How chemotherapy affected my reproducti…


How chemotherapy affected my reproductive health

Sept. 6, 2017 | by Ashlinn Sarah Jane

I wrote a blog about my experience being a young adult cancer survivor and my fertility. This is of the likes of that post, but more about my monthly cycle and the effects of chemotherapy on what -- to my very biology -- makes me a woman.

I went through two induction treatments for chemotherapy prior to fertility preservation which may have damaged my reproductive system. I won't know if my frozen eggs are viable until I try to have a family but the treatment prior to my stem cell transplant was designed to knock out basically all my stem cells, and this had lasting repercussions on other aspects of my reproductive health.

After the stem cell transplant, I went almost 6 years without a period and no, they didn't come back naturally. I am on birth control in pill form and this is meant to serve a primary function of hormonal replacement therapy.

I took four months of birth control straight, bleeding only when I forgot to take my pill for three-ish hours or more. Now I am on a non-stop cycle of continuous hormonal birth control.

The reason these hormones are important, as both my oncologist and OBGYN told me, is to slow down osteoporosis as well as having other benefits on my skin and cardiovascular health.

Chemo can be so hard on the bones, and can also knock out your naturally produced hormones that are responsible for having strong ones.

This phenomenon is why so many women are at risk of and experience weaker bones after menopause.

My doctors carefully and diligently explained that I was at serious risk of breaking a hip at or before 40-years-old if I didn't go on the pill, and I did, despite my apprehension of an, albeit mildly, increased risk in breast cancer.

My mother and her sister both passed away from breast cancer before the age of 60 and although my sister, maternal cousin and I are getting tested to see if we are genetically linked to the risk, the doctors have little reason to worry that we have any predisposition to getting breast cancer. 

But the hormonal birth control has come with a slew of other problems including but not limited to emergency room level cramps and vomiting, wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-sobbing breast pain, subcutaneous cysts that pop and induce one litre of immediate bleeding, and no-warning bleeding, even when I take the pill religiously, to my phone alarm, at 8 PM EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I went to a new clinic and found a gyno who specializes in chemo-related menopause in youth and she is swift to not give me as much time to question things, but finally has the answers to my Qs, or at least has given me referrals to get the tests done to find out what is going on.

She has put me on a lower dose birth control but I am still bleeding and having periods only two weeks into the cycle. This story is still developing.

Talk to your medical professionals about your health regularly.

We, or at least I, am VERY lucky to live in Canada where so many services like these (hormonal birth control, genetic testing) are available for very limited to no cost to me and my family.

If you do not have public health care make sure to use your vote wisely and support programs and organizations who bring these services to the vulnerable and under-privileged.




Read more from Ashlinn at her blog.

leukemia side effects Identity

Ashlinn Sarah Jane

Ashlinn Sarah Jane

I survived leukemia at 21 through an anonymous donation of stem cells. After losing my mum to breast cancer at 17, my sister, a survivor of non-hodgkins lymphoma was there to help me through. Through my posts I hope to showcase an honest portrayal of battling cancer, while sharing my personal story and the issues that have been important to me.