Today we are celebrating World Breast Cancer Day, the most frequent cancer among western women. Estrella, Susana and Irene are three positive examples of how it is possible to overcome breast cancer, three heroines who share their story of courage in beating cancer.
“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, straight away I thought: I’m dying. I was told by the radiologist from the Breast Unit of my hospital. And the moment she uttered those three fateful words, they went through me like daggers. Breast cancer… At that moment I stopped listening. She kept talking, but my world stopped dead.
My parents, my sister and even some colleagues were with me. But time stopped around me and I just thought: Cancer, I’m dying I felt dizzy, tears fell uncontrollably down my cheeks, and the same thought tormented me”, explained Susana, a 42-year-old woman from Toledo who came face to face with cancer 7 years ago.
Susana, Irene and Estrella took part in our free programme for cancer patients “Becoming a Mother after Cancer” and vitrified their eggs before fighting their diseases.
Susana’s case was surrounded by coincidences. At the age of 36, and with no children, she fought with perseverance to keep that wild card that would allow her to fulfil her desire to become a mother.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, it took me much longer to channel the issue of motherhood through the unit that treated me. The radiologist, surgeon, plastic surgeon and oncologist outlined the steps to follow to stop my cancer as soon as possible. But the option of being a mother in the future was not considered at any time. And almost by chance, all of a sudden, all my warning systems switched on: And what if I want to be a mother? I am me, first person, a woman, and for me it was important to be a mother. I was lucky enough to meet a person who had done their Biology internship at IVI, and they told me about the options you offered for women like me, with a hard battle to face and a desire that I refused to give up”, she added.
Information about fertility preservation options to keep hopes of future motherhood alive is something that all areas involved in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer should cover and make available to patients. On many occasions, this is the motivation that fills patients with the strength and energy to face their cancer with the desire to become mothers in the future. You can be a mother after cancer.
“I was sure that I wanted to preserve my eggs, so I insisted to my oncologist and told him that I needed to do it. And if he couldn’t give me the time I needed to vitrify my eggs, to let me die, I just wanted to preserve my eggs. I wanted to fight for that wild card, for my independence and freedom to decide whether I wanted to be a mother, and science gave me the opportunity to do so. I had to take advantage of it”, she said.
And as a result of Susana’s perseverance, 7 years later, Manuel, her 4-month-old baby, arrived in her life.
“When the ban is lift and your oncologist gives you a clear path, it is very moving. You enter IVI with a different colour, you experience everything intensely, and when it becomes a reality it is like magic. Modern facilities, the best technology, state-of-the-art in many things, but the care is really good, personal, involved in every step of the process. I was a person to them, not a number as you might think with a company of this size. IVI gave me back the hope to see that there is a social project that its whole staff experiences and shares. It has a team of professionals backing it up, who take care of you with kindness; it is a sure bet. And the fear is there, but when you see the ultrasound, you see how it grows and how it evolves, the fear disappears. Motherhood is an energy that transcends, a power that can tackle and fight against everything. And when the baby comes, they wake up in the morning and smile at you and look at you as if they were looking at God, you are moved and everything makes sense. Something that you have fought for for so long and that you have right there in your arms. The greatest gift”, she concluded.
Susana, Irene and Estrella are part of the more than 800 women who have preserved their fertility at IVI, diagnosed with breast cancer, within the free programme offered for cancer patients. Thanks to this programme, 29 babies have already been born after their mothers overcame their disease, and 7 more are on the way to join them.
Can egg vitrification have an effect on cancer evolution?
Women diagnosed with cancer who come to the clinic to learn about fertility preservation have 3 main concerns:
The first is always linked to time, on this obstacle course that makes them run against the clock. And the second, in relation to the complications that may be associated with vitrification treatment and its possible negative influence on the course of the cancer or subsequent treatment to cure it.
For these two concerns the answer is simple: Neither time nor complications are a problem nowadays.
At all times a collaborative attitude is maintained with the oncologist through protocols perfectly designed for each patient. This is backed by the data currently published on the follow-up of patients who have undergone a fertility preservation process, and they show that ovarian stimulation to obtain eggs to vitrify does not affect the evolution of cancer.
And, lastly, the eternal question: What are the chances of it working?
The results are always related to the age at which the eggs are frozen. The younger you are, the more chances of success.
A few words of hope
“Be strong, fight, you are not alone. Keep going because you have many chances”.
“Never stop smiling or think that you will not beat this. Don’t stop fighting, your life is waiting for you. This is only a parenthesis and you should not give up any future plans”.
“Cry today. But from tomorrow accept it for now and move forward. It is a bad year, but you will get through it”.
These are the words that Estrella, Susana and Irene dedicate to those women who, like them at the time, have to fight the battle against that giant called cancer.
We are with you all, today and always.