Options for Every Young Woman – The Oncofertility Consortium at Northwestern University

Options for Every Young Woman – The Oncofertility Consortium at Northwestern University

My name is Megan Connolly, and I was diagnosed when I was 19 years old with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My oncologist, Dr. Leo Gordon, referred me to Kristin Smith, the patient navigator for oncofertility. It was at that point that I was informed and
educated about the reproductive risks associated with this highly toxic treatment I was about
to endure. My name is Alyssa Kelly. My daughter, Evelyn, is seven and a half. Evelyn was diagnosed with intrapericardial
rhabdomyosarcoma when she was three and a half. My name’s Teresa Woodruff, and I’m the
director of The Oncofertility Consortium and also a professor of obstetrics and gynecology
at Northwestern University in Chicago. The Oncofertility Consortium is one of the
most exciting fields that I’ve ever been a part of. So, I come from a family of six children. I’m the youngest of six. I have ten nieces and nephews, so I knew that
deep down I always hoped and dreamed to have a family of my own, and the thought of cancer
possibly taking the opportunity to have a family away from me is something that would
be definitely difficult to bear. And so now, because of all the work of the
members of The Oncofertility Consortium really around the globe, there now are options for
almost every young woman who faces that terrible diagnosis of cancer. And when we received the diagnosis is when
I said I wanted her ovary removed thinking that that was a standard of care at the time,
and I was surprised to find out that it wasn’t, but her oncologist said, “Well, we can do
that,” and the oncofertility representative from Lurie was in the meeting with us. Evelyn is actually the youngest – at the time – was the youngest person to have her ovarian tissue removed. We really now know things about the ovarian
follicle that we didn’t know when we started this entire field, and that’s enabling us
to develop new restoration opportunities for young women with cancer. At a time where, you know, you’re in such a daze from, you know, all the medical information and terms and treatment and scans and you really don’t
even have time to think about your fertility. The day after she was diagnosed, she had open
heart surgery to remove her tumor, and then we scheduled her surgery to have her ovarian
tissue removed. The procedure was pretty quick. We actually saw the nurse take her ovary in
the cooler over to Northwestern, and I said to my husband, I said “Oh, my god. What did we do?” because we removed healthy tissue. I just kept thinking they’re not going to
offer this procedure if they don’t think she’s going to make it. Knowing that I had time to do the egg harvesting,
I’m so, so grateful that I did because everything was handled by Kristin. She was, again, my personal fertility advocate
and helped me coordinate every aspect of fertility preservation so I did not have to be worried
about it. She does know that we removed her ovary, and
I said, The one that’s in your body may not work, and so we just put one for storage
in case you need it later, and she seemed good with that. Huge thanks to Dr. Leo Gordon, my oncologist,
Dr. Teresa Woodruff, founder of The Oncofertility Consortium, and all the researchers and admin
team that make Oncofertility what it is and helps it run smoothly for patients like myself. I just want to say thank you. Their work will allow her to develop normally
and have children if she so chooses, for which I am extremely grateful.

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