I have shared several stories on Little Miss Kate about the challenges that face infertile couples to create a family. The road to parenthood can have many bumps along the way, but one that you never expect is cancer and infertility. I can’t even imagine what it is like to be told you have cancer, and that because if it you will lose the ability to conceive. However that is just what happened to one member of my family.
I’m a typical 32 year-old woman: I am healthy, I work as an RN, and I got married 6 months ago and am ready to start a family with my new husband. There is just one small thing standing in the way – last year, I received the shocking news that I had breast cancer. After a myriad of scans, tests, biopsies, a surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, I can now say I am cancer-free and it is unlikely the cancer will return. Another thing that will likely not return is my fertility.Receiving the diagnosis of cancer was devastating, but hearing that the life-saving treatment I was to receive would most likely make me infertile was even more so. I have lived my entire life knowing I wanted to have children; I babysat my way through high school and university, and I have dedicated my career to pediatric nursing. This situation just wasn’t fair.
Then came the words “Fertility Preservation”. My husband (then fiancé) and I were thankfully given the immediate option to freeze embryos before I started treatment. We didn’t even need to know what physical or financial stressors would ensue, it was something we knew we had to do. We wouldn’t let my cancer strip us of the right to have children of our own.
So began the process of freezing embryos, in hopes we will be able to have a successful pregnancy in a few years using the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process. I had no problem injecting myself with hormones, getting ultrasounds and bloodwork every morning, or even going through the painful egg retrieval process. The most difficult part was enduring the stress of coming up with the money to afford it all. I was supporting my fiancé, a full-time student, was saving for our wedding, and I had not quite finished paying off my student loans. We were in no financial place to afford what we so desperately wanted. And it wasn’t as though we had time to save for it. After exhausting my health insurance benefits for fertility costs, and even with the small “compassionate discount” offered by the clinic, our final out-of-pocket expense was in the tens of thousands. I cried when speaking to the customer service lady at my insurance company, I cried when speaking to the clinic’s billing secretary, and I cried to myself. How were we going to deal with this financial burden, in addition to all the other stress we were suffering?
In the end, we were lucky my parents were able to help us out financially, but not everyone in our situation is this fortunate. And it doesn’t have to be this way. Fertility is an undeniably significant component of cancer treatment for people of childbearing age, and should not be an option for only those who can afford it. Let’s work with our government to create an Ontario in which the ability to have children is a right, not a luxury.
Now is the time for you to get involved and show your support for infertile couples of all types. Follow @OHIP4IVF on Twitter or the hashtag #OHIP4IVF to support government funding for IVF for infertile couples. Visit Conceivable Dreams for more information and support for those struggling with infertility.
Disclosure: I have been compensated for this blog post by Conceivable Dreams . However, all opinions expressed on this blog are my own and not influenced in any way.