The High Cost of Cancer and Infertility #ohip4ivf #onpoli

I have shared several stories on Little Miss Kate about the challenges that face infertile couples to create a family.  The road to parenthood can have many bumps along the way, but one that you never expect is cancer and infertility.  I can’t even imagine what it is like to be told you have cancer, and that because if it you will lose the ability to conceive.  However that is just what happened to one member of my family.

Kathy’s Story…

I’m a typical 32 year-old woman: I am healthy, I work as an RN, and I got married 6 months ago and am ready to start a family with my new husband. There is just one small thing standing in the way – last year, I received the shocking news that I had breast cancer.  After a myriad of scans, tests, biopsies, a surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, I can now say I am cancer-free and it is unlikely the cancer will return.  Another thing that will likely not return is my fertility.Barn WeddingReceiving the diagnosis of cancer was devastating, but hearing that the life-saving treatment I was to receive would most likely make me infertile was even more so. I have lived my entire life knowing I wanted to have children; I babysat my way through high school and university, and I have dedicated my career to pediatric nursing. This situation just wasn’t fair.

Then came the words “Fertility Preservation”. My husband (then fiancé) and I were thankfully given the immediate option to freeze embryos before I started treatment. We didn’t even need to know what physical or financial stressors would ensue, it was something we knew we had to do. We wouldn’t let my cancer strip us of the right to have children of our own.

PMH Ring the bell end of cancer treatment
Kathy ringing the bell to mark the end of chemotherapy treatment at Princess Margaret Hospital

So began the process of freezing embryos, in hopes we will be able to have a successful pregnancy in a few years using the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process. I had no problem injecting myself with hormones, getting ultrasounds and bloodwork every morning, or even going through the painful egg retrieval process. The most difficult part was enduring the stress of coming up with the money to afford it all. I was supporting my fiancé, a full-time student, was saving for our wedding, and I had not quite finished paying off my student loans. We were in no financial place to afford what we so desperately wanted. And it wasn’t as though we had time to save for it. After exhausting my health insurance benefits for fertility costs, and even with the small “compassionate discount” offered by the clinic, our final out-of-pocket expense was in the tens of thousands. I cried when speaking to the customer service lady at my insurance company, I cried when speaking to the clinic’s billing secretary, and I cried to myself. How were we going to deal with this financial burden, in addition to all the other stress we were suffering?Cancer and infertility

In the end, we were lucky my parents were able to help us out financially, but not everyone in our situation is this fortunate. And it doesn’t have to be this way. Fertility is an undeniably significant component of cancer treatment for people of childbearing age, and should not be an option for only those who can afford it. Let’s work with our government to create an Ontario in which the ability to have children is a right, not a luxury.

Now is the time for you to get involved and show your support for infertile couples of all types.  Follow @OHIP4IVF on Twitter or the hashtag #OHIP4IVF to support government funding for IVF for infertile couples. Visit Conceivable Dreams for more information and support for those struggling with infertility.

Disclosure:  I have been compensated for this blog post by Conceivable Dreams . However, all opinions expressed on this blog are my own and not influenced in any way.

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28 thoughts on “The High Cost of Cancer and Infertility #ohip4ivf #onpoli”

  1. This is a beautiful and heartwrenching story. I am so deeply sorry she had this DX to begin with. Such a young person, it’s shocking! Thanks so very much to Kathy for sharing her story. There are many conditions that contribute to infertility. Conceivable Dreams believes there should be funding to help form healthy families in the province of Ontario. Glad this dream came true for this family.

  2. It’s wonderful to hear that you are cancer-free and that modern medicine was able to save your life. I’d disagree with you that having children is a right; I’d say it is a privilege. I also grew up always wanting to have children, but I also know a LOT of families who have adopted so if for some reason I was unable to have children of my own, I’d adopt. (In fact, even though I already have children of my own, I would still consider adopting – there are so many kids waiting for a “forever family.”) So while I think it’s wonderful that technology has saved your life, and made it possible for you to have your own children, I don’t think taxpayers should have to pay the huge expenses of IVF just because you want a child who is biologically yours.

  3. Your story is so moving! You’re right, it’s a blessing that your parents were able and willing to help. Like the previous commenter, I disagree that having children is a right. My husband and I would enjoy having more children but realize that our finances would be too strained with a bigger family. We, too, are paying back student loans. At Too many people (in the US, at least) neglect to think of their limitations and depend on the government for supplemental help; consequently the taxpayers shoulder the burden of their lack of forethought.

