The Cost and the Promise of Preserving Fertility
IVF and cryopreservation are expensive, starting at around $10,000 for the IVF procedure, plus annual storage fees for the frozen eggs or embryos. But for cancer patients, some support organizations offer financial assistance (and it never hurts to ask your infertility specialist directly for a discount). Fertile Hope, a national nonprofit organization, provides reproductive information and support to cancer patients whose medical treatments present the risk of infertility. The organization provides free fertility medications through donations from pharmaceutical companies like Serono, plus discounted sperm-banking services, and discounted egg retrieval and freezing services from reproductive endocrinologists across the country via its Sharing Hope program (www.fertilehope.org or 1-888-994-HOPE). Some clinics participating in the program offer their fertility services to cancer patients for as little as 25 percent of the normal cost, says Fertile Hope founder Lindsay Nohr Beck. Currently, fertility clinics at more than 90 locations across the country participate.
Beck, 31, knows what she’s talking about. At age 24, she had a recurrence of a rare tongue cancer that required chemo. She had just graduated from university and was still single. “The thought of being sterile was almost as devastating as my cancer diagnosis itself,” Beck recalls. “It was my first question [to the oncologist]...tongue, eating, kissing, marriage, kids...those were my thoughts.”
Her oncologist told her that he didn’t know if anything could be done to preserve her fertility. But Beck wasn’t ready to give up. She found the Stanford Medical Center in California, which had an egg-freezing program just for cancer patients. Doctors removed 29 eggs from her ovaries for freezing, and two days later Beck started chemo.
Just nine months after her cancer treatment, Beck met the right guy at a party and got married in 2004. At that point, fertility tests revealed she was still ovulating, so she decided to try to get pregnant as quickly as possible. Several early miscarriages followed. Then Beck tried IVF. Again she got pregnant, and again she miscarried. She and her husband Jordan took blood tests to screen for rare genetic abnormalities, and found their answer: Two of the chromosomes on Jordan’s DNA were switched. So the next IVF attempt also included preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), to screen the embryos for abnormalities. All the embryos carried the switched DNA, and could not be implanted. Finally, the third IVF round yielded three healthy embryos, two of which were transferred into Beck’s womb. Again she got pregnant.
Beck’s stubborn unwillingness to accept infertility as the natural consequence of cancer treatment finally paid off. In June of 2006, she delivered a healthy seven-pound, nine-ounce girl, Paisley Jane Beck. “Wow, this is why I survived,” Beck remembers thinking as she first held her newborn.
Eight years after her first diagnosis, and six years after the cancer’s recurrence, Beck remains cancer-free. Sometimes people ask her if she thinks it was right to get pregnant and have a child not knowing her own long-term prospects. “She is my legacy no matter what happens to me. I will live on through her. It’s a very powerful thing to know,” says Beck, who recently celebrated Paisley’s first birthday. “The number of people involved in saving my life and creating her is just astounding. Without them I wouldn’t be a mom.”
A version of this article originally appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of Conceive Magazine.
Related Topics: Fertility Health; Fertility Threats; Stress and Fertility
Cancer Survivors Can Get Pregnant|
Feb 24, 2009
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