Family battling cancer turns infertility into newborn baby

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) - One couple thought a cancer diagnosis could prevent them from having a child.  But a new program and an existing one at a local medical office helped them achieve a miracle.   

The Onco-Fertility program at AU allows cancer patients a chance to fertilize embryos outside the woman's body and freeze them. And it has done so for a few years.  Now, a recent program allows those families to unfreeze those same embryos and start the process for a new baby. 

"I found out Memorial Day Weekend, that Monday 2014, that I had Triple Positive Her2 Negative Breast Cancer," said Dena Robinson, an Onco-Fertility patient.  

It's the news no one wants to hear.  And for 32-year-old Dena Robinson, who was 28 at the time, it was unimaginable as a newlywed and thinking of starting a family.

"I know chemo can halt your fertility, so I just wanted to err on the side of caution and if I could preserve my eggs, I definitely wanted to do that," she said. 

She and her new husband wanted a baby.  But DeAndre Robinson, who joined in through video chat, told us the two had written off having children.

He said, "To go from feeling like you were helpless to finding out that there were other options, we were willing to try anything at that point."

And with breast cancer they had to work fast.  So their oncologist sent the couple to Augusta University's Onco-Fertility office giving them hope through Fertility Preservation and more.

"Because of her cancer being estrogen positive, pregnancy could promote [the] return of a cancer in a short period of time," said Onco-Fertility and IVF Director Dr. Larisa Gavrilova-Jordan.  "Her best option was to use a gestational carrier."

Tiffany Stokes was having dinner with mutual friends when she heard Dena talk about her cancer and wanting a child through a gestational carrier.

"I love babies.  I love the feel of being pregnant," Stokes said. 

She agreed, to Robinson's surprise, and all it took was convincing her husband to put one of eight of the Robinson's frozen embryos to work.

"Initially, I'm thinking hold on? But, once the process was explained to me, I was totally ok and ultimately, once God said this is my work, that settled it for me," Thomas Stokes said. 

Despite concerns of his wife carrying a child just shy of her 40th birthday, the couple helped the Robinsons have their first child on January 22nd.  And through a nearly two-year journey of taking shots, meeting with a team of medical professional and emotional counseling, the two families are pleased with the outcome, baby Diem.

And Dena is praying for another miracle.

"Hopefully, after the five year mark of remission the doctor will give me the go ahead that I could try for my own," she shared.

You may want to call this a surrogacy. But, it is not. Dr. Jordan said a surrogate uses her own eggs with male specimen.  Gestational Care uses the eggs from the female cancer patient, for example, and the husband's specimen.  So the baby is genetically theirs. 

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