Friday, January 30, 2009

Maternity Goddess Liz Lange Speaks Out About Cervical Cancer

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, so Fertile Hope Board Member and fashion designer, Liz Lange, is helping to spread the word. Liz is a cervical cancer survivor who became infertile from her treatments. Liz was very private about her experience until about a year ago when she told the world her story in Glamour magazine. These days, the maternity goddess isn’t keeping quiet. She joined forces with the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation to help women understand the consequences that cervical cancer can have on your life, including infertility. My favorite quote from her:

I'm supposed to be the queen of maternity chic, and here I am about to have a hysterectomy... I do think I wanted more children, or at least I didn’t want the decision to be made for me.

Who does?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Top 5 Reasons to Host a Hope Uncorked Wine Tasting

Are you looking for an inexpensive way to see your friends, drink great wine, donate to charity and keep up with your favorite magazines all at the same time? Fertile Hope has the answer: Hope Uncorked.
  1. 1. A Free Wine Tasting Kit
    We send you a free wine tasting kit with everything you need to host the event including wine glasses, bottle openers, scorecards, wine sleeves, and more!

2. A Good Excuse to Get Together with Friends
You can host your event anywhere (home, office, art gallery, country club, etc.) at anytime by simply doing what you already do – drinking wine with your friends. For a $25 tasting fee, less than a typical night out, your guests have the perfect reason to get together.

3. Stress-Free Planning
From invitations to reminders to RSVPs, our online system does all of that work for you. All you have to do is pick up some wine (or ask your guests to bring their favorite bottle!) and host your party.

4. Receive Fantastic Gifts
Hosts and their guests receive fantastic guest goodies, including Uncorked, a wine tasting guide by Women & Wine® and Sofitel®, and a one-year subscription to your choice of Cookie, Glamour, Gourmet, GQ or SELF magazine (a $12 value).

5. Change the Course of Someone’s Life
Not only will you raise awareness and provide life changing information about parenthood after cancer to your peers, but your support will allow Fertile Hope to empower cancer patients with the information they need to turn their parenthood after cancer dreams into reality!

Host an event and change someone’s life.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

News Flash - Can You Imagine Having Octuplets?

Did you see the news about octuplets born to a woman in California? These stories usually infuriate me. They make the reproductive world look reckless and ruin it for those of us who play by the rules. I was thrilled to see the following reported by CNN:

"The media should not make this into heroic case. This is anything but a heroic case. This is very bad medicine."

What is your take on stories like this?

What is the Best Way to Reach You? Cancer Survivor Conferences (or Bars)?!

Every year Fertile Hope participates in a number of conferences for cancer survivors. Some are amazing and highly attended. Others don’t seem to catch on and few people attend. As a cancer survivor, I often ask myself – if I wasn’t in the “industry” would I even know about these events? And, if I did, would I attend? As part of the Fertile Hope team, I often ask myself – are these conferences the best way to reach you? At a President’s Cancer Panel meeting a few years ago someone asked Lance Armstrong: what is the best way to reach young adult cancer survivors? His response: at bars! Chins hit the floor! It was hysterical and true – more people in our demographic go out to bars than attend survivor conferences. So, tell me, what is the best way to reach you?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Longing for Baby #3 - Crazy in this Economy?

I can hardly believe that my son Walker is almost a year old! We conceived him shortly after my daughter Paisley turned one and, as his first birthday approaches, I find myself longing for Baby #3. It doesn’t help that I am surrounded by cancer and fertility on a daily basis and that one of my co-workers is pregnant and looking fabulous in her Liz Lange maternity clothes! I’ve always said I want four or five kids – and, then, cancer put it all at risk. There were a lot of dark times when I never thought that I would be a mom. Now, fortunately, I know what works for us, but it is expensive! As the economy crumbles, I wonder – should we just be happy with where we are or should we try for another baby? Three complicates everything – from housing (outgrowing our tiny 2-bedroom apartment in NYC!) to transportation (do they even make a triple stroller?!) to cost (IVF through college!). Cancer taught me to shoot for the stars and live the life of my dreams. Now, I guess I am wondering – is a big family still my dream? If the economy was in better shape, would I even be having these thoughts? I can’t tell if I am being practical or crazy. Will I look back in 10 years when the economy is soaring high and regret not shooting for the stars?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Educational Brochures - To Print or Not to Print?

