This young breast cancer patient saved her fertility before the onset of chemotherapy treatment
Faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, Morgan Rees saved her fertility by freezing her eggs before beginning chemotherapy.
Morgan Rees has never met a challenge she couldn’t overcome. But she remembers the day clearly when she would face the biggest challenge of her young life so far: September 5, 2020.
Three days earlier, Morgan was on cloud nine as she was beginning a new chapter in her life as a Marines Corps recruit. She was 24-years-old, had just signed the papers to enlist and was awaiting further orders to begin boot camp. Not one to shy away from a challenge and uber competitive, Morgan chose the Marine Corps because it is the hardest branch of the military to get into plus it has the hardest boot camp to complete. As an avid Cross-Fit competitor and athlete, the Marine Corps would give her the opportunity to stay active and feed her competitiveness.
The military would also teach her valuable skills and lead into a career that didn’t require a college education. Undeterred by the Marines requirement of needing college credits, Morgan, who only had her GED, completed these credits in a year and a half, a feat only 2% of potential recruits complete. The Marines also had family ties for her: her grandfather was a pilot in the Marines and her cousin, who grew up next door and is like a brother to her, is currently a Marines helicopter pilot.
But the memory of September 5, 2020 is still crystal clear. That day, Morgan found a lump in her breast after feeling unusually sore following a Cross-Fit workout. Alarmed, she immediately contacted her gynecologist who sent her for an ultrasound at a local breast center. After scanning her for over an hour, Morgan just knew it wasn’t good news. The breast doctor told her it was a greater than 95% chance that the diagnosis was correct.
Faced with this devastating news, Morgan’s first thought was about her Marine’s enlistment. “Believe it or not, I went immediately to the recruitment office to tell my recruiter what was happening and ask how that would affect my enlistment,” remembers Morgan. “They knew before my parents!”
Egg freezing can preserve fertility often damaged during chemotherapy
At her first appointment with her oncologist, Morgan brought up the option of freezing her eggs before cancer treatment, a procedure she had just heard about through a friend. Since chemotherapy and other forms of cancer treatment can often damage the ovaries or other reproductive tissue, many women of child-bearing age can choose to freeze eggs or other tissue before starting treatment. Egg freezing, in particular, cryopreserves a woman’s eggs to use when she is ready to build a family.
“I was adopted,” says Morgan, “So when I first heard that cancer treatment could harm my future ability to have children, I thought ‘well, I can just adopt’. But, then I decided I didn’t want to limit my options. What if this really disappointed my future partner? Or, what if by the time I was ready for a family I really wanted to feel what it’s like to be pregnant with my own child?”
Her oncologist agreed with Morgan’s desire to preserve her fertility and her options and referred her to Dr. John Storment at Fertility Answers to discuss egg freezing. For young cancer patients, egg freezing is crucial to do before chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or radiation that could harm reproductive organs. Of course, time is of the utmost, and Morgan was fast-tracked in as a Fertility Answers patient so that she could get this crucial part done before cancer treatment started.
Morgan feels egg freezing has given her piece of mind and options for later
Egg freezing is similar to the first part of in vitro fertilization, where the ovaries are stimulated for about 2 weeks with medication to produce several mature egg follicles. In an outpatient surgical procedure, these follicles are aspirated to retrieve the mature eggs and then the eggs are quickly cryopreserved. Morgan’s egg retrieval happened on November 2, 2020, exactly 2 months after her formal enlistment in the Marines. The procedure resulted in eight eggs cryopreserved. Two days later, she started chemotherapy.
“I call them my ‘maybe babies’!” says Morgan of the eight eggs she has frozen. In the year since her egg retrieval and freezing procedure, Morgan has since finished chemotherapy, had a double mastectomy, and breast reconstruction. She is currently finishing hormone therapy infusions and letting her body heal from all the surgeries as she awaits the day that she can finally fulfill her dream of enlisting in the Marines.
“Preserving my fertility through egg freezing gave me peace of mind,” says Morgan. “Since my breast cancer is hormone positive, when the time comes I’ll have to really think about which way is best for me to have children. But, for right now, I’m really thankful that I have options.”