Julie Shub and Family
In 2001, Julie Shub was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. One month after finishing chemotherapy, Julie discovered her lymphoma had returned. Her oncologist referred her to Dr. Aaron Rapoport at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC) who informed her that she would need a Stem Cell Transplant (SCT). Understanding the effects a SCT could have on Julie's future ability to bear children, Dr. Rapoport allowed her to delay treatment until she and her boyfriend successfully fertilized and stored three embryos through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Julie now lives in Hawaii with her husband and newborn daughter, Lydia Elise.
It was during my time as a student at Texas Tech University that I noticed my health seemed to decline. I was diagnosed with a variety of illnesses including Mono, the flu, and even shingles. During my last semester, I noticed my allergies were also getting worse. I was itching all over my body and decided to go to an allergist, who did blood work and decided to put me on shots. It was during this time that I also noticed a swollen lymph node, about the size of pea, in my neck.
In May 2001, I moved to Maryland because my boyfriend had been recruited for a job. My skin continued to itch and I noticed the lymph node in my neck had slightly enlarged. In September, I began seeing an allergist who ran more tests and put me back on allergy shots.
Because my primary allergist was out of town, I scheduled a follow-up appointment with his partner the following month. He reviewed my case and my symptoms and asked if I had noticed any changes. I told him about a cough I had that seemed to have progressed over the last two months, now feeling as though it was deep in my chest. He told me I should get a chest X-ray, which led to CT scans, PET scans, and a lymph node biopsy. My boyfriend was beside me 100 percent of the time.
I remember the day I was diagnosed. I called the doctor at 5:00 p.m., as I had been instructed, and learned I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He immediately arranged for me to meet an oncologist. My boyfriend and I met my doctor the following week and developed a plan of action: six months of chemotherapy every two weeks. I learned I might have Stage 4a Hodgkin’s, meaning the lymphoma could have spread through both sides of my body, into my neck and chest lymph nodes, and even possibly into my lungs.
I started chemotherapy in January. The next few months were tough, but not as bad as you might expect. I had a PET scan half-way through my treatment and found the cancer had shrunk. I finished my treatments in August, 2002 and a final PET scan showed that all of the cancer was gone. My boyfriend and I celebrated by going skydiving.
A few weeks later, however, I felt a small, BB-sized lymph node in my neck. I went back to the oncologist for another PET scan. It was positive; the cancer was back in less than a month. My oncologist referred me to Dr. Aaron Rapoport at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, who told me that I needed a stem cell transplant (SCT).
I found out that a SCT would most likely destroy my eggs, leaving me unable to have children. Dr. Rapoport allowed me to delay my treatment for six weeks in order to harvest embryos though In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). With the help of an IVF specialist, I was able to successfully fertilize and store three embryos.
After undergoing the IVF process, I started treatment for my lymphoma in January, 2003. A few weeks after my transplant was completed, my doctor announced that my blood cell count had increased to 0.1. Although this was a very small change, it was a positive one. The counts continued to go up and, slowly but surely, I recovered.
At the beginning of this process, Dr. Rapoport and I had agreed that I would enroll in one of his clinical trials that mandated four additional rounds of chemotherapy after the transplant was complete, one chemotherapy treatment every quarter for a year. I finished all of my treatments in the spring of 2004, and I have been cancer-free ever since.
We were married in 2005 and moved to Hawaii in 2006. In 2008, my husband and I decided to start trying to have children. With my past medical history, my doctors were unsure of my ovarian function, so we decided our best shot was to go through IVF and use the embryos we froze in 2002.
In June 2008, all three embryos were implanted, and shortly thereafter, I found out I was pregnant. Our beautiful daughter, Lydia Elise, was born February 17, 2009. She is a miracle, and the joy of my life.
Through a partnership with the Ulman Cancer Fund, UMGCC's Young Adult Patient Navigator Program addresses the special concerns of young adults dealing with cancer. For information, please contact Elizabeth Saylor. For additional information about fertility preservation and cancer treatment, visit Fertile Hope.