A few trends are weighing on Fertile Hope's educational outreach strategy and I’d love your input. First, the trends… everyone is going green. The economy has seen better days. Our target demographic is young adult cancer patients and survivors – a demographic that lives online. Next, the dilemma… we are wondering if we need to continue to develop, print and distribute patient educational brochures or if you’d rather find all of the information online? Online only is attractive – it’s cheap, its green and we can provide deeper, more customized information like you see with our Comparison Tool, Risk Calculator and Options Calculator. Offline has its benefits too – although it is costly to design, print and mail, it has a physical presence in your doctor’s office, patient libraries and cancer centers across the country. Is it still important to be in both places?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Who Knew That You Can FedEx Sperm?!

What would you do if you were a young man diagnosed with cancer today and told that your treatments would render you infertile? Look for a sperm bank, right? What if you lived in one of the states in the US where a sperm bank doesn’t exist? Or, what if you needed to start chemo immediately and you couldn't leave the hospital? Historically, these scenarios meant that you couldn’t bank your sperm. Now there is the Live:On kit – thanks to a partnership between Fertile Hope, the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Cryogenic Laboratories, Inc. Yes, the Live:On kit allows men (and mature boys) to FedEx their sperm to the sperm bank! While slightly less effective than banking at an on-site clinic (approximately 10% less motility (aka speed) has been seen), it is far better than the alternative – not banking and forgoing your best option for having a biological child after cancer. It gets better – the kit is free for nurses to order and hand out at cancer centers. So, please tell me, how do we get the word out about it and make sure the kit is available in every cancer center in the country (on a tight non-profit budget!)?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

ABC's Private Practice Features "Oncofertility" Storyline

The TV series Private Practice, ABC’s spin-off of Grey’s Anatomy starring actress Kate Walsh, is one of the first shows to integrate “oncofertility” into its storyline. Anyone catch an episode? Are they covering the topic well? Watch tonight (Thursdays at 10/9C) and tell us what you think!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How Do You Choose a Doctor?

A good friend just called me looking for a recommendation to a good doctor. We talked through a lot of the factors she was evaluating and, then, I couldn’t help but laugh after we’d narrowed down the list and she made her final decision based on availability. In her case, it made perfect sense. She had narrowed it down to two of the top doctors in the country. She couldn't make a wrong choice. But, I still found it amusing that the final decision-making factor was who could see her first. This conversation happened while Fertile Hope is in the midst of completely revamping the cancer and fertility “Find a Doctor” tool on our website. So, I can’t help but wonder: what factors are most compelling to you when choosing a doctor? What information and tools can we provide to help make the process easier for you? And, ultimately, when you have gathered all of the information you can possibility find, what is the deal breaker? Availability?!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Audacity of (Fertile) Hope

Wow, today was inspiring! As I watched the inauguration coverage, I was struck by the shared experience of hope in a time of great uncertainty. Whether you are referring to the war, the economy or a new cancer diagnosis, believing in your ability to change, improve or solve the problem at hand is very hopeful. I never realized how audacious hope was until, in the face of cancer, I hoped to be a mom one day. I was still full of fearless, bold, daring hopes when I started Fertile Hope in October 2001. My first hope was that all cancer patients would be informed of their fertility risks. We’ve made great progress in achieving this. My second hope was access to fertility treatments for cancer patients. During the Bush administration we lobbied on Capitol Hill, but quickly realized there was no hope for a fertility coverage mandate, so we stopped wasting our resources. Today, my audacious (Fertile) Hope is that President Obama’s administration will make a commitment to access by improving insurance coverage for fertility preservation for cancer patients. What is yours?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Would You Risk Your Life to Have a Baby?

