Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor: Why I froze my eggs before cancer treatment
I’ve known I wanted to be an attorney since I was 4 years old, so I was excited to finally be finishing law school. After three grueling years, I took my last exam on May 9, 2016, and I couldn’t wait to celebrate.
But I’d also been feeling sick and really tired for a couple of weeks, so I made an appointment with a doctor at the university health center first. I figured my symptoms were just due to stress, and I wanted to make sure I was well enough to attend my graduation ceremony on May 14.
Little did I know that the doctor’s visit would turn out to be a life-changing event.
My Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis
When I met with the doctor, she performed a physical examination and I told her about my symptoms. She seemed concerned about a lump above my left clavicle and made an appointment for me with an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for the following morning.
I arrived at my appointment expecting the ENT to tell me the doctor had overreacted. To my surprise, he said I needed a biopsy immediately. I asked why, and he said it might be lymphoma. I was dumbstruck, but decided nothing was going to spoil the weekend I’d been looking forward to for three years. Not even cancer. So I asked him not to call me with the results until after the ceremony.
I graduated from law school on Saturday, May 14, 2016. Two days later, I received the worst graduation present imaginable: my doctor called and told me I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
I dropped to the floor and began crying uncontrollably. I remember thinking, “There must be some mistake. This can’t be right. I just graduated from law school, and I’m only 27. How could I have cancer?” But there was no mistake.
A backup plan for starting a family
Once I calmed down, I made an appointment at MD Anderson, as it’s the best cancer hospital in the world. A week later, I met with my oncologist, Dr. Luis Fayad. He confirmed my Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis and told me I was at stage IIA. This meant the cancer had spread from its original location in my neck down into my chest, where Dr. Fayad found a 10cm tumor.
Dr. Fayad recommended eight rounds of chemotherapy followed by 16 radiation treatments. The chemo cocktail was called “ABVD,” which stands for adriamycin, bleomycin, vinblastine and dacarbazine. He told me this treatment would induce hair loss, nausea and fatigue. I knew that chemotherapy could also affect fertility, so I took steps to freeze my eggs with the help of a reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Terri Woodard, before starting treatment. I am so glad I did, as it allowed me to worry about one less thing while going through cancer.
I’ve shown no evidence of disease since March 2017, but I won’t know if the chemotherapy has affected my ability to conceive until I try to start a family. When that day comes, I take comfort in knowing I have a backup plan. Freezing my eggs doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be viable, but at least I know I will have a chance of conceiving biological children someday.