When Erica Bullinger (Quinn), now 29, was first diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2002, she was just 16. Becoming a mother was the furthest thing from her mind.
She and her family just wanted her to get better, and she did, achieving remission after a six-month course of outpatient chemotherapy directed by her physicians at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia.
But when her cancer returned 18 months later, more intensive measures were in order — including harder-hitting inpatient chemotherapy. That’s when her doctors started talking about fertility preservation, a topic they discussed at every visit. Freezing her eggs was not a concern for Erica or her family, however — they just wanted her to get better. After five rounds of chemotherapy as well as radiation therapy, she again achieved remission.
When she reached her mid-20s and began a relationship with Kevin Bullinger, the man she would marry, she began to seriously consider her future as a parent. Assessment of her ovarian reserve showed it was low. “They told me if I wanted to have children, I’d better start trying sooner than later,” she recalls. She and Kevin married in October 2012, when she was 27, and conceived six months later. Patrick Thomas Bullinger was born December26, 2013.
I had an incredible experience at Columbia and have wonderful things to say about my care team.
“They did a great job reminding me about the possible effects of the treatment on my fertility, without pushing me. It was just the wake-up call I needed!”
“As a pediatric oncologist, it is our obligation to always be mindful of the future, even as we deal with the immediacy and shock of a cancer diagnosis,” says Jennifer Levine, MD, Medical Director of the Center for Survivor Wellness.
Dr. Levine is a nationally recognized leader in the field of fertility preservation in pediatric oncology, leading a task force on the subject in the Children’s Oncology Group. She adds, “Fertility has such an important impact on quality of life in our survivors that I believe no patient should be treated without an explicit discussion about fertility. We must make sure we offer fertility preservation whenever possible.”