1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and we all know someone whose life has been rocked by cancer. Chemo therapy can destroy a woman’s reproductive system and diminish her ability to have children.
Laurie Shaw has breast cancer so she did a procedure called egg preservation to freeze her eggs so that she can have kids when she is ready. She shared her story with News 2 for other women see the option exists.
To women who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis, the fear of losing their ability to have children and considering the procedure, Laurie says—”Why not? You take chances every day. Take a chance on yourself.”
She says she will not let her aggressive type of breast cancer define her future. “That’s what brought me to—ok, what do I need to do here?…These are huge decisions that are going to change my life,” Laurie said.
Laurie wants to be an ambassador for egg preservation. “It was something that I had never thought about, honestly. Now, I have this little speed bump, where it says, what can we do? You still want your family, but right now you need to take care of yourself so your body can handle a family—so that you can live to see a family.”
The consideration of egg preservation is what brought her to Coastal Fertility Specialists and Dr. John Schnorr.
“Breast cancer, unfortunately, is very common. It affects about 10% of all women,” says Dr. Schnorr. “We know that breast cancer treatments now days, have the highest survival rates they have ever had—Survival rates greater than 90% and so now we need to focus on the side effects of treatment and try to lower those side effects.”
One of the greatest side effects for reproductive age women is damage to the number and quality of eggs in their ovaries. Dr. Schnorr recommends talking about the options before chemo therapy.”If you come to me after you’ve had the chemo therapy,” says Dr. Schnorr, “unfortunately, the damage is done and we are limited in what we can offer.
The option Laurie chose was egg freezing. “It’s a technology we’ve been working on for about 20-30 years in our field,” explained Dr. Schnorr. “We just now got comfortable with some newer techniques so that about 2-3 years ago, we had refined it in a way that pregnancy rates are much better with egg freezing.”
He cautions women and points out the importance of going to a clinic that has extensive experience with egg freezing. “Not all centers have the technical expertise to be good at egg freezing,” Dr. Schnorr points out. “There are certain certifications you get as a center to be good at egg freezing. Make sure you go to a certified center that is good at egg freezing.”
Dr. Schnorr also talked about some of the technicalities with the procedure.
“Eggs generally don’t age anymore once they’re frozen,” explains Dr. Schnorr. “The uterus doesn’t age when a woman’s getting older so when you come back to use your embryo 3, 5, 10 years from now, pregnancy rates would be the same as if you were using it today—which is an amazing technology.”
Laurie dealt with having to tell her family she had cancer, losing her hair and has a mastectomy scheduled, but she chooses to be positive. “I call cancer my little project,” Laurie says. “Because once I get done with this project, I move to the next one. It helped me learn more about myself, more about my family and what I can endure.”
She is thankful she does not have to worry about her ability to have a family. “This is not a denial, this is just a delay. I think you can always find something positive in anything, no matter how dim and dark it might look and there’s a lot of negativity out in the world itself, so why not be that positive point.”
The cost for the procedure is between $8-$9 thousand dollars when it is all said and done. Some insurance plans cover fertility procedures; however, Laurie’s did not. Her supportive family and friends stepped up to help her pay.