    1. In Canada our health care system works a little different, and currently it carrying the burden of may multiple births due to couples implanting more than 1 embryo at a time due to the high cost of IVF. Instead they will implant 2-3 (or more) which creates a higher risk of multiple births.
      Multiple births are at risk of preterm delivery, NICU admissions and complications. The cost of the hospital stay, doctors and medications is all covered. So we are already paying for risks people take with IVF.

      By directing funding to single embryo transfers for infertile couples we can help Canadians create healthy families while decreasing our health care costs in the long run.

  4. Very touching story, I am so glad you are feeling better and you received the financial help you need it. Good luck to you!

  5. What a touching story. I had tears in my eyes just reading it. I love that they are trying to help others who may be dealing with similar circumstances. Good luck!

  6. What a beautiful story! I can imagine going through such struggles! She is a strong women! I wish her all the best and hope we hear an update that she’s pregnant!

  7. I don’t actually believe the issue is whether it’s a right or privilege – it’s whether we are building healthy families or not. f you have a health care issue and the recommended course of action for this issue – is IVF, should it not be covered by a universally accessible health care system? Yes, I think so. Also, listen I have two little girls and I am blessed beyond measure to be an adoptive parent: however, that is not the road for everyone. Adoption is a very hard to navigate. Adoption and infertility are inextricably intertwined. I have spoken to and met many many couples who conceived with IVF and then adopted their second child etc. It’s not Either/ OR. Both systems need support and when government invests in healthy families we all benefit. The reality also is public funding with single embryo transfer saves money. Fewer high rish pregnancies, fewer multiple births equals less stress on health care systems. In countries where public funding is in place the health care system saves millions of dollars each year. The answer is an investment in both systems of infertility and adoption – NOT either/ OR.

  8. I have to say, I had never thought of the impact of going through chemo and radiation. It is sad to have to be faced with the thought of not being able to have children.

    That couple was blessed to have family help but it was still a financial strain. No doubt about it.

    I think sharing these stories helps people understand that this is a great problem that we face as a society. Investing in our future is money well spent as far as I am concerned.

    Thanks for sharing your family’s story. I wish them all the best. I’m crossing my fingers for them too!

  9. Wow. What a story. I had no idea that fertility was affected so dramatically…and didn’t know how tough the situation was to try to correct that! That’s awful, but thank goodness you found a way.

    Be well! And thanks for sharing this story.

  10. Such a moving story!! Oh my goodness…it’s hard to imagine the struggles that must have been endured, and by so many others as well. Thanks for sharing!!

  11. wow this is unreal.. i had no clue that it could cost so much. I actually thought that because of her situation they could do it for a fraction of the cost. If she was perfectly healthy and freezing her embryo’s for ‘just in case’ then she should pay full cost. But not in her situation… I hope they can change this.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for raising awareness about this issue. It’s a cruel twist of fate that if you survive cancer your chances of conceiving a child are diminished. Fertility treatment definitely should be covered under cancer care. Wishing you and your husband lots of luck with your fertility journey. Congratulations on kicking cancer’s ass. 🙂

  13. Wow, that’s an awesome story! IVF is so important to so many people. Money shouldn’t be a reason why people cannot start a family. Thanks for raising awareness.

  14. Pingback: The High Cost of Cancer and Infertility #ohip4ivf #onpoli | Conceivable Dreams

  15. What a story, you were very lucky to have parents that would help you out!! I hope you were able to have the children you so wanted!!

  16. My sister has been going thru chemo. as it was discovered, just a few months ago, that she had several lumps in her breast. She is 38 years old, and it is a scary thought to me. Reading your story has enlightened me. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Such a moving story! The cost is ridiculous for these treatments, depending on what province you live in, I believe Quebec is leading the way, and paying for some treatments. I had unexplained infertility did all the tests and nothing stood out I just was unable to conceive, we did 4 rounds of IUI which is the first line of treatments, less expensive but at about 700 dollars a cycle plus driving an hour each way to get blood work to say if I was ovulating. ( I kept getting false positives with ovulation tests) I got pregnant once and had a miscarriage, IVF just wasnt an option financially as we didn’t have any help. I starting doing accupuncture and had finally came to terms that i wouldnt be a mom and starting dreaming of trips I would take and then I was feeling off one month and took a test even though I thought no way after trying for so long, sure enough I was pregnant!! my heart goes out to all with infertility struggles, I kept mine to myself because i felt ashamed, and people can be so thoughtless and hurtful

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