Alice Crisci is the founder of Fertile Action, an author, speaker and patient advocate.
I was 31-years-old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My life was amazing – I owned my first home in Redondo Beach, CA, owned a burgeoning business which had me travelling twice a month to the amazing New York City, and I had a live-in boyfriend who integrated his two cats with my two dogs. To say that receiving a cancer diagnosis feels shocking is an understatement. That three-minute phone call with my diagnosing physician altered the course of my life forever. Quite frankly five years later, I am still not at peace with all the alterations.
One change that occurred more devastating than the cancer diagnosis itself was facing the risk of infertility from all the cancer treatment. I thought I had time for that chapter of my life. I thought I could knock out cancer treatment within six months and go back to my normal life. I did not know I would receive some form of treatment for 3 ½ years and that cancer would devastate me emotionally, financially and physically.
I was one of the lucky ones who had the chance to preserve my fertility prior to a double mastectomy. I was also lucky that American Express raised the limit on my credit card so I could pay for the expensive treatment. I walked out of the fertility clinic’s office having paid in full knowing I would start a nonprofit to ensure other women would not have to put such expenses on credit cards.
We launched Fertile Action four days before my double mastectomy and within a couple of years started a reduced and free fertility preservation program in multiple states across the country. We became active in legislation that would help men and women access fertility preservation services through their insurance.
We still wanted to do more. Some of the women we met in the early days were ready to have their babies post cancer treatment but couldn’t afford in vitro fertilization, egg donation or surrogacy; some of the necessary assisted reproduction techniques many cancer survivors require to achieve parenthood. Many of these women, like me, drained retirement incomes and savings accounts to pay for cancer related expenses or cover living expenses while out of work.
That’s why Fertile Action launched the Parenthood After Cancer Treatment (PACT) Grant Program. We teamed with heart-centered providers like Agency for Solutions, Acacio Fertility, HRC Fertility, Peas in a Pod Egg Donor Agency, the Infertility Center of St. Louis, The Surrogacy Law Center, the International Fertility Law Group and psychologist Andrea Bryman, who all donate their services to our grant recipients. We are able to reduce the cost of these services by 55n %-90%.5yi
Patients and survivors can visit http://www.fertileaction.org/patient-services/for more information.
Had I not had embryos frozen when I was diagnosed, I wouldn’t be 12 weeks pregnant with my first child now, a miracle I didn’t know would ever happen. That is one life alteration I am immeasurably happy and grateful about.