It’s been two weeks since my final chemotherapy session, and I gotta say, it still feels good to say that!
By: Robin Harry
It’s been two weeks since my final chemotherapy session, and I gotta say, it still feels good to say that! Now that chemo is done though, all the other things that I have to do are slowly creeping up. Just today I spoke briefly on the phone to my fertility specialist. A little back story is in order here…
I was officially diagnosed with lymphoma on June 29 of this year. It was a Wednesday afternoon just after 5pm when I got the news from my medical oncologist. Along with all the other information he gave me that day, among them was a brief sentence or two about the possible effects of chemotherapy on my fertility as a young woman. He set up an appointment for me to see a fertility doctor the next day.
So on June 30, I went to see the specialist. I had to have an ultrasound and bloodwork before seeing the doctor. He was really nice, but I was grossly unprepared for the appointment and what they were about to tell me. After taking a full medical and social history, menstrual cycle dates etc, he basically told me that the kind of chemo that I was about to have, the C part of RCHOP, was pretty notorious for making women infertile. If I wanted any hope of having children in life, I would have to go for in vitro fertilization, which cost an arm and a leg, required hormone therapy, surgery, and a 3 week delay on starting my chemo. And the best part? Because of the timing of my cycle, I had to decide right then.
Honestly, of all the appointments and doctors I’ve seen since I had cancer, that was the roughest. I think I was still overwhelmed from finding out that I had cancer, I was still recovering from the mediastinoscopy biopsy – so being told that I had no time to make this decision really threw me for a loop. I was totally flustered and a bit defensive, so I think he took pity on me and gave me a day to think it over. But still – one day to make a decision that was going to affect the rest of my life. One day to decide how badly I wanted to be a mother, if at all. Most women have YEARS to decide that – I had a day.
After venting to a friend and a lot of prayer, I ultimately took my oncologist’s advice and didn’t delay the chemotherapy – I already had pericarditis and he advised that there could be other cardiac complications. So my doctor suggested a compromise – Lupron injections – a drug that would essentially throw me into menopause and hopefully “trick” the chemo into not recognizing my ova as rapidly dividing cells. (And give me hot flashes). They did warn me that it’s not a very reliable method though – there was a 50/50 shot of it working.
So today, I asked the fertility doctor when I would know if the Lupron worked, when the menopause would end (if it was indeed temporary), and when the hot flashes would stop. Well – while the hot flashes will likely end within a couple months, I won’t know for sure if the chemo killed my ovaries for another 5 months. So now I play the waiting game, really.
That’s one of the concerns of being such a young person with cancer. I’m guessing it’s a bit easier for me to grasp, being single and not having someone else to disappoint with news of infertility. But I can’t imagine what it must be like for other young adult cancer patients with broken dreams of parenthood. That’s something older patients never have to worry about. As for me…time will tell, I guess…