surrogacy. It was another hurdle, but based on our research, we knew that a surrogate would be a viable option. We could still have the biological baby we longed for. We just had to go about it in a different way.
Our best gift
I finished four months of chemo and had a double mastectomy in June 2013, followed by reconstruction. A month after my surgery, we had a successful embryo transfer and received word that we were pregnant!
Our daughter, Margaret, was born on April 1, 2014.
When I held Margaret for the first time, it was like everything I had gone through faded away. I'm forever grateful for the woman who carried our daughter. She gave us our best gift, our beautiful baby girl.
Why I'm grateful for MD Anderson
Perhaps one of my proudest moments was being able to share the good news of our pregnancy with my amazing team of doctors at MD Anderson. Our daughter would not be here without their guidance and support. I'm so grateful that we had just moved to Houston when I discovered that lump. I can't imagine being treated anywhere else.
I'm also so thankful that MD Anderson has made fertility a priority for cancer patients. Dr. Woodard has become not only a trusted advisor, but also a friend.
Today, I'm proud to say that I'm not only a MD Anderson patient but also a volunteer. I hope that I can provide encouragement to current patients, especially young women facing breast cancer and/or fertility-related issues. While we took a slightly different route to have our baby, we couldn't imagine it any other way. Our bumps in the road have made our love for our daughter that much stronger.