19 October 2019

Becoming a Mother After Cancer

Medical Director
Cesar Diaz-Garcia
MD PhD Assoc Prof
IVI London

 

Over 55,000 women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK. In this post we are going to hear the amazing story of a women who won the battle against cancer and began her motherhood journey.

Susana’s Story

In 2007 IVI launched the ‘Becoming a mother after Cancer’ program and 7 years ago Susana became one of those patients when she was diagnosed with cancer.

 “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, straight away I thought: I’m dying. I was told by the radiologist from the Breast Unit of my hospital. And the moment she uttered those three fateful words, they went through me like daggers. Breast cancer… At that moment I stopped listening. She kept talking, but my world stopped dead. My parents, my sister and even some colleagues were with me. But time stopped around me and I just thought: Cancer, I’m dying I felt dizzy, tears fell uncontrollably down my cheeks, and the same thought tormented me”, explained Susana.

“Cancer”, it is still a powerful word that affects us all but thanks to science, is not that gravestone that it once was.

With being diagnosed at the age of 36 and no children Susana decided to go with the wild card for a chance of becoming a mother.

 “The radiologist, surgeon, plastic surgeon and oncologist outlined how to stop my cancer as soon as possible. But the option of being a mother was not considered at any time. And almost by chance, I was lucky enough to meet a person who had done their Biology internship at IVI, and they told me about the options you offered for women like me”, she added.

It is important to know your options and what treatment is available to you if you wish to become a mother or a father after cancer.

“I was sure that I wanted to preserve my eggs, so I told my oncologist that I needed to do it and if he couldn’t give me the time I needed to vitrify my eggs, to let me die, I just wanted to preserve my eggs. I wanted the option to decide whether I wanted to be a mother, and science gave me the opportunity to do so. I had to take advantage of it”, she said.

It has been 7 years since Susana was diagnosed with cancer and today Susana is a new mother of a 4-month-old baby named Manuel.

“When the ban is lifted and your oncologist gives you the all clear, it is very moving. IVI has modern facilities, the best technology,and is state-of-the-art in many things, but the care is really good, personal, involved in every step of the process. I was a person to them, not a number as you might think with a company of this size. Motherhood is an energy that transcends, a power that can fight against everything. And when the baby comes, they wake up in the morning and smile at you, everything makes sense. Something that you have fought for for so long and that you have right there in your arms. The greatest gift”, she concluded.

Like Susana more than 800 women have been part of IVI’s free programme for cancer patients. As a result, 29 babies have been born and 7 more are on the way to join them.

 “You have to think you’ve been lucky. And if you had been born 50 years ago, you probably would have died. And if you had had this 15 years ago, you probably couldn’t have become a mother” says a IVI patient’s family member.

Can preserving my fertility make my cancer worse?

Results show patients who have frozen their eggs have the same survival results as those who have not. The stimulation process involved with fertility preservation does not affect the evolution of the cancer.

Egg vitrification is a window of opportunity that cancer patients can take advantage of and is a chance for patients to become a mother in the future post treatment.

What are the chances of this working for me?

The results are always linked to the age at which the eggs are frozen. The younger the patient the higher the chances are of being able to become a mother.

Strength, support and energy, there is hope after cancer

Susana has dedicated a few words to women who, like her, are going through one of the most difficult times of their lives.

“Be strong, fight, you are not alone. Keep going because you have options”.

“Never stop smiling or think that you will not beat this. Don’t stop fighting, your life is waiting for you. This is only a parenthesis and you should not give up any future plans”.

 “Cry today. But from tomorrow accept it for now and move forward. It is a bad year, but you will get through it”.

IVI was the first reproductive clinic to offer this program to cancer patients. We have some of the most experienced doctors who specialise in cancer research and what it means for the future of fertility.

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