Today, I spent the day with my good friend Erin Zammett Ruddy, a freelance writer and a columnist and blogger for, and her son, Alex. As our children played together, I couldn’t help but think how lucky we both are – cancer survivors and moms. When we were diagnosed with cancer, the idea of future parenthood seemed so audacious and extravagant. We’ve both been asked on more than one occasion - shouldn’t you just be happy you are alive? Of course, we are happy to be alive! Aren’t you? But, just like you, we want to live amazing lives and, for us, that includes having kids. Erin’s story is unique. She had chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and for the last six years has been treated with Gleevec. The drug that saved her life doesn’t cause infertility in women, but you can't take it while you are pregnant. If you stop taking it, you risk the cancer coming back and the drug not working for you anymore. Quite a dilemma. With her oncologist’s approval, Erin went off Gleevec to conceive Alex and nothing went awry. Her cancer didn’t come back and Gleevec continues to work for her. So now, a year and half later, she is longing for another baby and wondering – do I risk my life again for a baby? As Alex plays with Paisley and Walker, it is hard for me to argue against it. I have two children – and want more. I get it. As Fertile Hope's Founder & Executive Director, it is also hard for me not to try to solve this dilemma other ways – IVF, surrogacy, adoption, etc. Erin’s done her homework on all of those options and knows they aren’t right for her (read more here). What would you do?

Friday, January 16, 2009

1st Baby Born After Being Screened for Breast Cancer as an Embryo - Would You Screen?

What do you think of the news that the first baby to have been screened before conception for a genetic form of breast cancer has been born in Britain? Many articles report that women who carry this gene have an 80% chance of developing breast cancer and a 60% chance of developing ovarian cancer during their lifetime. However, carrying the gene does not make cancer inevitable, which makes use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in this way a topic of great bioethical debate. Personally, I must admit that I am a big fan of PGD. My daughter, Paisley, is a PGD baby. The technology allowed my husband and I screen for a genetic abnormality that would cause severe birth defects and mental retardation. If your cancer had a gene, would you use PGD to screen for it and try to avoid passing it along?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lance Armstrong Conceives Naturally 10+ Years After Testicular Cancer – Against All Odds or Normal?

Fertile Hope has been inundated with questions since the reports by the media that Lance Armstrong conceived naturally more than 10 year after his treatment for testicular cancer, and after using his banked sperm with in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive three children. The news is incredibly hopeful, but also confusing. Do cancer treatments affect fertility permanently? How long does it take for sperm production to come back? Should patients still bank sperm? We took these questions and more to our Medical Advisory Board and published the answers in our online newsletter. I’d love to know what you think. Healthcare professionals – will this change if/how you talk about sperm banking with cancer patients? Cancer patients and survivors – will you still bank? How long will you keep banked sperm? How often will you get your sperm counts checked? My list of questions is endless. Please, tell us what this means to you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Who Told You Cancer Treatments Might Cause Infertility? Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Tells All Patients...

Every year 140,000 new patients are diagnosed with cancer under the age of 45 and our goal is to make sure that 100% of them are told if their cancer treatments will cause infertility. Today, we are 400 patients closer to that goal. Fertile Hope runs an amazingly simple, yet effective program to help ensure that all newly diagnosed cancer patients are informed of their fertility risks – Centers of Excellence. How does it work? Check out the application – in brief, we simply award cancer centers for doing the right thing. I am thrilled to report that the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is now a Fertile Hope Center of Excellence. CHOP sees approximately 400 new patients under the age of 18 every year and now has systems in place to make sure that each and every one of them is given information about their fertility risks. How did you find out?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fundraising Events in a Recession – Will You Still Attend?

Nonprofit organizations dedicate a lot of time and money every year to hosting fundraising events like Fertile Hope's acclaimed Hope Uncorked wine tasting events. We’ve always prided ourselves on hosting fun, fabulous events – not your usual rubber chicken dinners where you are stuck at a table with the people you work with all day - and like to think that even in a recession you will still attend. However, we don't want to pull it altogether only to have no one show up. One one hand, it feels extravagant in a bad economy. On the other hand, it can be a cost-effective way to multi-task - get together with friends; enjoy good food and an open bar (tickets are often less than you'd spend on a night of food and drinks out on the town); find a few steals on your favorite products in the silent auction; and support your favorite charity. What will you attend? Skip? Why?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Welcome - And Advice Please!

I am thrilled to announce the launch of the Fertile Hope blog! I have to admit that it is my personal ignorance that has kept the organization in the dark ages. Thanks to our brilliant team, we are finally joining the world of blogs. Welcome. Now, I need your advice. As a self proclaimed technology dinosaur, I am not exactly a blogging whiz. My vision for this blog is to be a useful place for information, discussion and feedback. So, tell me – is that realistic? What do you want out of the Fertile Hope blog? What do you want me to post? And, not post?