After Cancer And IVF, Motherhood Can Feel Like A Bit Of A Miracle

By Heidi Stevens
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Cancer survivor Candace Marcela shares her experience of becoming a mother. Her road was neither simple nor conventional, but it’s a testament to the power of modern medicine and maternal instinct.

Chicago Tribune

Candace Marsella was diagnosed with stage 1 cervical cancer in 2014. Her doctor recommended a hysterectomy, but at 39, Marsella wasn’t ready to give up her shot at pregnancy.

“They gave me a two-year window to either have children or get the hysterectomy done,” Marsella said. “It wasn’t even a question. I knew I would pursue IVF and go from there.”

The result, twin sons Evan and Lucas. Their path to becoming a family was neither simple nor conventional, but it’s a testament to the power of modern medicine and maternal instinct.

Close to 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Most cases are found in women under 50.

“We have a lot of patients who are able to maintain reproductive function despite cancer treatment,” said John Lurain, Marsella’s oncologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “We do everything we can to preserve reproductive function if we’re able to do so without putting a patient’s life at risk. And very often, we are able to do so.”

Lurain monitored Marsella every three months after her initial cancer diagnosis. After close to two years of cancer-free screenings, she was cleared to see a reproductive endocrinologist and pursue in vitro fertilization.

But first she needed a sperm donor.

“That’s not an easy thing,” she said. “You’re looking through this look book, basically, of potential fathers who aren’t really going to be fathers.”

She settled on a worthy candidate, and the doctors set to work extracting and fertilizing 15 of her eggs. Five embryos were created, and doctors implanted the healthiest two.

“The doctor said, ‘Statistically, at your age, you’ll be lucky if one takes the first time, let alone both,’ ” recalled Marsella, who was 42 at the time. “I said, ‘Yeah, but my family is very fertile, and I’m a twin. I really think if you put two in, two will take.’ He said,

‘Well, you’d defy statistics if that’s the case.'”

That was the case.

Further defying the odds, Marsella had a complication-free pregnancy.

“She had three risk factors,” Lurain said. “One is that she had twins, which places her at a higher risk for a variety of disorders, especially premature delivery. Also being 42 years old places her at a somewhat higher risk. And the fact that she had a portion of her cervix removed made it more likely to open up too early.”

But her twins stayed put for close to 38 weeks, at which point they arrived weighing 6 pounds, 2 ounces, and 5 pounds, 15 ounces.

“I’m so grateful,” she said. “I was very high-risk, and I’m just so grateful they’re healthy.”

Marsella said she was prepared to accept a very different future if the IVF treatments didn’t take. She would travel the world and continue to grow Smashing Jewels, her jewelry design business, and enjoy the embrace of friends and family.

But motherhood feels just right, she said.

“I wouldn’t have thought this would have been my journey,” she said. “In my head, I figured I’d get married and have children. But that wasn’t how it happened for me. And I’d never want to change it.”

“I have a very full life now with my two little boys.”

Here’s to happy endings, and beginnings.

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