[MUSIC PLAYING] I got a phone call from my doctor telling me to come into the office to review and to discuss my current test results and my heart immediately sank. We sat down, and I remember hearing cancer and hysterectomy. And everything else was like — like I'm underwater.
Throughout the process, our end goal was, you know, to be able to have at least one more child together. And I came across a study that was done, and it had to do with a radical trachelectomy.
So I went for my second opinion. And I randomly asked the doctor if he knew anything about a procedure called a radical trachelectomy. He referred me to Dr. Lengyel at the University of Chicago Medicine. And from there, that's where our journey began.
We at the University of Chicago Medicine offer new methods to preserve fertility and allow her to carry a baby in the future. I went to London to learn another procedure, which is called a radical vaginal trachelectomy, where you remove the cervix and the surrounding tissue while preserving the uterus.
I think that's when it became real for me. And leaving, like, my husband that morning and knowing that our two kids are at home, it was scary.
I just waited for what seemed like eternity until Dr. Lengyel came through the door. And he already had a smile on his face when he came through the door. And he's like, you know, everything went perfect. I mean, absolutely the way I wanted it to and what a relief.
Afterwards, it was definitely me relying on family and just kind of letting go and saying, OK, I do need help. I can't do it all.
We had a great — Jen's parents were a huge support, taking the kids if we needed them to so Jen could rest or I could continue to work. When we found out she was pregnant with Rocco, it was pretty amazing. And everything went as smooth as it did during her pregnancy. It was quite amazing as well, too.
It was a very joyous moment for her and for us as the treating physicians that the surgery was successful, and she was able to become pregnant and successfully carry a baby to term. It was a very emotional moment for her and for me, because we talk about the potential success, but to see and hold the success in your arms is a big difference.
Rocco is a happy, healthy four-year-old, who is rambunctious, very energetic. He is in preschool.
We're very happy. I mean, we weren't a family before him. We know that. I mean, without him, I mean, he's changed our perspective on miracles and all those types of things. That's for sure. [MUSIC PLAYING]
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer, you’re likely experiencing a mix of emotions. One of them might be anxiety over how cancer and cancer treatment may affect your ability to have children.
If you’re a cancer survivor, you may also be dealing with fertility challenges, such as ovarian failure or decreased sperm production. Regardless of where you are in your cancer journey, our University of Chicago Medicine oncofertility experts offer streamlined consultations and advanced options to address your reproductive health concerns and help you become a parent.
What is oncofertility?
Oncofertility brings together experts in cancer treatment and reproductive health. Having a child after cancer can be safe — and new treatments make it possible.
At UChicago Medicine, we understand that our patients may have fertility concerns before and after cancer treatment. Our oncofertility experts also know that when dealing with cancer, patients follow strict protocols with treatment at specific time frames. In many cases, there’s only a brief opportunity to deal with fertility issues before cancer treatment must begin. This is why our specialists are ready to intervene quickly to help you preserve your fertility and begin treatment with peace of mind.
Preserving Fertility Before & During Cancer Treatment
At UChicago Medicine, our specialists provide coordinated care for people seeking to preserve their fertility. Some, like embryo and egg banking, may be timely options before starting cancer treatment.
In recent years, experts have developed better ways to freeze or "bank" eggs for future use. Early outcomes suggest that egg banking may have similar success as embryo banking.
Embryo banking is the most established form of fertility preservation. It is often recommended for women who have a male partner or who are willing to use donor sperm.
If a person has early stage gynecologic cancers, treatment may not require removal of your reproductive organs. If radiation of the abdomen or pelvis is planned, it may be possible at the time of surgery to move the ovaries out of the way of the radiation area.
If a person has borderline ovarian tumors — also called tumors of low malignant potential (LMP) — the surgeon may remove one ovary, leaving the other ovary and the uterus in tact.
UChicago Medicine is one of a small number of health care institutions offering radical vaginal trachelectomy, a treatment procedure for early cervical cancer. Trachelectomy involves removal of the cervix only — not the entire uterus. Our surgeons are experts in this unique procedure. A trachelectomy can preserve a woman’s ability to become pregnant, although assistance from a fertility specialist may be needed to conceive.
Becoming a Parent After Cancer Treatment
If you have survived cancer and are considering having a child, our team can help you decide if now is the right time, depending on your health and the type of cancer treatment you received. Our UChicago Medicine oncofertility specialists can help you understand your options and work together to coordinate your care.
Egg donation is a very effective option if you have ovarian failure with cancer treatment. Our specialists work with donor agencies or egg banks as needed.
For some people, a donated embryo may be their best option to have a child. UChicago Medicine specialists have experience working with donor agencies in these situations.
A gestational carrier or gestational surrogate carries a pregnancy for someone else. This may be an option if you or your partner are unable to carry a pregnancy after cancer therapy. UChicago Medicine specialists understand the importance of coordination when it comes to the multiple parties involved.
If you are a self-paying patient, ask about free medication and lowering your costs.