**** Warning: This post may be triggering.****
Again, THANK YOU all so much for all the love about our pregnancy announcement. Seriously means the world to us! This little baby is already loved so much. We are beyond excited to meet our Sweet Pea!
Before I share my process about how I got pregnant after breast cancer, I just want to share that this is my process. I’m aware that this may not be the case for everyone especially after hearing and knowing what other cancer survivors had to go through to get pregnant. In the grand scheme of things, Tre and I were pretty lucky on how our situation worked out. Because I know our journey to have a baby after cancer could easily have been much more difficult. My heart goes out to all the women and couples who are currently struggling to conceive.
As I mentioned earlier, this is my process of getting pregnant after cancer. If you are a cancer thriver/survivor reading this, then you know as well that no matter what the cancer diagnosis is (same or different), everyone’s experience is different. I would say the same goes when you want to get pregnant as well. The thing to keep in mind is that all the decisions made were made based on my cancer treatment plan, coordination with my doctors, and trusting our gut.
The Process Of Getting Pregnant After Cancer
I received lots of questions on how we conceived and overall the process. I am hoping in this blog post, I am able to clarify and answer those questions.
My Cancer Treatments
Several of you asked what my cancer treatments were and how far out I am from diagnosis and treatment. I go into more detail about my current treatment plans in this post. Therefore, I will not go into deep details about each chemo drug and cocktail regimen.
Overall, I did 6 rounds of neoadjuvant chemotherapy. My chemo cocktail is TCHP. Then I did 17 rounds of Herceptin, 6 rounds of Zometa, and did Zoladex shots every 3 months. After surgery, they added Aromasin to my treatment plan which I took daily. I went through all of this up until we decided we wanted to try to conceive naturally.
The decision to try to conceive a baby was made in January 2020. I started my cancer treatments in March 2016. Therefore, we were about 4 years out since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and a little less than 4 years since I started cancer treatments.
Decision To Conceive Naturally
Before I started my treatment plan, I went through the fertility preservation process. This was to ensure that I had options after I decide to take a break from cancer treatment. Since my treatment plan was aggressive, there was a risk that I might not be able to conceive naturally. Going through the fertility preservation process, we were about to create frozen embryos.
Here are the options before we proceed:
- Conceive naturally
We were open to all of these options and we actually started researching and exploring what the process of each of these options was like. Deep down I always knew I wanted to try to conceive naturally. This was a decision we didn’t take lightly. But I knew in my heart that if we didn’t try to conceive naturally the first time around as our first option then I was afraid I might regret it later on. I also wanted to know what it is like to experience what most women would experience when having a baby. This might sound silly, but it does feel good for once to follow a more normal health/medical condition.
I also felt that at 32 years old, this is probably the best time to try to conceive the natural way. As we all know, age is not in a woman’s favor. Therefore, I didn’t want to exhaust all my options on the first attempt. We definitely want to have more kids in the future, and hopefully we can resort to IVF, surrogacy, or adoption later on if needed.
Looking back, I’m really glad we didn’t opt to do surrogacy. With the COVID-19 pandemic happening, I would be so stressed about the surrogate mother and wanting to make sure she doesn’t get exposed in order to protect my baby. Maybe that is just the control freak in me but I know I would lose a lot of sleep over it.
The Process of Getting Pregnant After Breast Cancer Treatment
So when we told my oncologist that we wanted to try to have a baby, she didn’t immediately take me off cancer treatments. As most of you know, there is a risk when getting off treatments i.e. cancer spreading. But she did feel confident about me taking a break and studies have shown cancer patients’ survival rates are much higher for those who continue to live their life plans and goals.
She immediately stopped my Zoladex shot, and the next step was to see if my reproductive system was working aka if I can get my period back. Having your period is a sign you can have a baby or your body is capable of making a baby. At this point, I hadn’t had my period for 4 years!
Switch To Tamoxifen
Instead of having me completely come off of treatment, my doctor switched me from Aromosin to Tamoxifen. That way I’m still fighting off cancer cells but they can find out if my reproductive system is working. I learned from that appointment that you can still get your period while taking Tamoxifen. I was ordered to only be on Tamoxifen for 3 months. My doctor said most women get their period back in 3 months.
Well, 3 months passed and no sign of my period. As I saw the number of pills diminish each day, I started to get super anxious and sad. I was worried that my body was permanently in menopause and started to really consider surrogacy and adoption. When I was done taking Tamoxifen for 3 months with no signs of having my period, my oncologist suggested I completely come clean from treatment. This meant no more drugs or treatments and hopefully my body could come back to normal.
Completely Off Of Cancer Treatment
After a month without any drugs, WOW I felt amazing. I totally forgot what it feels like to truly feel myself. My energy came back (no more fatigue), no hot flashes, no joint pain, no odd ailments, and I dropped some of the extra weight I gained from treatment. But of course, no sign of my period, and I got more desperate.
Two more months went by, and I couldn’t help thinking I am permanently in menopause and conceiving my own baby is not in our future. Then one day, I was scheduled for an all day interview via Zoom (this was much more exhausting than an all day in-person interview). I even had to do a presentation! The entire time I felt so off. When I went for a quick bathroom break, of course, my period came back!!!!!!!!!!!
It was one of the happiest days of my life. I probably didn’t perform my best during that interview, but it was a sign of hope for Tre and I. At this point, it had been 6 months since we decided to have a baby and 3 months since we stopped Tamoxifen and went completely treatment-free.
Only 24 Months Break From Treatment
From then on, we knew time was not in our favor and we had to get started on making a baby haha. Overall, I was only given a 24 month break from treatment. This timeframe includes stopping treatment, conceiving a baby, and 9 months of carrying the baby. And there is a possibility that it might take several attempts. That’s not a lot of time.
Here is where we were lucky. After our first month of attempt, we got pregnant! I know this scenario doesn’t happen often especially in the cancer world. Pregnancy after cancer doesn’t happen this quickly. So we were pleasantly surprised. I swear so early on (as I mentioned in the last post), I already knew I was pregnant way before a pregnancy test could confirm it. I knew when I was around 2 weeks. It’s just that feeling ya know like when the fatigue came back (the last time I was fatigued was during treatments) and noticing subtle changes. I’ve really learned to listen and pay attention to my body ever since I was diagnosed with cancer. Every change can mean something.
Hope this helps understand what we went through. I know my situation can easily be different from others. So please don’t take this post as advice or a way for you to get a gage on timeline. It really does vary from person to person and treatment to treatment.