“We may not know if we want children, we may not know if we will be able to have children, but we should be able to have the future option to make that choice.”
In my experience, most women don’t speak openly about egg freezing. When we do talk about it, it is typically in the context of “buying ourselves time” to have children later in life – usually because we are working on our careers or we are single and don’t want the pressure that naturally comes with getting older. You know, our biological clocks that start ticking louder and louder as the years pass by.
When faced with the decision of whether to freeze our eggs, we debate about whether we want children. I am advocating to change this narrative and speak more openly about the process. We may not know if we want children, we may not know if we will be able to have children, but we should be able to have the future option to make that choice. I don’t know if I want to have children but I do know that if I didn’t freeze my eggs in 2019, I wouldn’t still have the option.
Her Egg Freezing Journey
When I first considered freezing my eggs, in my early 30’s, my gynecologist did not recommend it. Ignoring her, I consulted with several doctors and fertility clinics, recommended by friends who had recently completed their own cycles. I disliked them all. Each office felt like a fertility factory where I was just a number. At every appointment, I learned more about the financial aspect than the actual retrieval process. It didn’t feel like they cared about the outcome or me as an individual – they stuck to their formulas, showed me charts and tried to get me to commit by signing paperwork on the spot.
Going into my egg freezing journey, I did not understand what the process entailed or how it works. I didn’t know what defined a successful retrieval, what a follicle was or what AMH meant. I was hoping that these consultations would shed some light on the process but all they did was make me feel overwhelmed and discouraged.
At this point, I thought egg freezing wasn’t for me. Then I found Extend Fertility and thought there was no harm in scheduling one more consultation. After my first appointment at Extend, I immediately knew that if I decided to move forward with an egg retrieval, this is where it would be. They explained the process, how I’ll feel (before, during and after), what the possible outcomes could be. We talked extensively about whether this was right for me and when the right time would be. I didn’t feel like a number nor did I feel like they were being pushy – I knew I was in very good hands.
I decided to sleep on it, for about two years. I went back for another consultation at Extend right before my 37th birthday. My AMH level decreased significantly and I knew now was the time. The financial commitment and self injections were intimidating, but I knew, I would regret not moving forward with it. I was single, thought I wanted children later in life – this was my “safety net.” Buy myself some time.
In July of 2019 I had a successful retrieval and a fairly easy cycle. The staff at Extend went out of their way to ensure I was comfortable. They were reachable 24/7 to answer my questions (I had a lot) and I was always quickly in and out for my blood work and ultrasounds.
I was happy with the outcome and for me, this closed a fertility chapter. I now had my back up plan. My safety net that bought me a few more years to focus on my career before thinking about settling down and starting a family. That’s what it’s all about, right?
The fertility chapter was recently re-opened in December 2021 when I heard the three words that nobody ever expects to to hear: “You have cancer”
Her Post Egg Freezing Journey
While in surgery to remove a large, complex ovarian cyst, they discovered a tumor in my appendix. My appendix, right ovary and right Fallopian tube were removed. A week later, the biopsies confirmed the tumor was a rare, stage 4, Appendix Cancer called LAMN. I would need cytoreductive surgery (CRS) and treatment called HIPEC (Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy) which would bathe my abdominal cavity with a highly concentrated, heated chemotherapy (42 degrees C/108 degrees F) for 90 minutes. If the disease invaded my uterus and left ovary, both would need to be removed during surgery.
While consulting with multiple oncologists to put together my team and treatment plan, the first question every doctor asked was, “have you frozen your eggs?” – They all offered me the option to do another cycle before this surgery, not every cancer patient has this luxury.
At this time, my body was sore and healing from surgery, preparing for CRS and HIPEC – the last thing I could think about doing was an egg retrieval. Many women go into emergency surgeries and lose their reproductive organs without having the time beforehand to do a retrieval. Some have to start cancer treatment immediately and bypass an egg retrieval. Others are not eligible because the hormones are a threat to their type of cancer.
I reconnected with Extend to discuss my options, would it be feasible to have a baby with the eggs I have in storage or should I try another cycle, which I really didn’t want to do. They talked me through several scenarios and in the end, I was comfortable with my decision of not doing a second cycle before CRS/HIPEC.
I cannot tell you how many times during the past 7 months I said the words, “I am so glad I already froze my eggs” – it took a huge burden off my shoulders, one less thing to worry about while making critical decisions for my future and treatment plan. After my diagnosis, my life changed in an instant. The rug was ripped out from under me and there were many life changing decisions to make – I felt empowered and ahead of the game by already having this task completed. And to be honest, at the age of 39, with cancer and one ovary remaining, I might not have had a successful retrieval.
My CRS/HIPEC was completed on March 9, 2022. All visible disease was removed and hopefully, the HIPEC removed any remaining on a cellular level. I was extremely lucky, they were able to save my uterus and left ovary, however, I still went into menopause because of the HIPEC. I am no longer producing eggs and will need to use what I froze if I decide to have a baby in the future.
My back up, safety net, ended up not being about buying myself more time while working on my career and dating – it was a crucial piece to my cancer treatment plan. If I didn’t freeze my eggs back in 2019, I now, most likely, would not have the option to have children in the future.
Reflecting on the Past and Future
Thanks to Extend Fertility and the decision they helped me make in 2019, I still have the option to have children. (Yes, I know there are other options – such as donor eggs and possibly adoption, which is not easy with a cancer diagnosis – There is absolutely nothing wrong with either option)
My mind has changed. I don’t recommend egg freezing as a way to buy time. I recommend it to give your future self the choice of having a child. You don’t have to decide if you want to have a child when you freeze your eggs, you are deciding to give your future self the option to make that decision.
We don’t talk enough about how your life could change in an instant and may not not have the opportunity to complete a cycle, we only talk about “getting older” and how that affects our fertility. It is important that we begin speaking more openly to each other about fertility and egg freezing, women supporting women to ensure we do what is best for our bodies and our futures. As women, in these situations, we sometimes have to choose between our health or the possibility to carry a baby – with proper planning, it might not have to be a choice.
I am grateful every day for the experience I had at Extend Fertility and for making the decision to move forward with freezing my eggs in 2019. If you have considered it or are on the fence, I say, go for it. You can’t turn back time and I promise, you will not regret it.