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Diagnosed With Cancer, He Sidestepped Male Infertility With ICSI

To sideline a cancer diagnosis and possible male infertility, this couple got help in advance of his treatment. Nikki and De wouldn’t give up on their dream and pursued IVF until a frozen embryo transfer gave them a fresh new start.

Video transcript

Seeing the heartbeat and doing ultrasound, it was so amazing. I just remember telling the nurse at the time, “There’s a baby in there!”

We thought he’d do surgery, then boom – we’d get pregnant

After trying for a few years, we realized that it started leaning towards male infertility. That was when we decided to treat my husband’s issue, which is the varicocele repair.

The urologist did varicocele repair surgery in January of 2015. We thought, We’re going to do a surgery, and we were going to fix that. And then boom – we’d be pregnant. And it would be so great!

And that’s kind of when our train derailed.

It doesn’t look correct. It could be cancer and possible male infertility.

He went in for an MRI thinking it was a pinched nerve or a slipped disc, something easy. And the doctor came back and said, “It’s not. It looks like there’s something in your back. It doesn’t look correct. Looks like it’s some form of cancer. I don’t know what else it could be. I’m going to send you over to an oncologist.”

They told us it was Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which, my general practitioner at the time told me, “You know, of all the things to get, that’s the best one because it is curable. There is a standard treatment plan and all that.”

We ended up banking a [semen] sample, in case of male infertility. I think two samples, actually, at that time. We just figured, you know, whenever we get a little further down this road, we know that he’s okay, we’ll go ahead and proceed with whatever treatment that looks like.

And I found out that both samples were not viable.

My husband got his first PET scan along the way to make sure that it was actually working. And we were thrilled. That was only two months in, so that was around July of 2015.

In August 2015, I thought, well, you know, we’re going to be done with all this in November. I want to go ahead and talk to this Dallas IVF facility. I want to talk to Dr. Havemann, and I want to get a game plan. Like, let’s figure out where to go so we’re ready to hit the ground running.

Using ICSI to offset potential male infertility

Dr. Dara Havemann: The best treatment plan for Nikki and De would be to proceed with IVF and ICSI. Given the treatments that De underwent, including chemotherapy and radiation, for his cancers, those can affect the sperm development. In females undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, that can affect their eggs.

Given the circumstance, IVF was the best fix for Nikki and De, as we can stimulate Nikki’s ovaries, retrieve the eggs, and then hand-select through the ICSI process one sperm and directly put it into an egg.

The ICSI process then allows us to hand-select one sperm for one egg, allowing fertilization with less quantity of sperm and/or less quality, making ICSI a viable treatment plan for patients that have male infertility from all sorts of different causes.

It worked!

Nikki: We came in early August, and we did a transfer, a fresh transfer. At the time we had one other one that was looking pretty good, but they weren’t going to transfer it. Because of my age and health, everything was good, and we felt really good about transferring the one. And we did the transfer in early August.

The next day they called and said, “Hey, your one that was looking really good actually is hatching. We’re going to freeze it. So you have one frozen.”

I really felt good about the transfer and I just felt like it worked! Officially on November 14th, I went to Dr. Havemann’s office and we did the blood work.

We had a positive pregnancy test. And two days later, our numbers more than doubled. We could not have been happier. We were – there are no words.

We really wanted to not let cancer get to dictate our lives. For the past year, at that point, it had stopped everything for us. We had just moved into our new house within a month of finding out he had it, so it was – it really got to dictate our whole lives. And my husband was just tired of it. And I was tired of it. And he wanted something else to look forward to.

Ironically, when we started IVF it was July of 2016. We had our first baby on July 22nd, 2017.