Five years after they got married, high school sweethearts Aly and Josh Taylor felt ready to grow their family. Aly had read that sore breasts could be a pregnancy symptom, so she examined her own, hoping she was pregnant. During the exam, she felt a small lump.
Because she was so young, she assumed it was nothing to worry about. But she got it checked out to be safe. After a biopsy in her Louisiana hometown, she was diagnosed with stage III triple-negative breast cancer.
Aly was in shock. “I just couldn’t believe it was true. I was 24 years old, about to start a family and had just begun my Ph.D. program in marriage and family therapy,” Aly says.
Triple-negative breast cancer treatment at MD Anderson
Aly’s local doctor encouraged her to travel to MD Anderson for treatment. Aly is grateful for that recommendation. “When you’ve just received a cancer diagnosis, you are in probably one of the most vulnerable places in your life,” Aly says. “Everyone on my MD Anderson team was incredible. Each person played a vital role in my healing process.”
For six months, Aly received chemotherapy. She first underwent 12 weeks of Taxol, followed by 12 weeks of Fluorouracil, Adriamycin and Cytoxan (FAC). After that, Aly underwent a bilateral mastectomy, followed by 30 radiation treatments. She then had several breast reconstruction surgeries with Mark Villa, M.D.
“I underestimated the time I would spend with this doctor, as he was the one I spent the most time with through multiple surgeries, drains and tissue expansions,” Aly says. “He answered all my questions through the tears and the fears.”
Coping with infertility
Before starting chemotherapy, Aly spoke with her doctor about her fertility options. Since her breast cancer was so aggressive, she needed to start chemotherapy right away. There was no time for fertility preservation.
Aly and Josh waited the recommended two years after her treatment before trying to conceive. When they didn’t get pregnant, they met with a fertility specialist and underwent fertility treatments. The specialist said that the chemotherapy had badly damaged Aly’s eggs and that they would be unable to conceive a child.
“We were devastated,” Aly says. The couple began exploring other options and ended up adopting a newborn girl.
Just nine months after adopting their daughter, Aly was overjoyed to discover she was pregnant. But that wasn’t the only surprise. The birth mother of the Taylors’ daughter called to say she was pregnant and asked if the couple would consider adopting again. They quickly said yes and now are parents of three girls under age 3.
“When I think back to that day where my oncologist said that the chemotherapy treatment would affect my fertility, we had no clue what our family would look like,” Aly says. “Now, I am so thankful for how God turned my devastation into joy by giving us our children in the most incredible of ways!”
Life as a mom and breast cancer survivor
Now celebrating six years as a breast cancer survivor, Aly says she’s blessed to be doing well. But she still experiences some post-traumatic stress when she remembers her treatment or struggles with recurrence fears.
“I used to think that when I was cancer-free, life would be wonderful and all my worries would be gone,” Aly says. “Yet many times the days and years after treatment are the hardest. You’re dealing with everything that happened to your body and your mind, and you can feel lonely when everyone assumes you are doing great.”
She’s thankful for every day she gets to spend with her husband and daughters, and believes each is a gift.
“From healing my cancer to overcoming infertility to adopting two miracle babies, cancer was not the end for me,” Aly says. “It didn’t take my life, and it didn’t define my life. It was a part of my life. It makes me thankful to be alive.”
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