IVF: Overcoming Ovarian Cancer

Patient Stories

My Story: Sara & Stuart I.

Sam and Cade were born with the help of IVF.
Sam and Cade were born with the help of IVF.

In the summer of 1997, after more than a year of unsuccessful pregnancy attempts and repeated treatments for recurring pelvic and bladder infections, my local gynecologist referred my husband and I to a fertility specialist in Augusta, Ga.: Dr. Edouard Servy, of the Servy Massey Fertility Institute.

My husband and I had physical examinations and blood work. He was diagnosed with a prostate infection, while I was diagnosed with a chronic inflamed cervix and persistent bacterial infection.

We both were prescribed antibiotics followed by a post-coital test to determine if conception was possible once the infections were cleared. Unfortunately, my cervical inflammation persisted. Unable to pinpoint the source of my bacterial infection, Dr. Servy recommended I undergo an outpatient laparoscopy and hysteroscopy in November.

My surgery was anything but routine. Dr. Servy discovered a massive infection throughout my lower abdomen and recommended that I be transferred to University Hospital for aggressive intravenous antibiotic treatment and more tests.

During the next five days, I also underwent an intravenous pyelogram (IVP) to check for kidney infection and function, and an MRI of my lower abdomen. The MRI showed a mass that required follow-up abdominal surgery (laparotomy) once the pelvic infection subsided.

In February 1998, during a three-hour surgery, Dr. Servy removed a lemon-sized cancerous tumor from my right ovary, as well as a diseased right fallopian tube, a portion of my omentum and multiple adhesions (scar tissue). He also took biopsies of the remaining omentum and my left ovary, which revealed that the cancer from my right ovary was spreading.

With a cancer diagnosis confirmed, my husband, Dr. Servy and I agreed to postpone any further fertility treatments until I completed an aggressive six rounds of chemotherapy using Taxol and Carboplatin. Although pathology reports showed my cancer was a rare variety, slow growing and thus “low grade,” the threat to my health was real. If chemotherapy did not work, we would have to consider either a partial or full hysterectomy. I was only 27 years old.

I lost my hair and a lot of weight, but I never lost hope. In September, after six months of chemotherapy, I returned to the SMFI Augusta office to schedule a diagnostic biopsy and abdominal debulking (to remove more adhesions from the earlier pelvic infection). The biopsy report showed no signs of cancer, but my remaining fallopian tube had been heavily damaged by infection and scar tissue and was possibly non-functional.

Dr. Servy suggested my husband and I give ourselves at least six months to attempt conceiving naturally, but cautioned us not to be overly optimistic.

In May 1999, after eight months of disappointment, my husband and I returned to SMFI to discuss our fertility options. Dr. Servy suggested we try in vitro fertilization (IVF) and, thankfully, my menstrual cycle fit in perfectly for us to enroll in the upcoming IVF cycle beginning May 24.

My husband and I dutifully followed the injection protocols, and on June 14 three high-quality eggs were removed from my remaining ovary. All three were fertilized, and on June 17, they were successfully implanted.

Sam and Cade at 10 years old
Sam and Cade at 10 years old

While our hopes remained high after implantation, my husband and I knew the odds were stacked against us. One ovary? Only three eggs? Was this really going to work?

While we accepted the reality that our first IVF might fail, we were devastated when I began spotting just 11 days later. Dejected, we called Dr. Servy’s office and told the IVF coordinator that we weren’t pregnant. But as the hours crept by, the spotting slowed, and then stopped. Our hopes swelled.

I called back the IVF coordinator and told her I actually would be returning to the Augusta office for my blood test.

On July 1, after two and a half years of pain, uncertainty and heartache, we were told we were pregnant. To sweeten the victory, just 14 days later we learned that we were expecting identical twins!

Thus was the beginning of the life of two very special boys: Cade Thomas and Samuel Ellis.