Mary Craige is a wife, mother, daughter, friend and breast cancer survivor. Diagnosed in 2010 when her son was seven months old, Mary found blogging to be an outlet for her feelings about treatment, fertility challenges and survivorship. Since finishing treatment in 2010, she rode in two 200 mile Tour de Pink West Coast rides. The Tour de Pink helped her take her body back after treatment and proved that she could thrive after cancer. Mary currently works as a Content Marketing Manager for a large data company.
January turned out to be a pretty good month. A clear mammogram and breast MRI puts me at exactly two years out from treatment and over the dreaded two year cancer hump. After a contentious consultation with my oncologist, I was given the all clear to go back to my reproductive endocrinologist for the first round of blood work and a pelvic ultrasound.
Breast cancer has a funny way of derailing the best laid plans. When my son was born in 2009, my husband and I knew we wanted to have another child within two years. Breast cancer caused us to push that timeline out indefinitely. Over the last two years, breast cancer created a host of other problems, such as osteoporosis in my hip and neck, osteopenia in my lumbar spine, joint and bone pain and a host of other ‘survivorship’ issues. Unfortunately, it has also affected my fertility.
This was confirmed during my follow up visit with my reproductive endocrinologist last week. We knew from previous blood work that chemotherapy had put me into chemically-induced menopause. This type of menopause is very common for women who have Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) as part of their chemotherapy cocktail. In the two years since I completed treatment, my Follicle Stimulating Hormone (common referred to as your FSH level) has not returned to the normal, pre-menopausal level. A high FSH, along with a low estrogen level, represents limited or no ovarian function. Shorthand for all this: I am infertile.
Don’t stop reading this blog entry yet – these test results do not mean it is the end of the road for our dream of a larger family. We knew this would happen. Before you start chemotherapy, doctors throw around percentages and probabilities for things like recurrence, infertility, neuropathy and other possible effects from treatment. I was given a 50% chance that my fertility would not be impacted. For me, 50% was not a high enough percentage to roll the dice and chance it. Luckily, I was also given a 95% survival rate at the 5 year mark. So we created and store embryos before I began treatment. Those frozen babies are what I’m hanging onto right now.
All we can do now is move forward. The reproductive endocrinologist is going to present my case to several other doctors in his practice this week. He wants to be sure that we exhaust all options that do not put me at risk for recurrence. Until then, I just need to hang onto hope and stay positive that a future baby will be possible.