I am 35 years old. This is my journey. One day when I was 13, I thought my appendix was bursting, but instead I found out that I had a cyst the size of a football on my right ovary (And we’re not talking Fisher Price size football we are talking NFL size). They removed the cyst and to our horror and shock, it was cancerous. I was diagnosed with a Germ Cell Tumor cancer, and immediately was given an intense course of chemotherapy. Luckily after a few months I was cancer free and my life went back to normal. Well, as normal as it could be having cancer at age 13. However two and half years later at the age of 16, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Leukemia, AML. The doctors told us that the only chance of survival would be a bone marrow transplant. Over the next eleven years I tried to have a normal life. I became a successful working actor and I married the man of my dreams. Although my life is amazing in so many ways I really struggle with my health on a day-to-day basis.
In July 2005 my husband and I were trying to have a family through infertility treatment. We found out on July 28th that I was pregnant. However, the next day on July 29th I was diagnosed for a third time with cancer. I had a tumor on my tongue and was absolutely devastated. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I was cancer free for eleven years and I was starting a family. A few days later they told me I was going to lose the baby. At this point I didn’t know what was worse, losing a baby or having cancer again. I also lost my lucrative acting career overnight.
Lastly, the fourth cancer was in May of 2012. I don’t really count this one because it was just skin cancer and it was not life threatening, although mentally it took its toll. I felt as though I was left out there alone to fend for myself. I was then assigned an oncologist that followed me once and a while. My new oncologist eventually referred me to an endocrinologist for hormone replacement therapy because I am in full menopause and needed a specialist to follow me. Long story short, when I was 26 my husband and I were starting to inquire about our options to have children. I knew I had no eggs so we were going to look into surrogacy. Then at one of my appointments with my endocrinologist he said to my husband and I that because I still had my uterus he didn’t see why I couldn’t carry a baby using an egg donor. Well, this excited both my husband and I. I thought this was the next best thing to conceiving a baby of my own. So we went ahead with it. As I shared with you above, it did not end well. After three cycles of IVF, I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma.
The reason I share this story with you is because I meet a young lady who had also had AML, leukemia and received an unrelated bone marrow transplant. She and I bonded very quickly because we walked very similar paths. Years after she had healed, she and her husband wanted to start a family of their own. She desperately wanted to carry a child. Her oncologist told her that the oncologist team had sat down to discuss her case and the conclusion was this: If she tried to conceive and carry a baby through IVF treatment without a doubt this would cause her to get cancer again. They strongly advised her not to do this. After she shared that story with me, my heart just sank. Because I was lost in the system and there was no doctor telling me STOP! DO NOT DO THIS YOU’LL GET CANCER…AGAIN!! On the contrary, I had what I believe now, a very negligent doctor encouraging me to do it, thus the third cancer.