Written by Head for the Cure Ambassador and Brain Cancer Survivor (and “Thriver”) Jenny Williams
Being diagnosed with brain cancer at any age is tough, but when you’re in your mid-twenties it interrupts your life. It was just before my 26th birthday when I had a malignant tumor partially removed from my brain. It was at a time in my life when I was single and having kids wasn’t really on the forefront of my mind. Like others my age, I was more concerned with keeping my job, progressing my career and having fun with friends and dating.
When I had to start chemotherapy over a year later, I was asked if I wanted to freeze my eggs beforehand. I looked into it — at the time, the success rate was extremely low, and it wasn’t covered by insurance. This was back before the Affordable Care Act and pre-existing conditions were still a thing. I also had just lost my mother, who was my biggest support when I was diagnosed. I just wasn’t in a place mentally to put myself through the stress of freezing eggs, knowing I would go into debt for a fraction-of-a-percent success rate.
5 Years Later
I had gone through 24 rounds of Temodar chemotherapy, a second surgery and radiation — and now I was faced with starting a different chemotherapy that had harsher side effects. Again, I was asked about freezing my eggs, but I thought, “Wait, I’ve already done so much chemotherapy that there’s no way my eggs are any good.” With that in mind, I turned it down a second time and started the three-drug chemo cocktail. Right around that time, I met a pretty stellar guy, and we started dating. He took me to my chemo infusion appointments, and I soon realized how lucky I was to find such a guy.
Now we’re about to celebrate our fifth anniversary, and I’ve thought about how amazing it would be to have a child together. Unfortunately, my body didn’t agree, and I was officially declared post-menopausal last year at age 36. I talked to my neurologist about my regrets of not freezing my eggs that second time, but she assured me that she felt I made the right decision. She wanted to be sure the tumor didn’t progress while I was going through the egg-freezing process, which is definitely something to consider and talk about with your doctor.
Fertility is such a fickle thing for us ladies — we put our bodies through so much to have a baby, and men certainly have it easier. If I could give advice to other young women dealing with the same indecisiveness that I went through with egg freezing, it would be this: If you are able and your doctor is okay with it, you should freeze your eggs prior to treatment. There are financial assistance programs out there to help. And if you’re not sure you’re even going to have kids, I still recommend freezing them, so that you can make that decision to have or not have kids later on. Technology is much better nowadays, and it’s continuing to get even better.
And as for me – I’m lucky to have a supportive partner throughout it all, which I know some people don’t have. I’ve accepted that I can be motherly in other ways — to my adorable niece, or to newly-diagnosed brain cancer patients that need support. And perhaps one day I will have an egg donor, but if not, I’m still thankful for all the support I have and proud of how far I’ve come.