GREENVILLE, S.C. – Cancer survivor Katie York will spend this holiday season enjoying the greatest gift she could imagine – holding her newborn son four years after learning she might never be able to have children at all.
At 27 years old, York faced not only a diagnosis of Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2015, but also the strong likelihood of infertility.
“That devastated me,” she says.
York, now 31, had always wanted four children, and that possibility seemed impossible with the necessary treatment for her cancer known to render most women menopausal, regardless of age. But then, Thanksgiving week 2015, with two weeks until treatment, she connected with Dr. Paul Miller, infertility specialist with Prisma Health-Upstate, and her hope was renewed.
“In the United States right now there are over 2.5 million people of reproductive age who are cancer survivors, and our job is to offer them hope that their dreams of having children are not lost,” Miller says.
Miller, vice chair of academics for the department of obstetrics and gynecology, and his team at Fertility Center of the Carolinas worked with York and her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Zach, on a fast-tracked strategy to preserve their chance of having children when her treatment was complete.
“My colleagues and I never try to downplay the serious nature of a cancer diagnosis, but having seen more women than ever surviving their cancer, we can offer them optimism for future family building,” Miller says.
Two weeks of hormone therapy allowed for the retrieval of 12 eggs, which ultimately led to four viable embryos to be frozen and saved until York could carry a healthy pregnancy.
“Helping people like Katie and Zach who are desperately seeking some sort of light at the end of the tunnel is one of the most rewarding parts of my job,” Miller says.
York says that process, while emotionally and physically taxing, was made bearable because of the medical staff’s support and encouragement.
“Everybody became family instantly,” she says.
Following her cancer treatment out of state, York received a cancer free diagnosis in August of 2017. She returned to Fertility Center of the Carolinas in July of 2018, cleared for in vitro fertilization.
“Once cancer is in the rearview mirror, our patients can return and expect to confidently move ahead with their plans for starting a family,” Miller says.
By September, she was determined to indeed be menopausal, but through hormone treatment, Miller was able to get her body ready for embryo transfer on Nov. 30.
Two weeks of nervous waiting and hormone treatment produced a positive pregnancy test on Dec. 12.
“I was overwhelmed with happiness and emotion,” York says.
She and Zach announced their wonderful news to family on Christmas Day. After the easiest pregnancy she could imagine, York delivered Lincoln Miller York on Aug. 14, 2019. His middle name, while a family name on the father’s side, is also a tribute to the doctor who made her dreams of motherhood possible.
Because of this success, York plans to have more children, using the remaining banked embryos.
“Katie is a woman who came to my office intent on preserving her goal of becoming a mother. That same focus and determination is what carried her through her multiple rounds of cancer treatment and ultimately led to her survival, all the while with Zach at her side,” Miller says. “Together, they are an intrepid team who will have some amazing stories to tell their children.”
About Prisma Health
Prisma Health, a not-for-profit health company, is committed to excellence in patient care, clinical research and teaching the next generation of medical professionals. Our organization – South Carolina’s largest private employer – was formed when Greenville Health System and Palmetto Health joined together in late 2017, officially becoming Prisma Health in January 2019. With 32,000 team members (including volunteers), 18 hospitals and over 300 physician practice sites, we serve more than 1.2 million patients annually – about a quarter of the state’s population. Our goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care. Our cardiovascular, neuroscience, OB/GYN, oncology and orthopedic programs attract patients throughout the region. Also noteworthy are our two renowned children’s hospitals, comprehensive diabetes care and extensive primary care network. Ultimately, we are dedicated to transforming the health care experience for our patients and families, our team members and guests by bringing our purpose to life: Inspire health. Serve with compassion. Be the difference. Learn more at PrismaHealth.org.