Freezing Eggs Due to Cancer: Amanda's Story
"When I was 24 years old, I had just moved into my own apartment, was working at my dream job, and was settling into a serious relationship with my boyfriend of three years. And then, a curveball: In October 2017, I was diagnosed with an extremely rare type of cancer called ovarian germ cell cancer."
We had to share this beautifully honest account of egg freezing during ovarian cancer treatment by Amanda Kabbabe, who froze her eggs at age 24 after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Amanda writes in Elle.com:
Dealing with cancer in my 20s was obviously tough. After my diagnosis came months of treatment, including major surgery, weeks of recovery, and several rounds of chemotherapy....
When I first found out they had to surgically remove my ovary, I panicked. But it was more than just fighting to survive. I was fighting to live. I always envisioned my future in a certain way: a cool job, lots of travel, a husband and, most importantly, kids. My boyfriend, Joe, and I talked about kids a lot. We knew it wouldn’t be any time soon, but we always saw a big family in our future. So when I first found out they had to surgically remove my ovary, I panicked...
My doctors explained that I probably wouldn’t be barren forever. Even though the cancer had taken over my right ovary and fallopian tube, my other ovary was perfectly intact. They said it should produce all the eggs I would need.
I was barely able to breathe a sigh of relief before the reality of chemotherapy settled in.
When I met with my oncologist, she told me there was a good chance that I wouldn’t lose my fertility after my chemotherapy, but there was no way to tell for sure. “Good chance” wasn’t going to cut it for me. There had been a “good chance” that I didn’t have cancer; in fact, every doctor I had before my diagnosis told me there was less than a one percent chance that I actually had it. It felt like the odds were against me.
I immediately launched into research. I was introduced to a fertility expert who works closely with patients at the hospital I was admitted to, and she explained that my best option was to freeze my eggs.
In 2017, the week of Thanksgiving, I underwent fertility treatments, a process unlike anything I ever expected. I’ve always been afraid of needles, and freezing your eggs involves giving yourself a lot of shots. As much as Joe wanted to help, he was even more afraid of needles and couldn’t bring himself to do it. So I gave myself two to five different shots every day for one week. The fertility doctors said it would get easier, but I never got used to injecting myself with anything.
Each shot was its own struggle.
By the end of the week, I was able to harvest and freeze eight eggs. The goal was to harvest 10, so eight was pretty good, especially considering I only had one ovary to work with. The day before I started my chemo treatment, I got a phone call from my fertility doctor telling me my viable eggs were frozen and wishing me luck on everything to come.
Today, I’m a little more than a year out from chemo. I’ve yet to return to a regular cycle. While there have been “signs” that my reproductive system has slowly started back up, nothing is all that reassuring. Each month is different. Usually, around the time I’m due for a period, I experience some form of PMS that I never had before my diagnosis: a combination of terrible cramps, skin breakouts and, the worst, mood swings.
None of my doctors could give me exact answers on when I could expect a regular cycle back. They’ve just told me that it takes “some time” for my system to get up and running as usual. At this point, my body kind of feels like a broken down car that’s been through rounds and rounds of repair. Some things will never work quite the same, and some things should work just fine.
As far as the eggs I have frozen in the bank, those will be waiting for me somewhere in a cryo-freezer out in Massachusetts until I’m ready for them. Even when I am ready, there are no guarantees on whether those will be viable when they’re thawed or if in vitro will even work.
I think about whether or not I’ll be able to have children all the time.
Every time I play with my one-year-old nephew, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to have my own little mini-me. I’ve learned so much about the process of conception, too. So much needs to align for even the healthiest person to get pregnant, so it isn’t lost on me that my odds are probably significantly lower than most other women.
Still, I am grateful. Cancer forced me to think about my health and my life in a completely new way, but most importantly, it taught me that statistics and odds aren’t everything. I had less than one percent chance of getting diagnosed with my cancer at 24, and I did. So, even if there’s a low “chance” of conceiving my own child, I won’t let it worry me too much. At least for now.