This came as a shock to everyone including our doctor due to Cassie's young age, healthy lifestyle and absence of breast or any other related cancers in her family. She was then referred to a geneticist to be tested for genetic mutations. They recommended BRCA1 / BRCA2 testing as this is the leading cause of breast cancer in women her age and is covered by Alberta Heath Care (AHC). Unfortunately the testing for the full panel of cancer causing mutations is not covered by AHC and only done in the USA. However we decided we wanted all the information we could possible and went ahead with testing for the full panel.
The test results concluded Cassie has the TP-53 genetic mutation, and it is why she developed breast cancer. This gene mutation also puts her at rick for brain, bone, soft tissue and other cancers in the future. TP-53 also has a 50% chance of being passed on to children, therefore it is highly recommended to have pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Unfortunately PGD can not be done solely on the egg but only on the embryo, therefore PGD requires In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The PGD testing will help determine which embryos do not contain the mutation. This is very important as having the TP-53 mutation comes with a high life time cancer risk (90%). Certain cancers such as soft tissue sarcoma and brain cancer are most common in childhood, while osteosarcoma is most common in adolescence. We are so lucky that medical research and technology can allow us the chance to have children free of this mutation.
To treat Cassie's breast cancer, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy in February. Although she chose to not do chemotherapy; she has been prescribed Tamoxifen for the next 5-10 years. Cassie will not be able to get pregnant while on tamoxifen, but will be able to take a break from the medication to conceive. Due to requiring PGD for the health of our children, our medical team has strongly advised we complete this testing and preservation of embryos prior to starting treatment.
As a young couple who have now been together just over 6 years, we have plans of marriage and would love to have children down the road. Therefore we have completed one cycle of IVF in which none of the 10 embryos were eligible/healthy enough to continue on to the next step of PGD. Although this was heartbreaking we have decided to try one more round of IVF in hopes of being able to have our own genetically healthy children.
The cost of IVF and PGD has been overwhelming as there is little funding in this area of medicine. On top of that PGD is currently only performed in the USA and the exchange rate is not in our favour. To date we have already spent $12,500 on IVF and $7,100 on PGD. We are expecting to have another $12,500 in IVF payments for our second cycle as well as future costs down the road when we are ready to start our family.
After exhausting all other options and using a line of credit we have decided to ask for some help. We are so thankful you have taken the time to read about our story and would appreciate any size of donation. We understand that not everyone is able to donate so we would also greatly appreciate you sharing our story whether that be on social media or just with family and friends.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts,
Cassie and Mike
- Bob Willgress
- Travis Pendell
- Faron McMaster
- Rally Racer
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