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Freezing my eggs after getting cancer at 26 gave me security about my fertility future

Freezing my eggs after getting cancer at 26 gave me security about my fertility future

3 min read

Fertility could be top of mind or on the back burner for now — but it has the power to impact everything. We’re sharing your stories to both celebrate and create space for the many ways we navigate our careers, relationships, and finances in relation to our reproductive health. If you have a story to share, get in touch.

26-year-old bird keeper Nora Arnold wasn’t sure if she wanted to have kids. But when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, she was face to face with the possibility of future infertility — so she decided to freeze her eggs.

I never really thought twice about my health or fertility, until I got diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in college at the end of 2016. I had put off getting a noticeable lump in my neck checked out — I was just so busy with school and summer internships. I ended up getting diagnosed with stage-four Lymphoma. When my doctors told me my chemotherapy could potentially lead to fertility hurdles down the road, my mom — who’s a medical professional — strongly urged me to get my eggs frozen before beginning cancer treatments.

At the time, I didn’t know if kids were in my future. Growing up, I had low self-esteem — I didn’t talk to any boys and didn’t really date. I always thought it’d be nice to have kids, but it never felt like a set thing. Because of all this, I probably wouldn’t have frozen my eggs if my mom hadn’t pushed me to consider it.

The egg freezing process was frustrating. I went to a fertility clinic by my house in North Carolina. They performed vaginal ultrasounds (not the most fun experience) and explained that I’d have to give myself nightly injections for three weeks. I had never had a problem giving blood or anything before, but these were difficult. My ovaries enlarged to the size of grapefruits: I could feel them as I was walking around or going up the stairs! But when I finally went in to get my eggs harvested, my doctor said it would be quick, and it was. My doctors expected to harvest 10 eggs, but got 33. After that, I went straight into chemo.

Plenty has been said about how hard cancer is, but I worked, attended classes, and hung out with friends when I was able to. The whole experience made me feel more in tune with my body. I now know what it feels like to not be healthy. When you get diagnosed with cancer, having it come back is a constant worry in the back of your mind. I’m an animal keeper at a zoo in Norfolk, Virginia, and it’s very labor intensive. I’m on my feet all day, shoveling and picking up hay. There’s also a lot of cleaning up after the animals, and feeding and training them. Sometimes, when I feel a little achy or have pain, I panic and think “It’s back.”

It’s reassuring to know that my eggs are in a freezer in North Carolina. It's weird, I jokingly call them “my mom’s eggs,” since she urged me to do it. Egg freezing made me feel more in control of my fertility: If I decide I want to have kids someday on my own, or if I’m not able to conceive because of chemotherapy, it’s nice to know they’re there — even though I know there are no guarantees. At this point, I’m still not sure if I want to have kids. I would eventually like to be in a relationship with someone, but I’m not pushing for that. I know with each passing generation women are having kids later in life, and I’m okay with that as an option, too. If something happens, it happens. But if it doesn’t, I have my cats. I’ll be alright.

Personal essay by Nora Arnold, edited by Sarah duRivage-Jacobs

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