Looking Beyond Cancer Treatment
Emily Bennett Taylor: Living Her Dream of Being a Mom
Los Angeles, California
Throughout my treatment for stage IV lung cancer, the embryos that my husband and I had banked were a symbol of hope. They gave me the strength to get through the darkest days of treatment and I am so thankful to be a mom of two happy two-year-old girls.
My husband Miles and I were blindsided by my lung cancer diagnosis in June 2012; I was just 28. We couldn’t believe that the future we had dreamed of might be taken away from us. Having children was a huge part of the dream so I set my heart on preserving my fertility before starting treatment.
In the three weeks from the diagnosis to beginning chemotherapy, we underwent fertility treatment. The doctors harvested my eggs and after in vitro fertilization we had nine embryos that were frozen for future use.
The cancer treatments were extremely tough—numerous rounds of chemotherapy followed by a difficult surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy and 28 rounds of high-dose radiation—but they were successful. There has been no sign of cancer since I finished treatment more than five years ago.
Throughout treatment, I kept my focus on the future. Each day I would meditate, picturing scenes of a future with my husband and children: their first day of school, riding their bikes, celebrating their birthdays.
Two years after I completed the cancer treatment, we felt reasonably assured enough time had passed to start our family.
My doctors advised me that carrying and delivering a baby might be too much for my body. Fortunately, my high school track-and-field coach offered to be a surrogate. Our twin girls, Hope and Maggie, were born in April 2016.
The past two years have been a whirlwind but every day, I pinch myself. I am so lucky to be living my dream.
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Greg Aune: Twenty-Eight-Year Cancer Survivor, Proud Dad, and Survivorship Researcher
San Antonio, Texas
As a 28-year survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma, I have experienced many late effects of cancer treatment, including infertility. Thanks to my mom discussing sperm donation with my pediatric oncologist, today my wife and I are blessed to have four amazing children that were conceived with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in December 1989, when I was just 16. After radiation did not eliminate the cancer, my parents and I were told I needed chemotherapy.
I’m incredibly fortunate that my mom had the foresight to ask the doctor if it was worthwhile for me to bank sperm samples before my chemotherapy treatments began. Even though there were no facilities nearby, my doctor allowed us one week to explore opportunities for donation and banking.
With the help of family friends, my parents, located a facility in Seattle where I was able to bank four sperm samples. At the time, the doctors told us that current IVF methods were not very successful when previously frozen sperm was used to fertilize eggs. However, they foresaw scientific advancements enabling the use of frozen sperm to achieve viable pregnancies.
As predicted, technology did advance and our first cycle of IVF was successful when my wife became pregnant with twins. Noah and Emma were born in March 2003.
After two more rounds of IVF, my wife gave birth to our second set of twins, Elijah and Sophia, in April 2008.
Because of my Mom’s persistence and the work of countless scientists and physicians that have made technologies like IVF feasible for patients like me, my wife and I are blessed with four amazing children.
As a physician-scientist who cares for long-term pediatric cancer survivors, I see many patients who, unlike me, were not given the same opportunity to preserve their fertility. Because of my own experiences as a cancer patient and long-term survivor I have dedicated my scientific career to preclinical cancer survivorship research. Most importantly, I will always forcefully speak out on behalf of cancer survivors on the importance adjusting the culture of cancer care to focus on both survival and long-term quality of life.
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Laurie Trotman: Cherishing Every Moment with Her Son
Preserving my fertility before starting chemotherapy and radiotherapy gave me hope that there were better times ahead. Now I get to live those good times and I cherish every moment with my six-year-old son.
My diagnosis with stage IIB breast cancer in June 2008 changed my life. Not only did I have cancer, but I was also hit with the realization that I really wanted to have a baby one day. However, I was already 40, and my treatment plan not only included surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, but also five years of tamoxifen to lower my risk of the cancer returning. What chance did I stand of having a baby after all that was done?
I decided to explore the possibility of fertility preservation. After consulting a specialist, I had 14 viable eggs frozen and stored in the six weeks between having a lumpectomy and starting chemotherapy and radiation. Before the procedure, I remember the anesthesiologist telling me, “We’ll save your eggs for a better time.” His words resonated with me, and knowing that I had eggs frozen away was a ray of hope throughout chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
After lots of soul searching and deep conversations with my sister and a woman in a similar situation—a single, hard-working professional going through breast cancer treatment who had undergone fertility treatment—I decided to put aside my fears of the cancer recurring and go ahead with my plan to become a mom.
After about 18 months of tamoxifen, I took a break from the treatment to try in vitro fertilization of my frozen eggs with donor sperm.
The first attempt to get pregnant failed but the second was successful and I gave birth to my son, Tristan, on April 5, 2012.
Having Tristan is the most amazing thing that ever happened to me. Every day, I take time to remember how lucky I am to have him and to continue to be cancer free.
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