Supporting Texas cancer patients facing tough fertility choices

Missouri native Lynley Moses had only three days to decide whether to freeze her eggs to preserve her chances of a family later on.

The then-32-year-old had hiked a mountain with her husband a week earlier, but suddenly contemplated future children because she was told chemotherapy treatments would make her infertile.

“Three days is not enough to decide what you want to do for your future, but we had no choice,” said Moses.

At first, she thought she might not plan on having children due to the high costs involved in maintaining fertility at the last minute, even though she and her husband planned to have a family a few years later. founding. They looked at about $ 13,000 in procedures and drugs. In addition, there are about $ 500 in annual egg storage costs and the cost of controls.

It was frustrating that an insurance company would test her to see if she was infertile, but not pay for infertility treatments if necessary. Much of the concerns stemmed from the unknowns. If the cancer puts her body into menopause, she will have to find a surrogate to bear a child. She hasn’t wrapped her brain around it yet because she wants the harvested eggs to be put back in there.

“You don’t know how your body will react after cancer treatment. You have no idea. So it’s, I think, a game that you play to find out whether you’re having children or not, ”said Moses.

April 18-24 is National Infertility Awareness Week, and House Bill 293 will be released this session before Texas Legislature. Rep. Nicole Collier, a cancer survivor, filed the bill. Health benefits plans would be needed to cover fertility preservation services as a cancer side effect, as they do for breast reconstruction and some other cancer-related services.

Moses said that women who have gone through cancer should have the option of choosing whether to have children because they never chose to have the disease at all.

She and her husband used money from their retirement accounts to pay for her eggs to be collected. Chick Mission, an Austin nonprofit, stepped in to pay for other services and is ready to fund a round of implanting the eggs at a later date.

Chick Mission was founded by triple cancer patient Amanda Rice to give women the opportunity to have children later on. Rice was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and is happy she was treated at a fertility-raising cancer center. Being 37 and preparing for 10 years of drug therapy, she decided to pay out of pocket to freeze her eggs.

Rice went on to fight melanoma in 2015 and breast cancer for the second time in 2016. With chemo and radiation on the horizon, she chose to go through another round of fertility preservation, given that women are only born with so many eggs. Chemotherapy, she said, is like poison that leaves damaged and fewer eggs.

Fertility treatments were covered by her insurance, but she did not meet the requirement that a woman must become pregnant for at least six months. She needed cancer treatment right away and had less than six months to try it.

“I just cried out of anger, frustration,” Rice said. “And I was just so fed up with the system and very angry that someone on the other line told me, even though I had been a good soldier and paid for my fertility benefits and my insurance benefits all my life, that’s what they were. times of crisis. “

She channeled those harsh emotions to create an organization that would support other women.

Tracy Weiss, director of Chick Mission, found that she had major cervical cancer at the age of 30 after complaining about symptoms and being told by doctors that she overreacted. As she prepared for multiple surgeries, including a hysterectomy, someone asked her if she had considered any plans for a family.

In reviewing the options, she became upset that her insurance company would cover treatment for a broken bone, but considered preserving fertility as an elective.

“So if you’re going to lose your reproductive output because of a treatment that will save your life, why not be part of your all-encompassing cancer treatment plan?” Weiss said.

Since its first board meeting in November 2017, Chick Mission has helped 125 women in six states freeze their eggs through the Hope Scholarship. Rice said young women with cancer can suffer from depression, anxiety, anxiety, and a serious look at their own mortality, all exacerbated by rushing important decisions about their future families.

She feels good about the bill’s chances of success, but said more lawmakers should study it and get on board. She said insurance companies will ultimately save by providing the coverage, as they would later pay more to treat women and families for anxiety, depression, and infertility that could have been prevented had fertility been addressed earlier.

Men also experience infertility problems after cancer treatments. Since maintaining their fertility is much easier and non-invasive, it is much less expensive. The bill would require insurance policies to cover those services for men as well.

Moses was the 100th recipient of the Hope Scholarship. She finished her chemo in early March and had her mastectomy earlier this month. She looks forward to the possibility of a family in the years to come.

“That woman is still undergoing active treatment, and she finds the energy, spirit and courage to share her story,” said Weiss. “I hope the people in the House and Senate in the state of Texas will see that not only as a beacon of hope, but also as doing the right thing that will really cost the taxpayer nothing. She stands up for cancer patients, and they have to stand up for Texans. “

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