25-year-old cancer survivor
Why did you decide to freeze your eggs?
After doing my monthly breast self-check exam, I found a lump in my breast. I am only 25 years old. After meeting with a doctor and doing a biopsy, I learned that I had stage 2A breast cancer. The lump was 2mm, and I was lucky to have detected it as early as I did. When my doctor told me that cancer treatment impacts fertility, I went from trying to absorb a cancer diagnosis to feeling shocked and determined that cancer wouldn’t take the option of motherhood from me. I haven’t yet decided if I want to have children, but I knew that I wanted to the option for a biological child in the future.
What was the egg freezing process like?
It was a quick process, we did it in two weeks so that I could start cancer treatment as quickly as possible. While it was quick, there was a lot that went into it. Every day I would have my boyfriend, Austin, give me two injections into my stomach. Then almost every morning I would go in to get an ultrasound and blood work done to make sure I was getting prepared for the egg retrieval. All the hormones that were being injected definitely made my mood swing. I was very glad to finally go in for the egg retrieval when I did, but then I was in a good amount of pain after. But I made sure to eat lots of salty foods after and that really helped with recovery.
How many eggs did you freeze?
There were 19 eggs frozen after my retrieval.
Did insurance cover anything?
Insurance did not cover the process, but a grant from LIVESTRONG and discounts from Fertility Centers of Illinois made it possible to do an egg freezing cycle.
How have these experiences changed your outlook moving forward?
All of this has really made me appreciate my body. It has been through so much between surgeries, to egg freezing and then chemo, but now that I am done with all of that I am still amazed that my body held up and I want to make sure it stays healthy even more now. I am also so grateful that I have the option to have kids one day after all of this.
Why did you choose Fertility Centers of Illinois?
My breast surgeon, Dr. Madrigrano, recommended Fertility Centers of Illinois. I am so glad she did too because everyone at FCI was so extremely helpful and nice. I even got to know my nurses really well.
What were your experiences with your physician and the team?
Dr. Hirshfeld-Cytron was my doctor at FCI and the moment I met her I knew she would help me get through this. She is so smart, and I was so happy that once I met her we immediately started moving with the treatment. It was a relief since I know how long some medical plans can take to get going, and the fact that she had me start immediately made me feel great. I also loved all the team there. My nurses were so helpful in making sure I knew what to do when it came to the every day injections. I also got to know all the ultrasound techs and blood work team too.
What words of advice do you have for others?
The advice I would share is ‘get going as soon as you can’. Then it is one less thing you have to think about when it comes to your cancer treatment plan. I also would say that this was one of the easier procedures during my cancer journey, even if you do have to give yourself injections every day for about teo weeks. You will be so glad that you did this. It was such a relief that I did not have to worry about my fertility while I was going through my treatment.
Anna Wassman was diagnosed with breast cancer at 25 years old, only two months before she was set to graduate from Loyola University. She found a lump during her regular self-check breast exams, and after further testing, she was told she had stage 2A breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women and only 5 percent of cases are in women under 40 years old. While it is recommended that women start monthly self examinations at 20, it is rare for young women to follow this advice as Anna did.
Once Anna received her diagnosis, she was faced with a barrage of questions. What would treatment look like? How was she going to tell her family? How would she finish her studies and graduate on time?
Tenacious and determined, Anna bravely faced what she called her “new normal” and dove in headfirst. With a personal goal of remaining strong, she was adamant that no one should feel sorry for her. After discussing next steps with her doctor, she learned that cancer treatment could impact her ability to have a family. At 25, she hadn’t yet considered starting a family but knew that she at least wanted to have the option of biological children in the future.
With the guidance of Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron, Anna froze her eggs over a two-week process. A LIVESTRONG grant and discounted services provided by Fertility Centers of Illinois for cancer patients reduced the overall cost for Anna. Next, she underwent a mastectomy, then started chemotherapy treatment. It was a whirlwind spring and summer, and despite her diagnosis, she graduated on time, summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA.
Eight months later, Anna is now cancer-free. In the months since her diagnosis, Anna not only dedicated herself to healing, but also connecting with others who have experienced cancer, particularly young cancer survivors, such as herself. She sits on the board at Gilda’s Club of Chicago and has worked with other nonprofits and events such as Immerman’s Angels and the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walk.
Anna’s generosity is what makes her even more of an inspiration to women everywhere. When another young woman reached out on Instagram saying that she felt scared and overwhelmed by her new cancer diagnosis and the fertility preservation process, Anna offered to join her at her doctor’s appointment. They met in the lobby of our River North location and Anna stayed for the entire appointment and talked about the process with her for two hours afterward.
Anna’s inspirational story has grabbed the attention of many – she has been interviewed by People Magazine, TODAY Online, and visited the local Chicago studios of WCIU-TV to discuss her experiences alongside Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron and the team at The Jam.
Anna, we are truly inspired by your courage and kindness!