A different direction: motherhood after breast cancer

Shari was 27 and well on the road to realising her dreams. Recently engaged, she and fiancé Travis were nearing completion of building a new home, complete with nursery for the children both of them wanted to add to their lives.

Life was motoring along smoothly until the discovery of a lump in her breast led to a radically different direction for the young couple.

‘At first I assumed it was just a cyst, but after an initial consultation with my GP, he referred me to a breast surgeon. That led to a biopsy and the news I had returned positive for stage one hormone receptive positive breast cancer. It’s fair to say the news rocked our world,’ said Shari.

Unfortunately, the next roadblock did not help improve the young couple’s outlook.

‘We had a meeting with an oncologist who brought up the issue of fertility. It was the first time I learned that my breast cancer treatment could affect my dreams of being a mother.

‘I had heard words like in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), egg freezing and sperm donors, but to be forced into thinking about these options was difficult given the uncertainty.’

Shari turned to BCNA for trusted advice and spent time on the Online Network to reassure herself.

Shari was referred to fertility specialist Kate Stern, who discussed the various options available to the young couple. Egg freezing was not an option, given Shari was already booked in for chemotherapy. Kate suggested ovarian suppression, using Zoladex.

‘As part of my plan, I knew that following chemotherapy I would be on tamoxifen, for around five years and wouldn’t be able to fall pregnant. I also knew there were no guarantees I would still be fertile at the end of my treatment.

‘It was challenging, but Kate explained the process to me in detail, which helped enormously. Five years was a long time to wait for results, but I felt comfortable I was making an informed decision that was the best option for me at the time.’

Four years later, Shari was having her annual review her oncologist, Michelle, when she was advised a new study into tamoxifen was recommending a 10-year hiatus before trying for a baby.

‘It clearly wasn’t the news I was expecting to hear. I thought I was near the end of my wait, and suddenly I was contemplating having another five years to go.’

At that point, her oncologist advised she would approve an immediate break in my medication regime to give Shari the opportunity to have a baby.

After trying for six months to fall pregnant naturally, Shari and Travis met with Kate and Michelle to consider IVF.

‘From there, things moved quickly. There were lots of appointments, lots of scans and, most importantly, support from the medical team.

Doctors retrieved three eggs from the first IVF cycle. That resulted in the formation of one good embryo and the birth of Shari’s daughter, Kaia.

Two years later, the couple approached Michelle to discuss another break from tamoxifen to try for a second child. Michelle agreed, and the couple prepared to ready for another round of IVF when they received the surprising – but welcome – news Shari had fallen pregnant naturally. Later that year, Shari, Travis and Kaia welcomed little Kobe into their home.

Shari, Kaia and Kobe

Shari, Kaia and Kobe

‘It’s hard to remember that dreadful day when our lives were turned upside down and our plans put into turmoil. But now, our lives are exactly where we wanted them to be. We have a happy marriage, two beautiful children, and most importantly, my health.’

For more information on fertility and breast cancer, visit the My Journey online tool.

Issue 86
Autumn 2020