Dena's Fertility Story

My fertility specialist uses the stories of other women of reproductive age who are facing cancer related infertility to help women make decisions about their treatment options.

This is my story that I offered  for him to use:


Three days after my 29 birthday I got a biopsy. I knew, even before the results came back that it would be bad. My surgeon could see it in the ultrasound, my radiologist in the mammogram and I could feel it when I touched the cauliflower under my skin that wasn’t there 3 months earlier. It was cancer, and it was “aggressive”. What a perfect word to describe the tornado that just came out of nowhere and swept through my awesome life.

As I write this, I still have a bunch more tests before I know exactly what my treatment options will be but, because of my age, the size of the tumor and what they know about my cancer, there will definitely be chemo and a few surgeries and radiation.

I work out like a loon. I eat fresh, organic farmers market vegetables. Things like this are not supposed to happen to people like me.



My mom keeps telling me over and over again that she wishes it was her instead of me. I don't. I am young, strong and otherwise healthy. I am going to come out of this just fine. I wrote a letter for my mom to give to her friends because she has a hard time talking about what's happening right now. And I can't blame her, her healthy 29 year old daughter has breast cancer. Where do you find the words to talk about something like that? My mom and I are best friends.


I was lying on a table with an IV in my arm, holding my mom’s hand, waiting for one of what would eventually be 3 biopsies, when my surgeon told me that I needed to get in touch with UCSF Fertility Preservation right away. WHAT? I thought. Totally overwhelmed. I didn’t even know chemo/radiation could affect my fertility.

"OMG, I might never get to have a baby."  was the chorus in my head that I fell asleep to when they knocked me out for the surgical biopsy. I woke up hollow, feeling knocked down in a way that even the cancer diagnosis hadn’t done to me.
These kinds of thoughts can crush your spirit, and if there is one thing every single doctor, survivor and expert I've talked to has told me, it's that you need your spirit.

The only thing I had ever really wanted to do was be a mom. I thought that the thought of losing my hair would be my undoing, but the idea of never being pregnant was more than I could handle. I fell apart.

Quality of life is a doctor term, but what it refers to are things like a decent hair prosthetic (wig), and preserving the ability to have the life and the dreams that you wanted before you got the sucker punch diagnosis that just rocked your world.

It's so hard to ask for help, but I have always, always dreamed of having a baby. Actually a couple of babies. And, really, can you blame me? When you have a mom as amazing as mine, motherhood seems like the best job ever.

But I knew two things right away - none of the other survivor chicks I had talked to had done this and it was going to be expensive. I was scared. There was a solution out there but it might not be in my reach.

Then I found Doctor Rosen. And I found a scholarship from the Sharing Hope foundation (don’t worry, if you didn’t already find it, Audra’s got a copy of it in her packet).

When I went in to see him  the first time all I could think was - please, please, please let there be enough time. Please, please, please, let me be able to afford this. Don’t let cancer take something else away from me.

When Doctor Rosen shared the stories of other women with me and I read the story about the girl who didn’t know that this option was available, and then found herself without options afterwards, I thought I would vomit. I literally felt so bad it made me feel ill. Then, when I read the story about the woman who had frozen her eggs, who said she couldn’t wait to take her chance, well, I started sobbing. Happy, cathartic tears. This would be me. I would be ok. I still had a chance.

I am so lucky in so many ways. I have an amazing community of friends who raised the money to pay for my treatment and my quality of life expenses. Even though I am 29, I do monthly breast checks so I found the tumor early, and I found Dr. Rosen with enough time to freeze my eggs. 


When I go to sleep at night can still dream about having a big pregnant belly and the smell of that powder soft baby head. Cancer can’t take that away from me.