It’s the worst of news – you’re child is seriously ill. Chemotherapy can save your child’s life, but it may render her unable to have children. While the latter is less important than saving a child’s life, it’s nonetheless a heavy price to pay for some.
A New York toddler named Violet, who is just two years old, is suffering from an immune disease that requires chemotherapy, and she will soon have one of her tiny ovaries removed by a doctor experienced in this procedure. She is the youngest patient to have this done .
Dr. Kutluk Oktay, a professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the director of the Division of Reproductive Medicine & Infertility at New York Medical College, has performed more than 40 of these surgeries on patients under the age of 18. He will perform the same surgery on little Violet. The lifesaving technique of chemotherapy comes with one very distressing cause for woman: infertility. Some of these young girls may go on to prefer a child-free life but for many parents, they want their young children to have a choice. Or at least a shot at one.
Because chemotherapy can destroy a person’s chance (at any age) of having children, it’s a price that many have paid in order to survive diseases that need chemotherapy and radiation. This includes both men and women. But nowadays it’s not uncommon to hear of a woman harvesting an ovary or eggs in order to have the option of bearing children at a later date. But the stories we hear of are generally of women in their late teens, 20s and 30s – not children who don’t even understand their own illness.
The difference between these toddlers and woman is years – many years. A woman undergoing chemo in her 20s may have her ovaries re-transplanted within a few years of having them removed. A toddler undergoing removal of her ovary will have it stored for up to a couple of decades before having it placed back in her body.
Oktay has done a similar procedure for boys – an operation on their testicles, in the hope that they too, may be able to have children later in life.