The October 11, 2010 issue of TIME magazine highlighted the importance of fertility preservation for cancer patients. The article discussed the mission of the Oncofertility Consortium and interviewed a young cancer survivor, Holly, who underwent fertility preservation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, IL. Since Holly works down the street from us here at the Oncofertility Consortium, I recently had the opportunity to sit down with her and learn more about her triumph against cancer.
The TIME article told the story of Holly’s breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in 2009. In our lunch meeting, I was surprised to learn that this was not her first battle with cancer. At age 14, Holly was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As we sat down for lunch, she described the rigorous treatment of that first cancer with, “six months of chemotherapy and an additional two weeks of radiation therapy.”
Due to the type of radiation treatment, Holly knew she was at increased risk for later breast cancer so when she was 25, she began annual screenings. According to Holly, “the first year I went for monitoring was the only mammogram that was normal.” After that first screening, every yearly exam found some kind of mass that ended up being benign. But in 2009, the newest mass was diagnosed as malignant. Holly remembers the day well because it was, “two months to the day after I got engaged.”
Over the next month, Holly worked with her doctors to develop a treatment plan for the cancer and to preserve her fertility. She and her fiancé, Rich, decided to undergo hormone stimulation for embryo banking before completing the cancer treatment that may have impaired her fertility.
More than a year later, Holly is cancer-free, a newlywed, and already looking forward to using her stored embryos. “It is very exciting that these embryos could become our babies,” she said. As she sat across from me at lunch, I could see the peace-of-mind that the frozen embryos give her. According to Holly, “With all of life’s uncertainties-why add more?”