This I Believe

Janice - Dallas, Texas
Entered on March 16, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in pursuing your dreams. I was thirty-eight when diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. I wasn’t worried about dying. However, I was concerned that I could not have biological children because of it. Certainly women can have children after having breast cancer. However, I had fertility issues that would probably require in vitro fertilization or IVF to become pregnant.

My medical oncologist greeted me with “you should consider having your breasts and ovaries removed” when we first met. This was due to the fact that my mother was a breast cancer survivor. I shared with her my infertility issues. Her response was “there are other ways of having children besides giving birth.” She warned me against using any hormonal treatments, such as IVF to get pregnant, ever. I also refused tamoxifen against her wishes because it could preclude me from having children. To me the goal in cancer treatment was not only staying alive but having what I want from life.

I never gave up my dream of having a biological child. I did medical research at Southwestern Medical School library to see if there was a link between use of hormonal treatments for infertility and breast cancer. I found multiple articles showing no significant correlation between the two.

I took the articles with me to my surgical oncologist. It had been two years since the original diagnosis. He did not need to see my research. He signed a letter for my fertility doctor giving his OK for me to proceed.

When I met with my fertility doctor, letter in hand, she tried to talk me out of it too. I was over forty and therefore the possibility of success was low, plus the costs, time and effort involved. I told her I was not ready to give up.

Approximately a year after that appointment, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby boy I had ever seen (of course I’m a little prejudiced). My husband showing him to me at birth was the most wonderful moment of my life. My sweet daughter was conceived naturally and born 16 months later. I would joke that we got two for the price of one.

Between being pregnant and nursing, I had been unable to have a mammogram. My doctor told me to stop breast feeding my daughter at 11 months in order to have one. When I had the mammogram, another tumor was found in the breast that previously had cancer. Instead of lumpectomy and radiation as before, I had a mastectomy. Fortunately, the tumor was small enough that chemotherapy was not recommended.

I asked my surgical oncologist if he thought the new cancer had anything to do with going through IVF. He asked “Knowing what you know now, would you have done anything differently?” “Not in a million years” was my response.