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Raising children and beating breast cancer

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Posted at 2:12 PM, Oct 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-08 23:41:35-04

Two moms. Two devastating diagnoses.

Amy Bowen and Megan Crunkleton were both busy working moms when they were diagnosed with breast cancer.

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I was in the midst of running my child to football and baseball and karate and I was a full time working mom,” says Bowen.

Crunkleton says, “My husband and I were planning to have a second child very soon. We had bought a four-bedroom house, six months prior to my diagnosis and we were ready to fill up those rooms, and that all had to be put on hold.”

For Crunkleton, just 33 at the time, breastfeeding and her sister’s diagnosis raised a red flag.

“I had my son in December 2015 and my sister who is ten years older than I am, was diagnosed with cancer January 2016,” Crunkleton says.

She continues, “So kind of fast-forward a little bit. I was nursing my son. He was almost a year and a half, and I felt a lump.”

Unlike Crukleton, Bowen had no family history of the disease.

“Bowen says, “I was diagnosed at 44 and I do not have any family history, whatsoever, none.

Dr. Yvonne Lynn Ottaviano, MD, is Chief of Medical Oncology at Medstar Franklin Square Hospital and Director of Breast Oncology. She says it’s a frightening diagnosis for patients at any age, but especially for younger women.

“There’s a sense that the body has betrayed them and that they have no control over any of this, because one doesn’t,” says Dr. Ottaviano.

It can be even harder for women who are still trying to have children. She says for younger women wanting to start or expand their families, fertility issues are enormous.

“Sometimes doctors kind of, that’s not our first thought. Our first focus is I’ve got to get this cancer out of you or get you on the road to treatment,” says Dr. Ottaviano.

But she says doctors are now taking a step back from rushing treatments and offering patients more fertility preservation options.

She says, “I’ve learned over the years and we have it in our policy, in our procedures in policies, that we must address fertility issues. In a man at any age and offer them sperm banking and a woman under the age of 45.”

Dr. Ottaviano says she loves to keep track of her post-chemo babies and so far, she has six.

“I love to have them come to appointments. That’s part of why I do this is because I want to see life go on,” says Dr. Ottaviano.

Crunkleton is hoping she can add another post-chemo baby to Dr. Ottaviano’s group. "She’s seen in her practice, six babies after chemo, and we're hoping to give her baby number 7 once I get cleared in about a year or so.”