Cancer survivor who lost ovaries gives birth to twins
CHICAGO (CNN) - It's a devastating diagnosis. In 2022, there were an estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. And treatments, like chemotherapy, can cause changes to fertility that can be temporary or permanent.
One cancer survivor lost lost her ovaries but not her hope of having more children.
In 2020 with a newborn at home, Shelly Battista headed back to her job.
"I was pumping more (milk) at work and that's when I noticed a lump in my breast," she said.
At first, she thought it was a clogged milk ducts. A biopsy revealed that wasn't the case. Despite having no family history, the new mother was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer and the BRCA1 mutation.
"What 34-year-old thinks, 'Oh, I probably have breast cancer.' So, it was very surreal. Very shocking."
Almost as devastating was the thought of getting through cancer and not being able to have more children in the future.
So, before chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes. Battista met with Dr. Kara Goldman at the Northwestern Medicine Center for Fertility and Reproductive Medicine in Chicago.
"She knew that this chemotherapy would save her life but would likely take her fertility," Dr. Goldman said.
Eight healthy embryos were frozen. And one year after cancer treatment, Battista was cleared for pregnancy.
Goldman said, "There's a tremendous misconception that you have to have ovaries in order to carry a pregnancy but actually the ovaries and uterus function quite separately from each other."
There were two failed embryo transfers. then they tried a third time.
"We didn't want to get our hopes up too high, right?" Battista said, "So, when we got the phone call from Dr. Goldman, she called us herself, we were very, very ecstatic."
During the first ultrasound there was another surprise.
"She moved the doppler a little bit and she's like, 'Oh, look! There's two of them!'" Battista said.
Twin baby girls were born two years to the day after she was declared cancer free.
"I always wanted at least three kids so this was amazing."
Since Battista found out through genetic testing that she had the BRCA1 mutation, her mom and younger sister also got themselves tested. They, too, learned they have the mutation and have been able to do some preventative care.