I Delayed Chemo to Do IVF During the Pandemic, And It Was Scary But Worth It

After learning I needed chemo for my breast cancer, I opted to do IVF. But because of the pandemic, fertility treatments were put on hold. I could only wait three months. My doctor fought hard for me and now I'm optimistic I will one day give birth.

angelina dallago with partner on beach
Photo: Courtesy of Angelina Dallago

In mid-March 2020, life was supposed to be getting back to normal. After the chaos of my breast cancer diagnosis that January, I’d had my lumpectomy and was waiting for test results to see what further treatment I might need. But I was eager to hit the gym, go cycling with my long-term boyfriend, and dive back in at work.

On March 16, my boss told us not to come in. A coworker had a fever and was being tested for COVID-19. That’s when the pandemic hit home. I began to worry about what it would mean for me as a patient. I really got scared a week later when my doctor said the test results were in and I would need chemo.

At first, I thought about how to stay safe from the virus, since chemo compromises the immune system. Then I had a chilling thought: Before chemo, which can cause infertility, I’d need to harvest and freeze either my eggs or embryos fertilized by my partner’s sperm. I emailed the fertility clinic my oncologist recommended and learned the office was closed because of the pandemic and was not doing IVF.

I started to panic. My oncologist said the longest chemo could wait was three months. Who knew how long the pandemic would last and when “elective” procedures like IVF would again be available? I was terrified I’d lose the chance to have a child.

Thankfully, my oncologist went to bat for me. I was one of the first patients the IVF specialist saw when his clinic opened again on May 1. We froze one precious embryo. Five days later I started chemo.

I know I’m going to be OK. And I’m staying optimistic about someday giving birth to that beautiful baby. If I do, I will tell him or her, “You were brought about in the strangest and weirdest time. But I’m so glad I was able to make you a part of my life.”

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's October 2020 issue as “Breast Cancer in the Pandemic - Angelina Dallago, 40 Philadelphia, PA.” Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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