Issue of fertility during and after cancer treatments a growing concern for women

Five years ago, Katy Thies was pregnant. She was tired. She bruised easily.

These days, she's pregnant again -- this time with twins. But the bruising and exhaustion are gone, thanks to a stem cell transplant for aplastic anemia, discovered while she was in labor with her 4-year-old son, Logan.

Ms. Thies, 26, of Natrona Heights in Harrison, is the first patient her doctors have heard of to have a child after a stem cell transplant for aplastic anemia, a disorder in which the bone marrow fails to produce enough blood cells.

The disease is not a cancer, but the treatment for it can be similar.

But the issue of fertility during and after treatments for cancer is becoming more common, as women delay having children until later in life and cancer treatment becomes more effective, lengthening lives after treatment.

"It's a big topic for young women, that's for sure," said Jane Raymond, interim division director for medical oncology at Allegheny Health Network. "For patients in their 20s who haven't completed their families yet, it's a huge issue."

In October 2008, Ms. Thies was in labor with her son, undergoing a routine blood test before she could receive an epidural. And then another blood test, after doctors assumed that the platelet count in her first test was in error.

Eventually, doctors realized that the platelet count was correct -- and Ms. Thies was in need of blood.

Her labor was stopped and she received two platelet transfusions before it was restarted. She gave birth to a healthy boy and started a monthslong odyssey to figure out what was wrong with her blood.

Eventually, once her red and white blood cell counts began to drop as well, she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia.

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Issue of fertility during and after cancer treatments a growing concern for women

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