She just never thought she’d be in a position, at age 31, to have the option taken away. The odds of her having an aggressive form of breast cancer were the equivalent of “picking up the wrong pebble on a beach.”
Christina graduated 10 years ago from the University of Texas at Austin where she majored in PR and business, completing an astounding six internships, including one at the Governor’s office. The bright, young professional has worked in public affairs, in-house marketing and project management with companies like Dell, Charles Schwab and Apple.
She travels frequently and attends music festivals around the country. It was during a post-SXSW camping trip that Christina received the results from a breast biopsy she had initiated after finding a lump.
“When you get the news that it’s cancer, it’s a bit like standing in the kitchen and the floor drops out from under you. My brain was having a hard time understanding; it’s completely illogical.”
Because her new insurance was not yet in place when she found the lump, she turned to Planned Parenthood. They provided diagnostic services and referred Christina for a mammogram (provided by a grant from Komen Austin) and then a biopsy. The non-profit was also instrumental in connecting Christina with community resources and a plan for moving forward.
She chose Texas Oncology. Initial testing revealed that she had aggressive breast cancer and would need to undergo chemotherapy.
Christina’s doctors had explained how chemotherapy shuts down the ovaries, and that sometimes periods stop and don’t start up again. “I wanted to do what I could to preserve my fertility,” said Christina.
She called her sister-in-law who had worked for a cryobank and learned that medical advances now make it possible to freeze eggs, not just embryos. As a single woman, this was the ideal option for fertility preservation before cancer treatment.
“I went to Texas Fertility Center and didn’t even feel the need to shop around to look for a different doctor,” says Christina. “I really liked Dr. Burger and nurse Jaime Burkott right away.”
She says they were both sympathetic and businesslike, eager to get the ball rolling for her.
“With a cancer diagnosis, you don’t know what you don’t know,” she says. “Dr. Burger and Jaime pointed out what I needed — what was best for me — so I didn’t have to worry as much.”
With testing and ovarian stimulation underway, egg retrieval was initially set to take place on a Saturday in April, the same day as her youngest brother’s wedding in another city. Dr. Burger rearranged the schedule and pushed the in-office procedure to a Sunday.
At her last ultrasound, her team estimated they’d retrieve 10-12 eggs. “That seemed to be a healthy harvest,” laughs Christina. “You worry that maybe you didn’t do everything right with the shots and medications. When I found out they got 14, I was very pleased. I definitely had a feeling of relief and pride — good job, ovaries!”
She says it was very important to have reassurances and a “pretty decent back-up plan.”
Her breast cancer treatment continued, and two weeks after finishing 20 weeks of chemotherapy, Christina left for India for a yoga retreat.
“I am grateful for Austin’s community resources for breast cancer support. I’m grateful that Dr. Burger donated her services. It’s an enormous amount of gratitude that I have never experienced before. Dr. Burger made the path that much easier for me to walk.”
It is a long journey, and that is frustrating for this active young woman who loves to work, travel, run, play soccer and spend time around Austin. She still has radiation and breast reconstruction ahead, and compares her experience to a half marathon, a 13.1 mile race.
“I’m at mile 10 and feeling pretty good about that.”
If you have recently been diagnosed with cancer, or would like more information on fertility preservation, please contact our Austin fertility center for an expedited appointment.