Breast cancer patients preserving fertility by freezing their eggs
Often, the real worries in life, we rarely see coming.
“She said, ‘unfortunately, the biopsy we found it’s cancerous. You have breast cancer,'” said Mary Woodka. “I just remember going back in the conference room I was in, grabbing the trash can thinking I was going to vomit.”
For Mary Woodka, that moment came on August 7, when she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. The 39-year-old was shocked; she has no family history of the disease and lives a relatively healthy lifestyle.
“[The doctor] was like ‘do you want kids?’ And [then came] the waterworks. I was, ‘yes, I want kids,'” Woodka said.
Woodka is one of a growing number of women with breast cancer, electing to freeze their eggs. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells, but it can also wipe out a woman’s fertility, too. Now, thanks to advancements in Science, doctors no longer have to wait for a woman’s natural menstrual cycle to stimulate the ovaries to release eggs. The process can now be done in as little as two weeks.
“Many times, I’m seeing patients immediately after they’re diagnosed. We don’t have a large window of time to pursue fertility treatment, and so we have to triage them very quickly and get them into treatment very very quickly,” said Dr. Laxmi Kondapalli, a physician at Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine.
Woodka’s case was no exception. Just three weeks after her cancer diagnosis, she went through with the fertility treatment to freeze her eggs. Doctors were able to retrieve 48 mature eggs during the procedure.
Today, she is undergoing chemotherapy at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. That will be followed by radiation, a double mastectomy, and some painful realizations.
“I will never breastfeed. I will never feel my boobs again; I’m kind of bald. What is that going to look like as a 40-year-old single woman coming out on the other end of this and having to think about starting to date again or have children? At what point is it really too late?” Woodka said. “This is my glimmer of hope and my happy throughout this. To think I have 48 little eggs down in Lone Tree in a freezer somewhere. That’s happy.”