Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – Infertility can be overcome!

A good friend called me the other day and stated, “I have very exciting news!”  My heart began to beat faster.

My response, “What is going on?”

The conversation began by looking back at a life-threatening, family situation.  In early 1995, my friend’s 12 year old son, J., was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, formally known as Hodgkin’s Disease.  Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of ones’ immune system. In Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread systemically.

About 10 – 15% of all patients with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma are children and teenagers. Lymphoma is the third most common cancer in children in the United States and accounts for10 percent of all cancers in children less than 15 years of age. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma rarely arises before the age of 5 and is slightly more common among males than females.

J. began extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. While he was fighting the side effects, the family fought to keep his life as normal as possible. He began chemotherapy at the Cleveland Clinic and continued it while attending a residential summer camp. Blood workups were performed to measure white and red blood cells, blood protein levels, the uric acid level, blood proteins, and the liver’s function whether he was in town or visiting family.

During trying times, school friends were always in contact with him and genuinely supportive. One of his best friends, who always was by his side, was a young lady who became his sweetheart throughout junior and senior high school. college and beyond.  A year ago, this lovely young lady became his wife.

One of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation is infertility. While the doctors try to limit this, treating the cancer is paramount. Hence, it became apparent that J might not be able to conceive, at least without medical intervention. The possibility of becoming infertile is one of the major worries for younger people being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This loving couple knew that children would be a part of their life, but that having a natural pregnancy may be unrealistic.

J. was hoping for a biological child, however, a very low number of viable sperm were present.  Very low sperm counts often result in a successful pregnancy using In vitro Fertilization (IVF) in combination with intracytoplasmic sperm injection.  J and his wife had the necessary testing done and the plan was to meet with the fertility specialist to start planning for the procedure during late spring. They were reminded IVF would be their only realistic shot at conception.

The story is almost complete…so get ready for the exciting news. Between the time of the testing, and before the meeting, J’s wife suddenly began not feeling well.  After laughing for weeks because it was statistically impossible, she was cajoled into taking a home pregnancy test and it came back positive!  Her regular obstetrician and the specialist were beyond shocked when it was confirmed the next day.  It should be noted that after successful treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, about two-thirds of patients who wish to have children manage to do so.

“We are so thrilled!”   J and his wife are filled with gratitude.  They are almost through the first trimester and believe that this pregnancy will continue to progress in a safe and healthy manner.

If you, a family member or a friend, are at a point of your life to have children, and you have been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, investigate research studies, participate in clinical trials, and examine the references and links.  We want to continue to hear your exciting story.


CancerHelp UK section about living with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

CancerHelp UK section about Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and infertility

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2008 (This link sends an informative PDF document on to your computer, just as an FYI)

Horning SJ. Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKena WG, eds. Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 111.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Hodgkin

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