Meet Anna and Marlon Kashani. In January of 2014 Anna, 29 years old, engaged to Marlon, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The Vancouver couple were devastated of course. But they were even more shocked to hear that treatment had to start immediately. Anna’s family history of breast cancer meant specialists wanted to begin aggressive treatment right away. The situation was urgent. There was no talk of fertility preservation, or what might happen, until Anna brought it up.
“The cancer clinic told us we would never have kids,” Anna said recently in Vancouver.
“We weren’t satisfied with that answer. We did some research. We got a second opinion. The second opinion was that we could quickly take the time to do this.”
Anna works with children. She is an ABA therapist. She knew always that she wanted to have children. Marlon, a personal trainer and aspiring blogger felt the same way. They wanted a family. So they requested a second opinion regarding her course of treatment. It was good that they did. Now the couple, who have since become husband and wife, have options to build a family as soon as she is given a clean bill of health, which in this case means that she will be able to carry a child eventually because she froze her eggs.
I met Anna and Marlon at an egg freezing information event hosted by Genesis Fertility Centre in Vancouver recently. The topic of egg freezing has been in the news on and off lately as a result of high profile 40ish stars such as Sophia Vergara who openly have spoken about the desire to have a child and their intention to freeze their eggs. At the height of her career, Vergara, a Modern Family TV show star, might not be married, but she is proactively thinking about her future. The star has made headlines talking about egg freezing. And just recently both high tech companies Apple and Facebook made egg freezing buzz worthy when the companies declared intention to help fund the procedure for female employees (up to a cost of $20,000). The subject raised some eyebrows, but egg freezing is no longer an experimental procedure in fertility and it seems like the logical next frontier for fertility discussions, social discussions and even demographic trends.
Egg freezing actually began as a treatment for cancer patients. And yet oddly many cancer specialists don’t really discuss fertility options for patients at time of diagnosis. Radiation and chemotherapy take a brutal toll on the body and eggs and sperm are damaged by the treatment. Natural conception is not likely after cancer treatment. As egg freezing techniques have evolved some women are also choosing to have elective egg freezing, prolonging their ability to conceive at a later stage in life.
“I feel like the majority of people after cancer might accept that the doctors say you won’t have children. People accept that. We did not take no for an answer,” said Anna.
The second opinion led Marlon and Anna to Genesis Fertility Centre. They took out 20 eggs and now the couple have seven embryos waiting for transfer at a time in the future when she is able to do that physically. Anna is clear that this extra step of taking care to preserve fertility helped her get through the rigorous cancer treatment. Anna was also very involved in asking he right questions all the way through treatment. She knew that estrogen fed cancers could respond differently depending on what fertility drugs were used. She made certain that the fertility portion of her journey was working in harmony with the cancer treatment.
“The comfort of knowing I had eggs preserved helped me emotionally.”
As for the cost, Anna and Marlon would not have been able to manage this amazing feat of proactive fertility health care without Anna’s cousin. Anna’s cousin, is as close as a sister, she said. Her cousin is the one who set up a Facebook page and a crowd funding site and she very quickly raised the money necessary for freezing eggs. There was also some help from Fertile Future. They raised $14,000. Egg freezing is not inexpensive. For more information about egg freezing you can read Part 1: Seven Facts about Egg Freezing.
“I always wanted to have a family. When this hit I felt like oh my gosh it’s too late. The fundraiser really helped us.”
For others diagnosed and wondering what to do both about the cancer treatment and the future of their fertility, Anna advises: “Don’t accept the status quo.”
Anna has been recuperating quickly and has done a host of complementary therapies that have helped her to feel better. She is still faces breast reconstruction. There is a chance the couple could still conceive naturally. But this is their “insurance policy” she says.
Egg freezing is offered at many fertility clinics. Genesis Fertility Centre is one of those clinics in Vancouver. I attended their event recently so that I could write about egg freezing.
There is one more part to come in this series.
Part 1. Seven Facts About Egg Freezing
Part 2: Today Anna and Marlon’s story.
Part 3: Heather..