About 70% of women affected by Breast Cancer are estrogen receptive and are placed on the drug Tamoxifen after their treatment regimen is completed. Therefore, the big disclaimer from physicians that place patients on this drug is: “Don’t become pregnant while taking Tamoxifen.”
My cancer was quite the surprise. My partner, now husband, and I had tried for four months to get pregnant. Every month when the pregnancy test came back with one line instead of two, I was devastated. After all- the immense amount of effort to become pregnant took a lot of time and energy both physically and psychologically. March of 2013 brought a negative pregnancy test and a bizarre lump that was discovered in my left breast.
Breast Cancer was the newest term added to my verbal repertoire within a week of discovering my lump. Eventually, lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and the dreaded Tamoxifen were all added to the repertoire as well. Our plans to have a child were not only stopped dead in their tracks, but the chance of having a child after being exposed to chemotherapy was questionable at best.
In the interim, I frantically froze embryos, but was already being told that I probably would need a surrogate, as I would never be able to bear a child due to cancer reoccurrence risk, or the absolute need to be on Tamoxifen for 10 years.
Time began to move by, and the thought of having a child slowly started to fade away. I reluctantly began taking Tamoxifen. On New Years Day, 2014, I decided to take a pregnancy test after feeling some strange symptoms. This pregnancy test was blatant: it didn’t showcase two lines where one might have been faded a bit and you were apprehensive of the result. It literally said “Pregnant.”
Nine months later, I gave birth to my first child- Kiran Michael. He was not only healthy and beautiful, but I was still cancer free and able to breastfeed a child I thought I would never have. Tamoxifen had not damaged any part of my child regardless of the fact that it had been in my system at the time of conception.
Now, I wouldn’t encourage others that are taking Tamoxifen to try and get pregnant while on it, because every case is probably different and it is a potentially damaging drug to a fetus. What I am trying to relay to others; however, is that it is possible to have a baby after breast cancer and remain healthy. Many young women face this situation when they are young and still of child bearing age. I want to give others hope that having a child after breast cancer is still a possibility. It is your choice and there are risks involved, but I believe doing your research, looking at your case, and making decisions based on what you want your quality of life to be is what really matters. If you take a risk, know the potential consequences. Given those consequences, know what you may do if faced with a roadblock along the way. After I told my oncologist I was not going to terminate my pregnancy, she simply stated, “that is fine, however, if you are diagnosed with cancer at anytime during your pregnancy, we will have to treat it.” I agreed to this.
It is my hope in conveying this story, that women that are faced with breast cancer explore their options and figure out how they may be able to accomplish their hopes and dreams in life. If your providers are not aware of what you want, you may be passing up opportunities to live your life the way that you want to. Cancer should not be an end all to what you want in life, but it is our job to help pave that path, but also realize that there may be some bumps along the way. We should all be aware of our health and receive the care that we need in order to have longevity. Most importantly, we should all be aware of the choices that we may have and advocate for ourselves without feeling trapped by the potential for disease.