Sandra’s story: my journey through breast cancer
I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer shortly after I turned 36. At the time, I was planning to start a family and had already looked into the possible treatments offered by the Agora. Once I was diagnosed, I had the choice of whether or not to have chemotherapy as it was found early. I chose chemotherapy because I believed it would give me the best chance of survival; and, as far as I was concerned, it did not make sense to get pregnant without first doing everything possible to ensure I would be around to bring up a child.
Before I started my chemotherapy treatment, I went along to the Agora and the Medical Director, Dr Carole Gilling-Smith, advised that I could proceed with a natural cycle, fertilise the egg, and freeze it. Due to having oestrogen receptor positive cancer – and only a few weeks left before my treatment was due to start – IVF was not an option.
My egg stayed frozen while I went through chemotherapy, radiotherapy and then went on to start 10 years of Tamoxifen (a hormonal therapy). After being on Tamoxifen for a couple of years, my oncologist gave me his blessing to stop my treatment and to try for a baby. I was by now nearly 40 and running out of time, even without the complications of chemotherapy treatment.
I stopped taking Tamoxifen and came back to the Agora. The team were amazing and agreed to implant my (frozen) embryo. However, the embryo did not survive when it was defrosted which was devastating. I then embarked on two rounds of IVF, both of which were also unsuccessful. At this point, Carole suggested that I could maybe use a donor egg, but I wasn’t ready to give up.
Mel, Carole and the team at the Agora were incredibly supportive. They gave me all the information I needed at every stage of my treatment so that I could always make an informed choice. It was a really difficult time, I was incredibly worried about my declining fertility, and was conscious that I needed to get back on Tamoxifen as soon as possible. I was determined to have another two attempts and, at this point, Carole suggested trying intrauterine insemination (IUI), a simpler process than IVF. Although, in many cases this type of treatment may not be as successful as IVF, in my case it worked first time.
I think the most challenging part of my journey was picking myself up when things didn’t work out. There were some difficult decisions along the way, but I had a lot of support from my partner and family. The Agora team were also incredibly supportive through all the heartache – but I now have Nieve who is absolutely amazing!
I just hope my story can give hope to other women faced with a similar situation to me. If you do decide to try for a baby I wish you every success.
For more information about the fertility preservation services we offer, please call us on 01273229410.