Wendy and I went to the Fertility Physicians of Northern California (FPNC) clinic on Monday. We wanted them to help formulate a plan that we could follow once I could donate "genetic material". We met with the very thorough, very patient, Dr. Nelson who spoke to us at length about our options.
If I haven't written about it already, the current plan (formulated by the Standford Cancer Center) was to wait until I get into Cytogenetic Remission and stop Gleevec for one month. We would wait for the first two weeks, then donate several "samples" over the remaining two weeks. The idea here is that the Gleevec would be flushed fom my system after two weeks so the donations should be free of the drug. These donations could then be used for artificial insemimation or, worst case, IVF. The average length of time it takes a CML patient to achieve Cytogenetic Remission is 12-18 months. They agreed to test me after 6 months this coming December.
Within the first 15 minutes of our discussion with Dr. Nelson, this plan essentially got flushed down the toilet. According to him, it take 2.5-3 months for a male to generate new sperm. This means that waiting two weeks would, in his opinion, be meaningless. As far as I am aware, being off Gleevec for 3 months is not an option. It's too large of a gamble that you will be resistant when you restart.
This means that we basically have two options now. The first is to roll the dice and conceive while I'm still on the Gleevec. The second is explore options such as donor sperm and adoption.
I can't help but be extremely angry and frustrated that we were told nothing of this before I started Gleevec. I was diagnosed in the chronic phase and waiting 3 or 4 days before starting Gleevec to allow time to bank sperm would have made no difference in the course of my treatment.
We haven't yet decided which direction we're going to go yet. If we decide to conceive while on the Gleevec and the baby has a birth defect, wouldn't that essentially be my fault? If we obeyed the doctor's advice not to get pregnant we wouldn't have condemned a child to life with a disability. On the other hand, we can find no credible study or evidence that conceiving while a male is taking Gleevec has a statistically significant chance of causing birth defects in the child.
It's not a decision I relish, and one that we shouldn't have to make. I'm thinking about making fertility awareness in new oncology patients my "cause". I think it makes sense to educate a newly diagnosed patient about their fertility options with regards to the consequences of their treatment. In some cases, there won't be an option. Sometimes the physician has to act quickly and decisively in order to save the patient's life. There is no time to stop and consider the future of a couple's fertility. This wasn't the case with me.
Wendy and I have a lot to talk about.