Nonprofits join forces to help cancer survivors with fertility preservation

by Stephanie Cary ,  dailynews | 2012-06-13

At 31 years old, Alice Crisci was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The Redondo Beach resident bared it all in a photo shoot with the Daily Breeze back in 2008 before undergoing a double mastectomy.

The photos were a celebration of her body before cancer would change it forever. The newspaper continued to follow her journey, including her decision to ensure that after remission she'd have a chance at realizing her dream of becoming a mother.

"I learned very early on in the process that my fertility would be at risk, that there was a 50/50 chance I'd be left infertile," says Crisci, now 35. "And that was a chance I wasn't willing to take."

So Crisci went through fertility preservation, a process that cost

her $20,000 and had to be paid in full that day. Not qualifying for financial assistance, she charged the entire amount on her American Express card.

It was at that moment she realized her life mission.

Crisci immediately started a nonprofit called My Vision Foundation. Since then, it's been renamed Fertile Action, but the goal remains the same: to raise awareness and provide financial assistance for fertility preservation for those affected by cancer.

Crisci now lives in Castle Rock, Colo., but on June 14 she will return to Los Angeles as Fertile Action hosts a gala to raise awareness and funds. At the event, the organization will officially announce its alliance with fertility expert Mindy Berkson.

Berkson founded the infertility consultancy firm Lotus Blossom Consulting, through which she established the Jude Andrew Adams Charitable Fund to help fund fertility cycles for financially needy couples.

The women are aligning their organizations to further raise awareness of the importance of fertility preservation in patients who have been diagnosed with cancer.

"I think it is so important that at the first diagnosis oncologists begin to talk to their patients in the reproductive ages

about fertility preservation and point them to the right resources, to really help them understand and explore their options," Berkson says.

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can affect the ability of both men and women to reproduce. The amount of risk depends on the patient's age, which drugs are used in treatment, dose of radiation, and duration of treatment, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Unlike Crisci, who was told of the infertility possibility as soon as she was diagnosed, the NCI says that only half of patients of childbearing age are informed of the risk.

The opportunity to preserve fertility might not be possible for all patients, such as those who can't afford to delay treatment because their cancer is too advanced.



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