How one couple transformed the shock of a cancer diagnosis into a different kind of family planning
After marrying in 2005, Kim was thrilled at the idea of starting a family. For three years, she and her husband tried to conceive–but those two tiny pink lines on the pregnancy test still evaded their reach.
“We were ready to have a child, but trying on our own just wasn’t working,” says Kim.
Kim went to her OB/GYN doctor for help, but nothing made a difference. Finally, the couple decided it was time to talk to a fertility doctor. After her appointment with Dr. Louis Weckstein, Kim was filled with hope. Maybe her dream of becoming a mother would come true.
By chance, Kim also went later that week to her OB/GYN for her annual checkup. During her routine exam, the nurse practitioner found a lump. An ultrasound and MRI soon followed, and the test results were jolting–at the young age of 37, Kim had breast cancer.
Numbing shock quickly turned into a flurry of action in order to plan for treatment. Within hours, Kim switched from fertility planning to fertility preservation. Since cancer treatments can have an impact on a woman’s ability to conceive, Kim took steps to safeguard her dream of motherhood.
Egg freezing and embryo freezing are two possible ways to preserve a woman’s fertility. A patient undergoes egg retrieval, after which eggs are fast-frozen using a state-of-the-art method called vitrification. After cancer treatment, eggs can be thawed, and through intracytoplasmic sperm injection, embryos can be formed. Women can also opt to create embryos immediately after egg retrieval, and then freeze the embryos for later use. This is a better, more successful option if a patient has a partner at the time of treatment. Both options allow women to pursue a biological child in the future.
After learning of her choices, Kim pursued embryo cryopreservation. Dr. Weckstein prepared her for egg retrieval by prescribing a series of medications to prepare her body for retrieval. While internalizing her diagnosis, she diligently followed doctor orders. Just over four weeks later, Kim had a self-proclaimed “painless and simple” retrieval which resulted in several frozen embryos.
Oncologists ordered a lumpectomy and the removal of lymph nodes, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Kim’s husband and family helped her get through this trying time.
Now cancer-free, Kim takes tamoxifen daily to reduce the risk of recurrence. Because her cancer is hormone sensitive, Kim and her husband decided that it would be best to use a gestational carrier for the pregnancy. The chance of recurrence while pregnant was simply too great.
Kevin and Kim are excited to start a family and now see the world in a refreshing new light. Enduring this experience has taught her to be present in the moment that is, and not focus on a future that has yet to be determined. Kim feels that breast cancer has opened her up to a community of remarkable women who have shown her that strength, courage and resilience take on many forms.
“It’s important to not only consider all options for your course of treatment,” says Kim, “but also to consider your life goals after treatment. How can your options help you accomplish what you want? Fertility preservation after a breast cancer diagnosis gave me hope. Knowing about and exercising my options let me focus on making the best decisions for my health without fear of compromising the family that Kevin and I have always dreamed of.”
Now in the final stages of determining a gestational carrier and implantation date, Kevin and Kim are hopeful they will have a baby on the way for the holidays.