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Preserving a Chance for Life After Cancer

Just a handful of days after her wedding, Brandy Hummel’s plans for the future suddenly shifted.

A bout of persistent dizziness that had ruined her honeymoon was something serious – brain cancer. Although the tumor was removed with surgery, the then 23-year-old woman would need radiation treatment and chemotherapy.

But what scared the newly married Sioux Falls woman more than the thought of illness or pain was the chance that the treatment that could save her life would take away her hopes of bringing life into the world.

“My husband Matt and I had been together for five years and we had plans,” says Brandy. “I always wanted to be a young mom. I was ready.”

Life changing news

Brandy didn’t have much time to make a decision. After a trip to the doctor, she learned that she had a medulloblastoma, a highly malignant brain tumor that is most commonly known to strike children. After a successful surgery to remove the cancer, her doctors wanted to start on a regimen of radiation to guarantee that the cancer would be completely eradicated.

But Brandy knew that whatever she did, she wanted to make sure that she had tried every option to preserve her chance to someday have children.

“Children were always part of my plan,” Brandy said. “I prayed that we could find a way to someday still make this happen.”

Exploring her options

The couple visited Sanford reproductive endocrinologist Keith Hansen, who explained options for preserving her fertility. They discussed long-term treatments, such as harvesting eggs to be saved for in vitro fertilization later. However, Brandy didn’t have enough time to wait for the procedure and the cost would be prohibitive for her young family.

Then Dr. Hansen suggested a rare surgical procedure, where Brandy’s ovaries and fallopian tubes would be surgically tucked up underneath her liver and spleen. Moving her reproductive organs would help protect them from the effects of radiation.

“It made perfect sense, so we decided to give it a try,” Brandy said.

After her surgery to move her ovaries and fallopian tubes and then radiation treatments, Brandy underwent a year-long regimen of chemotherapy. Every few weeks she’d be hospitalized for a few days. Afterward, she worked to regain her strength and build back a normal life.

Time for a baby

In 2009, Brandy and her husband decided it was time to have her reproductive organs put back into place. After a four-hour surgery, Dr. Hansen informed Hummel that one of her two fallopian tubes was still alive.

“That news meant the world to me,” Brandy said. “After everything I just knew that God was looking out for us.”

Last year, Brandy got even better news. During another doctor visit, her thyroid specialist ordered a series of lab tests to make sure that her body was functioning properly. A few days later, Brandy got a call from the nurse, telling her, “Congratulations!”

“When my husband got home, we cried and we laughed,” Brandy said. “It was one of the best days of my life.”

Her daughter, Eva Jo, was born in February 2011, about five years after her mother’s diagnosis with cancer. Although the years before her birth were sometimes tiring and stressful, the nearly one-year-old little girl is a cheerful, laid back baby who loves to snuggle.

Brandy’s face lights up with joy as her daughter happily giggles and babbles in her lap. Motherhood has been better than she could imagine and she hopes to someday have even more children.

“I can’t imagine life without her,” she says, stroking the baby’s face. “We’ve been blessed in so many ways. Being her mother is really the best thing in the world.”

Posted Date: November 2011