Cancer treatment can affect fertility, but Amanda wanted a shot at motherhood.
Menopause usually begins between the ages of 45 to 55, but young women undergoing cancer treatment may see their fertility timeline moved up years or even decades.
Amanda Rice, founder and CEO of the non-profit organization Chick Mission, was not very familiar with fertility preservation before her breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 37—but that quickly changed.
“The original treatment plan included chemotherapy which would potentially put me into [early] menopause,” Rice says.
Chemotherapy, while often effective at fighting cancer, can damage a woman’s eggs and potentially cause permanent damage to the reproductive system.
Hoping to keep open the possibility of becoming a biological mother one day, Rice researched fertility doctors and reached out to friends for advice. But unlike most women seeking out fertility options, Rice’s upcoming cancer treatment put her on a tighter schedule.
“In most cases, you do have time, you have weeks of time where you could undergo fertility preservation [before cancer treatment],” she says.
Over the course of four years, Rice was diagnosed with cancer three times— first breast cancer, then melanoma, and then breast cancer again. She also underwent egg retrieval and egg freezing three times. Like her cancer journey, her fertility treatments had their ups and downs.
“I did proceed with one round of egg freezing [after my first diagnosis], but then I only got three eggs,” Rice says. “When I got the second breast cancer diagnosis, I didn't have as much time [to freeze my eggs]... they wanted to start chemotherapy right away.”
According to her oncologist, it would be Rice’s last chance to preserve her eggs before potential irreversible damage.
“[I] went in to retrieve, and when I woke up they told me that I had no viable eggs,” says Rice. “How did it look after I battled [cancer] and won three times and then couldn't go on to be a mother?”
Rice was no stranger to speaking up and trusting her gut instinct. It was because she did so that her breast cancer was discovered the first time after doctors dismissed her initial concerns. Read more about how Rice advocated for herself during her cancer journey.
“Even though my oncologist didn't want me to do a third round, I had to advocate for myself and tell him, ‘This is what my life will look like after cancer,’” she says. “‘We can take two more weeks,’—and he finally agreed.”
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The original treatment plan included chemotherapy,
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which would potentially put me into menopause.
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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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In most cases, you do have time.
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You have weeks of time where you could
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undergo fertility preservation.
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I did ask the hospital for some names of practices
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that I should reach out to,
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and they did give me a list.
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I also reached out to some friends who I knew
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had had some fertility challenges,
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and I looked up, you know, the success rates
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and which practices had the most highly regarded doctors.
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It's a little bit of internet stalking, and then you start calling.
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I did proceed with one round of egg freezing at that point,
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but then I only got three eggs.
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When I got the second breast cancer diagnosis,
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I didn't have as much time.
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You know, they wanted to start chemotherapy right away.
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This was my last chance, according to my oncologist.
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Went into retrieve, and when I woke up,
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they told me that I had no viable eggs.
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I get a call from the hospital where I retrieve my eggs,
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thinking it was the reproductive endocrinologist,
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and it actually was the billing department.
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That was another moment that just made me feel like a number.
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Unfortunately for that person that called me,
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they did not get a very warm and friendly conversation
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on the other side.
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Unless I hear from this doctor, I am not paying you a dime.
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About a week and a half later, he called me,
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which was not a very comfortable conversation either.
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He had really no explanation and was not apologetic.
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Even though they were the best and brightest,
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the actual care for the cancer patients was very poor.
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How did it look after I battled and won three times,
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and then couldn't go on to be a mother?
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Those were all the things that I was thinking,
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and so I went back to my oncologist and begged him
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to give me two more weeks.
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Even though my oncologist didn't want me to do a third round,
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I had to advocate for myself and tell him
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this is what my life will look like after cancer.
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We can take two more weeks.
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And he finally agreed.
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How Cancer and Cancer Treatment Can Affect Fertility in Females. American Cancer Society. (Accessed on May 13, 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)