Yesterday, I had my long awaited appointment with UCH’s Reproduction Unit. Prior to the appointment, I did not expect to get any firm outcomes or absolutes; this turned out to be the case. As I said to the doctors, it is something that I expect now from in all aspects of my treatment. No absolutes and no guarantees.
First off, I was once again was impressed with the service provided by UCH. My appointment was multidisciplinary, with four doctors attending. One from the Haematology Department to explain the impact of my treatment and three from the Reproduction Unit. Actually, I think two of them were there for training, but at least it made me feel like I was having a serious appointment rather than one to placate the 28 year old single girl suffering from cancer.
I would just like to confirm that I did not fall asleep in the waiting area prior to my appointment in a Velcade Moment (yesterday was predominantly made up of Velcade induced sleep, hence me blogging now and not yesterday).
At this juncture, I have all but reconciled myself to the fact that I will be infertile once my treatment has concluded. I like to think that this is realistic rather than pessimistic. There are too many variables and the odds are firmly stacked against me and my ovaries.
Treatment vs. Babies
My only option at the moment is to continue with my treatment. As much as I want to safeguard my childbearing future and bank those eggs, my health is paramount and there is no time to freeze my eggs. No time. There is not an anticipated break in my treatment either, which would allow the Medically Trained People to collect them at a later date. The annoying thing, and actually I am glad I did not know this until yesterday, is that my current treatment is unlikely to affect my fertility. The chemotherapy drug I am on does not pose a great risk. If they change my chemotherapy? Well, then that may or may not have a negative impact. The principal of my trial, if successful, would buy me time to fertilise my eggs, providing I had a complete response and did not require a stem cell transplant at the end of it. Realistically, this is not going to happen either, and I will require a transplant. If I come off the trial next week, I will definitely require a transplant.
I am told there are no firm statistics, but given the amount of chemotherapy and radiotherapy required for a transplant, either your own or a donor, the chances of being fertile at the end of it is 5-10%. For the donor stem cell, there statistically more chance of me dying during the procedure than me being able to have biological children after it. That is one scary statistic.
But my health is paramount. It is a horrible situation to be in, but I want to live. That is my goal and if I succeed, I can find a way to have babies afterwards. Do you want to give me one? I promise not to make it obese.
It is not all doomed. Again, there is no guarantee that this will work, but the Medically Trained People can give me a drug that temporarily shuts down my ovaries, with the hope that it fools the chemotherapy into not attacking them. The odds of this working are slim and there are side effects with the drug, but as I explained to the doctors, I am willing to try anything, if it gives me a glimmer of hope that my eggs will be saved. I have yet to Google the drug, but the side effects are essentially those experienced by ladies going through the menopause. Hot flushes and a dry vagina. A dry, tattooed vagina. This I can cope with. Apart from my tattoo, it’s only temporary. The drug also thins your bones, but I have Myeloma, so….
I am not sure when I will start receiving this injection, but I will ensure that my haematology doctors liaise with the reproduction doctors about any change in my treatment. More drugs, but I can see what this one can achieve, and I think it is worth it. I want children that much.
I had to ask the question whether I would physically able to carry a foetus full term, and again, they don’t know. Nobody knows what state my bones will be in the end of this. I just have to sit tight and wait. Tick, tock, tick, tock, your biological clock.
Not being able to have children is an emotional subject for me. You may ask if it is so important, why I had not cracked on and popped a few out already. Well, I hadn’t. It was not how my life was structured and I did not anticipate getting cancer, let alone a cancer that is such a bastard. I thought I had loads of time. Single ladies, go out and freeze your eggs now! It’ll be like having a pension. A little bit of extra security.
As it is such an emotive issue for me, I could feel the tears come during the appointment. I fiddled with my bag and took notes, but then the headache started and my voice started to break… So what did I do? I started to hysterically laugh. Hysterically laugh about my sister. My sister was considering doing a sponsored parachute jump, to which I said she could not. There is too much riding on her. Her stem cell, her eggs, her. The haemolotologist agreed. I think they may have thought I was a little mad. The laughing was ridiculous and was accompanied by me saying on repeat “we’ll just wait and see”. I think I held it together quite nicely. I left the appointment room, walked down the corridor, stepped into the lift and burst out crying. I then left the building, walked to the main reception, booked my travel, purchased a packet of prawn cocktail crisps and cried some more. I cried because I have to wait and nobody can tell me what is going to happen. But then, I knew this already. Then Middlesborough texted, at just the right time, and she reminded me that my health is paramount and I realised that it is. At the moment, surviving is all important and anything on top of that is a bonus.
And thus, I will sit tight and wait. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.