Stories about breast cancer that can inspire and inform

Blog  |  Newsroom

Growing a Family Following Breast Cancer Treatment Presents Challenges

After completing treatment for breast cancer twice by the age of 30, Adiba Barney and her husband Kris decided to start a family via in vitro fertilization (IVF). But before she could begin, she was required to get a mammogram. That’s when she heard the shocking news: her breast cancer was back and this time it had spread to her spine, meaning her breast cancer was stage IV – metastatic.  Her doctors said she had about three to five years to live. Their dream of starting a family felt impossible.

Despite that initial prognosis, an innovative treatment using radiation therapy and a new drug is holding the breast cancer at bay and has extended her life expectancy.  And, thanks to the help of a surrogate, Adiba and Kris are getting to experience the joy of parenthood, welcoming a baby boy. “Each day I spend with Kris and Alex gives me strength and a will to live that I have never felt before,” said Adiba.

Breast cancer treatment presents a variety of challenges, from hair loss to potential heart damage and a range of side-effects in between.  For young women who are diagnosed, getting the treatment that may save their life may cost them a chance at becoming a mother.

Breast cancers in younger women are more likely to be fast-growing, higher grade, and hormone receptor negative. Each of these factors makes breast cancer more aggressive and more likely to need chemotherapy, which can negatively impact fertility as it can damage the ovaries and bring about early menopause.

Many young women who want to preserve the option of having a family, opt to freeze their eggs or embryos.  Yet for some, they are not able to carry the child themselves and must seek out a willing surrogate or gestational carrier.

“Even though I had already been touched by the sadness and devastation breast cancer brings, the disease itself really wasn’t on my personal radar. I really didn’t think it would ever happen to me,” noted Tammy Myers, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, at the age of 33.

While Tammy and her husband Jordan had one child, they have long dreamed of growing their family and providing a baby brother or sister for their daughter Corryn.  Yet her treatment, which included a partial hysterectomy to reduce her risk of recurrence, made it impossible to conceive and carry a second child on her own.  Fortunately, they were able to harvest her eggs and freeze embryos before her treatment.

Years of surgeries and ongoing medical expenses have forced them to put off the process while they work to pay down their medical debt.  However, they were recently selected to receive a special grant that will help them expand their family if they are able to identify a woman willing to be a gestational carrier. “For the first time in a very long time, we are full of future.” The only catch is that they need to identify a willing woman quickly or they will lose their grant, a search that is complicated by Michigan laws that prevent payment for the service.  For that reason, Tammy and her husband are not using a surrogacy agency.  After making their need known to their friends and online community, they are hopeful they will find the right person to help grow their family.  You can read more about Tammy’s journey and search for a gestational carrier here.

Here are steps women can take to help preserve fertility.  Susan G. Komen encourages women to talk to their health care provider if they are considering having children.