Her treatment would affect her fertility, so she sought a second opinion.
“When you are facing something a little bit off with your body, if there’s a lump, if there’s nipple discharge, if there’s something that just doesn’t sit right, trust your instincts,” says Amanda Rice, who founded the non-profit organization Chick Mission.
Rice, who has been diagnosed with cancer three separate times before age 40, founded Chick Mission after her insurance company denied coverage for her fertility preservation. Although she could cover the cost on her own, she knew that wasn’t an option for all women. Chick Mission works to educate women undergoing cancer treatment about their preservation options, as well as improve financial accessibility for these procedures.
Advocacy has always seemed to be ingrained in Rice’s DNA. She’s had to be an advocate for herself from the moment her cancer journey started.
“The first time I realized something was off was on vacation, and I noticed I had a little bit of a brown spot on my bikini top,” says Rice. “I went to my ob/gyn during my annual visit and mentioned I was seeing this nipple discharge.”
Her ob/gyn originally dismissed this concern, but Rice pushed back until the doctor wrote her a prescription for a mammogram. After a mammogram, four different biopsies, and three months of various tests, she finally heard the answer: “You have cancer.”
“I didn’t know that much about cancer, so the word freaked me out a lot and made me incredibly upset,” says Rice. “I didn’t even know what the difference between chemo and radiation was at that point.”
Learning About Fertility
The doctors at the first hospital recommended chemotherapy for her. While chemotherapy can be an effective treatment against cancer, some types of chemotherapy can affect fertility, so it may pose some difficult questions for women—especially younger women like Rice.
As the doctors told her about how chemotherapy could affect both the quantity and quality of her eggs, she thought to herself, “If I want to have any chance of being a biological mother one day, I need to take action.”
For women who are concerned about their fertility, sometimes a different type of chemotherapy is a better option, or it might be better to use a different type of therapy altogether. This is what Rice did: She sought a second opinion from another doctor, who ended up recommending long-term drug therapy instead.
Each time Rice received a cancer diagnosis, she advocated for herself to get the time to undergo fertility treatments—three times in total. She says this takes some patience because it may feel like you need to start cancer treatment immediately.
“I think I would go back and tell my former self, ‘Take the time, ask for help, take a moment, and take a breath,’” says Rice. Today, she hopes Chick Mission can provide that support for other women going through similar struggles, so that they can make informed decisions—before their treatment makes the decision for them.
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(gentle piano music)
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When you are facing something a little bit off with your body,
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if there's a lump, if there's nipple discharge,
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if there's something that just doesn't sit right, trust your instincts.
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You need to fight on behalf of your own,
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your own body and your own health.
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(gentle piano music)
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There were months leading up to an actual diagnosis.
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The first time I realized something was off was on vacation
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and I noticed I had a little bit of a brown spot on my bikini top.
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So I went to my ob/gyn during my annual visit
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and mentioned, you know, I was seeing this nipple discharge
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and was pretty immediately dismissed as, "breasts are funny,"
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"you're getting older," and that just didn't sit with me.
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I did push back
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and she wrote me a prescription for a mammogram.
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When I went in for my mammogram,
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there were a lot of suspicious things that happened.
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But you don't get the cancer diagnosis at that point either.
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I went through four different biopsies.
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Finally, after about three months of various tests,
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they said, "You have cancer."
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Was I gonna live?
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You know, where was I in the stages?
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I didn't know that much about cancer,
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so the word freaked me out a lot and made me incredibly upset.
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So when I was first diagnosed, a lot of it had to do
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with trial by fire:
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learning a new language,
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researching doctors that could help you.
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I didn't even know what the difference between chemo
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and radiation was at that point.
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At the first hospital, they wanted to proceed with chemo.
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And ultimately when I was told that it would not only affect
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the quantity of eggs, but the quality of my eggs,
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that I need to pay attention to this.
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If I want to have any chance of being a biological mother
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one day, I need to take action.
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Pursue the right treatment plans,
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sometimes that means getting a second opinion,
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which also takes time.
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When I got the second opinion, it was long-term drug therapy,
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I think I would go back and tell my former self:
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take the time, ask for help, take a moment, and take a breath,
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and find a way to keep yourself busy during this waiting game,
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the better off you'll be.
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How cancer and cancer treatment can affect fertility in females. Atlanta, GA; American Cancer Society. (Accessed on April 20, 2020 at https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/fertility-and-sexual-side-effects/fertility-and-women-with-cancer/how-cancer-treatments-affect-fertility.html.)