When a woman is diagnosed with cancer, the immediate focus is on recovery. Oncologists don’t always tell their patients that for 40 to 80 percent of women of childbearing age, chemotherapy leads to infertility.
One Las Vegas fertility clinic (which also has eight other clinics across the nation) is working with cancer patients to help them have children later in life. Sher Institute for Reproductive Medicine’s Fertility Rescue Program will freeze the eggs of cancer patients for free, saving them upward of $10,000. Trina Mills, 30, says the program is an opportunity for women like herself who face losing the option of having children. Two years ago, Mills, who lives in San Diego, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a disease that could lead to leukemia. She needed a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy. Mills recalls going into self-preservation mode after hearing her diagnosis. Would her already frail body lose more weight? What about her hair? Her mom, on the other hand, was thinking further into the future. Would her daughter be able to have children after chemo?
Mills wanted kids one day, but it was about the furthest thing from her mind at that moment. She also wasn’t in a relationship at the time.
She began researching fertility clinics, looking into two in San Diego. But when she learned that they could only freeze an embryo, she wasn’t interested. She wanted to freeze her eggs and determine the father later.
Her brother, living in Las Vegas, told her about Sher Institute. They could freeze her eggs, and do a genetic test to determine which were genetically normal, thus increasing the likelihood of viability. This was before Sher’s Fertility Rescue Program began, but Mills was able to find help through Fertile Hope, a nonprofit organization founded by Lance Armstrong. Within three weeks of her diagnosis, Dr. Geoffrey Sher was able to harvest 11 viable eggs from her, which now sit in a freezer waiting to be used when Mills is ready. The program, which just began this year, has two patients. Sher plans on helping as many women as he can.
“We know they’ve got cancer that needs to be treated, and this is an opportunity to have some hope when they come out,” he says. “They can still have a family.”
Today Mills is healthy and feels great. She says she’s not dating anyone seriously and isn’t ready for kids, but is comforted to know she can do so on her own terms. “I knew it was done and I could take a deep breath and go forward and know that whatever I was going to have to go through, at least I knew I could still have the option to have kids.”