Doctors and Infertility: The Lost Conversation
[Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by Kacy-Ann. I have not had a lot of writers talk about infertility, and it’s such an important topic on its own. However, Kacy-Ann has a special story regarding infertility to share today. Thank you so much for sharing!]
I was introduced to pediatric cancers because of commercials like St. Jude’s, and I knew about cancer in older adults because I witnessed it up close and personal with my own grandmother—but cancer in young adults was something that seemed to be far and few between—when in reality, it wasn’t. As a matter of fact, nearly 70,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year. So, I have to wonder—why didn’t I know that young adult cancer was an actual thing until I became a young adult—with cancer.
When I was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2014, I was told that my treatment would be extremely aggressive—because the cancer was—and I would likely lose my ability to bear children. Having a kid was probably the farthest thing from my mind, given the circumstances. I never really even thought about it as an option for the near future. I had a boyfriend—not a husband, and was in no way certain whether I even wanted kids or not.
Unfortunately, however, I wasn’t granted any leisurely time to think about it or make a pros and cons list—and the clock didn’t stop ticking just because I wanted it to. The cancer was spreading fast and if anything regarding fertility was going to be done, it had to be taken care of before treatment began—so a decision had to be made quickly.
With that in mind, I knew that whether I had kids or not was going to be my choice and not my cancer’s. If that meant adoption or something else, as long as I survived, no illness was going to take that possibility away from me. So, I met with my oncologist, Dr. Feldman, and was offered several alternatives ranging from egg storage to counseling. Counseling came later.
Egg storage was the option that I decided upon and it came with a pretty hefty price tag. As a matter of fact, I was given a week to come up with roughly $20,000 to undergo the procedure. Thankfully, through generous contributions from my family, my church, and Livestrong fertility, I was able to collect enough money to have several of my eggs stored away for a rainy day.
That whole situation was very challenging, difficult, and awkward for me, and I will admit that the ultimatum of ‘store eggs or never have kids’ given to me by my doctor was not something that I ever wanted to hear. Looking back, though, I am actually very grateful that she was so straightforward with me.
Many people aren’t as fortunate to have a doctor who forewarns them of life’s possible challenges beyond cancer treatment. In fact, I know people who said that their oncologist didn’t even mention the possibility of egg or sperm depletion or infertility—and now they are dealing with the aftermath.
Anyone who receives strong doses of chemotherapy is at risk of long and short term side effects. However, loss of fertility is a specific front and center issue for young adults. A pediatric patient isn’t necessarily thinking about having kids in the next 5 years and an older patient is more than likely past their childbearing years or has already established their family— so these groups have different sets challenges that are unique to them.
For this reason, it is extremely necessary for doctors who treat young adults for cancer, to offer any available information for family planning. Although the information would just give options and not guarantees, it still allows the patient to feel like they have some control over at least one thing during a time when they’ve lost control of so many others.
We all understand that the oncologist’s job is to kill the cancer at any cost, but the quality of life beyond these harsh treatments should also be considered. It’s possible that a lot of men and women would have opted for a different type of treatment plan had they known the full extent of what the potential outcome could be.
To those who are dealing with infertility, you don’t have to give birth to be a parent. You still have options. If you have a desire to be a mom or a dad, don’t let cancer win.
I don’t know if I can have my own biological children or not, but I am still hopeful that if I decide that I want to be a mother someday—and it is a part of God’s plan for my life—it will happen somehow. I’ve learned that things may not go according to our original plan and we may have to find alternate routes to get to our destination, but as long as we have faith, we can still get there.
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Deutoronomy 31:6
Kacy-Ann is a millennial, newlywed, blood cancer remissionista (her word) who is passionate about God, family, success, and living a serene life. She recently relocated from the east coast to the midwest and is a personal blogger and freelance writer for hire. When she is not writing about the power and beauty of women on her blog, Surelyoucantoo, you can find her out exploring places with scenic views, somewhere with great music playing, or reading a good book whilst sipping on a cup of oolong tea. Blog – www.surelyoucantoo.com Business page – www.kacy-annvalembrun.com