From Stephanie Waxman
Where are my frozen eggs?
July 20, 2013
I can hardly believe that last July I was sitting across from a fertility doctor trying to decide whether to delay my cancer treatments in order to preserve my fertility, since the toxic chemotherapy and full body radiation would kill my ovaries and all of my eggs – and any chance of having my own children someday.
July was a painful month, physically and emotionally. I received the same amount of hormones given to healthy women undergoing IVF over several months condensed into three weeks. I had to give myself multiple shots in the stomach each day and go to the doctor for an ultrasound every morning at 7am. The hormones sped up egg maturation, until they were ready to be extracted through a minor surgery.
My eggs are now in a cryogenic freezer somewhere – I picture a huge underground modern facility out in the middle of the desert, sort of Austin Powers-esque, with big stainless steel tubes surrounded by cold steam. But really I think they are in a mini dorm style Kenmore fridge in the hospital break room, next to some really old frozen lasagna. When I asked none of the UCSF nurses or doctors actually knew where the eggs are stored.
There are still many unknowns about whether I will be able to have my own children (I am the very first woman to freeze eggs while taking the chemotherapy pill that I was on so it is unknown what the impact will be), but I feel extremely lucky that I had the choice to undergo fertility preservation. Most cancer patients do not. My oncologist, a woman about my age with two young children, allowed me to postpone my more toxic chemotherapy so that I could have this treatment. That is something that many oncologists do not consider. It is also an incredibly expensive process that is not covered by insurance; so many patients cannot afford it. I have met several young women who have survived bone marrow transplants but now will never be able to have their own children.
Today marks three months until the Nike Women’s Marathon. I still cannot believe that there is a group of 60 people – all of you – training for this race and raising money to make sure blood cancer, and all of the related complications like fertility, become a thing of the past in the very near future.
You are all incredible and I think of your strength, selflessness, and compassion every day as I continue my training and think back on these milestones and how far I have come.