CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Brittany Rinella, 26, was planning for the future.
“I was planning a wedding. I was going for a masters in nursing education,” Rinella said.
But those plans were almost derailed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I was still very much so wanting to plan my wedding. I kept saying to myself, ‘I’m not going to let this ruin my plans for the future.’”
She began aggressive treatment, a double mastectomy and four rounds of chemotherapy, which can be toxic to the ovaries. Part of the conversation with her doctor was what can happen to your body during chemo.
"One of the permanent side effects that we can see from chemotherapy is the induction of premature menopause or ovarian failure,” said Halle Moore, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center.
"Finding out that chemotherapy could affect my fertility was probably the scariest part for me,” Rinella said.
Cleveland Clinic’s Cancer Center goes through all the options for young women going through chemotherapy. For years the standard has been freezing eggs or embryos for fertility— but it’s not always a guarantee.
Rinella did freeze embryos, but she also tried something different.
“More and more, we are now using shots with a medication with a GNRH analog to basically suppress the function of the ovaries during chemotherapy. And it appears to reduce patients going into early menopause,” said Dr. Moore
The hormone-blocking injection started as a clinical trial but Dr. Moore said it’s now standard treatment to prevent early menopause and improve chances for fertility.
"I knew I wanted a family. It was always in my agenda,” Rinella said.
And a couple of years after beating breast cancer, her son Colson came along, just as she planned.
"I think I took like five tests. I took so many I didn’t believe it. This can’t be real,” Rinella said.
He’s real alright and everything she’s ever wanted.
"Just something about him. He just lights up the room. He’s just so perfect I love him,” she said.
But she does remember the fight before her little boy arrived.
"I’m going to beat this because these are the things I have planned for my life,” she said. “It’s crazy I don’t remember life before becoming a mom.”
Dr. Moore encourages young women diagnosed with breast cancer to talk to their oncologist, or a fertility specialist, about a personalized plan to preserve fertility if they wish to start a family in the future.