My little rainbow child
Candice Hamer shares why her baby daughter, Charlotte, is her best present of all after undergoing embryo cryopreservation and facing Stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer.
Candice Hamer (32) lives in Meyersdal, Gauteng with her husband, Warren (41), and their five-month-old daughter, Charlotte.
Since Warren and Candice got married in 2015, starting a family was always on the cards. Candice fell pregnant in October 2016, but unfortunately lost the baby at nine weeks. A month later, she found a lump high up in her right breast.
She says it was easy to feel and was growing. Diagnostic tests were done and three lesions of Stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer were confirmed to be in her right breast in April 2017.
Egg and embryo cryopreservation
Before Candice started treatment, a discussion around fertility took place between herself, her husband and her surgeon. “Because we were trying for a baby, it was very important for us to start a family. So, it was a big topic of discussion from the start of my diagnosis. The doctor suggested we opt for fertility cryopreservation as there is a high-risk of the chemotherapy affecting my fertility and referred us to Vitalab.
The initial meeting was setup where the Vitalab doctor explained our options and how the different processes work and the costings.”
Candice underwent the ovarian stimulation process and 37 eggs were retrieved. Due to so many eggs being retrieved, it was decided to freeze 17 eggs and then fertilise the rest (20) of the eggs, with Warren’s sperm, for embryo cryopreservation. Out of the 20 eggs that were fertilised, five viable embryos were frozen.
The then 30-year-old started her treatment: six sessions of chemotherapy, and a bilateral mastectomy which took place in October 2017. She underwent reconstruction in February 2018.
“I got amazing support from my husband. Honestly, this whole process made us stronger as individuals and as a unit. I would never have gotten through it without him,” Candice adds.
Starting a family
Six months after chemotherapy, Candice started menstruation again. “I assumed my body had gone back to normal, so Warren and I made the call not to take prevention and if it happens, it happens. We also discussed our decision with my oncologist. He would have preferred us to wait for five years, but said it was our decision. The fact that I had triple-negative breast cancer which is not influenced by hormones prompted our decision to have babies now. Plus, I went every three months to my oncologist for a check-up so we were keeping a close eye on it. He was willing to help us through the journey,” Candice explains.
By mid 2018, Warren and Candice decided to use one of the embryos. Unfortunately, once the first embryo was thawed and testing was done, it was deemed unviable. The second embryo was then tested. Thankfully, this female embryo was good and took the first time. By October 2018, Candice was pregnant.
The soon-to-be mother had a good pregnancy. “It was very text book. I was sick for the first three months and had lots of swelling. I continued with my three-monthly check-ups with my oncologist throughout the pregnancy,” Candice says.
On 5 June this year, baby Charlotte was born, weighing a healthy 4,2kg. “I wanted to have natural birth but being in labour for 26 hours, the decision to have a caesarean delivery was made,” the new mother says.
“I’ve always said this journey never happened to us. It happened for us.
I have no doubt the challenges that came from this journey was all God’s work, preparing us for the beautiful gift of our baby girl. Charlotte truly is our rainbow after the storm.”
Celebrating their first Christmas as a family
Both Warren and Candice are excited to celebrate their first Christmas with Charlotte. “We will be spending the day with family in Gauteng and I have already got her first Christmas outfit. We are making a big deal out of it. It is very important to us,” says Candice.
In the future, Warren and Candice will look at expanding their family, whether it be naturally or using another of the three embryos or her frozen eggs.
MEET OUR EDITOR – Laurelle Williams
Laurelle is the Editor at Word for Word Media and graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She have a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Write me: firstname.lastname@example.org