At Clue, we believe everyone deserves the right to make their own health decisions, free from judgment, misinformation, or shame, informed by personal choice and/or the guidance of a healthcare professional. This article is a personal story from a member of the Clue Community and reflects their individual experience and/or opinion at the time of writing. Your healthcare provider can give you advice on your specific needs and situation. For more on this topic from the Clue Science team, check out Egg Freezing 101.
You always hear life is full of the unexpected. But this last year has been more unexpected than most. And that’s putting it lightly.
After my egg retrieval, I had quite an exciting summer trip that included a once-in-a-lifetime solo hike up an erupting volcano in Iceland, my PhD graduation in England, traveling through Germany, and some big wins at work.
But around early October, I started having a strange set of abdominal symptoms (i.e. endless diarrhea and pretty bad stomach pain). A trip to the emergency room, a range of scans, and a biopsy later, it came back as renal cell carcinoma. In other words, kidney cancer.
I’m not exactly someone who would be considered “high-risk”. I’m 5’3, 108 lbs, fairly fit with solid deadlift form (and I’m often found swinging a kettlebell around). I rarely drink (maybe two or three drinks per month), I don’t smoke or eat red meat, blah blah blah—all the boring but healthy things we’re advised to do, I’ve been doing them.
And yet there it was—four months after my egg retrieval, and a week after I turned 31, I was sitting at the urologist’s office facing a diagnosis of kidney cancer. I was just the third patient under the age of 40 that my surgeon had ever treated for kidney cancer all of his years of practice.
Put your big-girl pants on
I’ve learned to take these things in my stride—not because I set out to, but because I had to. Growing up, a friend of mine’s dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and her mom became both the caretaker and sole breadwinner. Her thoughts on the situation? Sometimes you just have to put your big-girl pants on and keep on going. Decades later, that advice has stuck.
Surgery to remove the cancer was tough. I spent four days in the ICU. As a condition of release from the hospital ahead of the Christmas holidays, I agreed to do daily injections of blood thinners. As I mentioned in Part Two, I’m a serious needle-phobe. Fortunately, those egg stimulating injections during the egg freezing process had prepared me well. I injected at the same spot as I did for the hormonal treatments several months prior.
A friend of mine who had surgery to remove cancer 20 years ago gave me the advice that your ability to rebound is dependent on your fitness going into the operation. He was right. I bounced back from surgery pretty well. I was on a hike exactly two weeks after I left the hospital.
So, what are my hindsight reflections on my decision to freeze my eggs given everything that followed?
First, find the people who resonate with the goals and values you carry as a woman—and hold onto them. When I froze my eggs, there were two types of people around me. The first were the people I grew up with—mostly evangelicals—who shunned the idea on moral grounds.
My (rather conservative) family had mixed reactions—some felt it was inappropriate altogether, while others felt giving myself options was okay, but that it was a decision that should not be discussed.
The second group were my gang of friends—or my ‘village’ as I like to call them—from grad school, work, and adult life, who celebrated it fully and asked about my experience, so they could consider it too.
To freeze or not to freeze?
Cancer seemed to change people’s take on my decision to freeze my eggs. Suddenly, nearly everyone thought it was a good idea that I had done it. I didn’t really ask for their thoughts—most just volunteered them (eye roll).
My second realization? If it’s financially possible, I believe there are far more reasons to freeze than not to freeze. You don’t know if you’ll meet or stay with the person that you want to co-parent with during peak fertility years, your career may take an exciting turn and you won’t want to slow down yet, you may end up with some hell-ish health diagnosis that will shatter the very ground you stand on, you may find yourself infertile, or you may just not know.
And all of those are individually good reasons to freeze.
I figure at the rate of how the last year’s gone, I’ll want to watch my own health for a few years, let work take its course of adventure, do some more traveling. But if anything, this experience has made me sure I’ll freeze another batch of eggs in the next couple of years. Just in case.
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