With loving support for each other, Emily and Andy battled cancer & the emotional upset of disappointing infertility treatments to hang on to hope
December 2010 was not good for Emily and Andy, an Arvada couple who had turned to Dr. Lauren Roth for help getting pregnant. Andy had cancer five years before and though given only nine months to live at the time, he is now eight years free of his cancer. But his chemo and radiation treatments rendered his sperm ineffective for pregnancy.
They knew that assisted reproductive technology (ART) was a great option for cancer survivors—one many survivors don’t know about—and Emily had indeed gotten pregnant using intrauterine insemination (IUI) with donor sperm. But she had a miscarriage. Within a week, Andy’s father passed away.
“It was a rough time,” says 30-year-old Emily. “We took some time off from trying to get pregnant.”
And while their opening attempt at ART wound up being a disappointment, they had something going for them that most couples seeking fertility help don’t have: insurance coverage. Emily’s insurance had been paying for the IUI, and they still had enough coverage to pay for two more rounds.
“I know it is unusual for health insurance to cover fertility treatments,” says Emily, who works in the insurance industry as a commercial underwriter. “It’s kind of an amazing part of our story. When we first started in 2010, I told the Advanced Reproductive Medicine office that my insurance covered the services, and they looked at me funny. They said they wanted to check to make sure. And it was covered, I think up to $20,000.”
Only 15 states have laws requiring insurance to cover infertility treatment, and Colorado isn’t one of them.
“It’s unusual for insurance to cover fertility treatments in a state without the mandate,” says Dr. Roth. “Probably less than one in 10 of our patients receiving treatment have insurance coverage. Which is too bad, because studies about the insurance-mandated states show that they have better outcomes from fertility treatments.”
Andy and Emily were looking for a better outcome, and after taking a break following that horrible December, they tried IUI again, twice.
“Neither of those two worked, and our insurance ran out,” says Emily. “We stopped trying because it was cost prohibitive without insurance. We took some time off. We were thinking that children of our own weren’t in the cards, which was fine because we have a perfectly healthy boy already [a 13-year-old from Andy’s previous marriage]. Advanced Reproductive Medicine does financing as well, and we researched that as we were getting close to our insurance limit. It was still a lot for us to undertake at that point, emotionally and financially.”
Nerves, nerves, nerves
The emotional aspect of infertility can be more daunting than the physical aspects. Dr. Roth says many couples stop seeking treatment due to the emotional aspects, because they can’t cope with the uncertainty and the pressure. Financial concerns often heighten the emotional situation.
“When we tried, every month it was nerves, nerves, nerves for two weeks and then a let down. And then again,” explains Emily. “Maybe it was God’s way to tell us to focus on each other and heal emotionally before going dow26n this path again.”
In 2013, Emily took a new job with another generous employer whose health insurance covered reproductive treatments—a huge blessing, she says. They could afford to try again, financially, and their personal strength and mutual support made it possible emotionally.
They met with Dr. Roth, who was glad to see them come back to try again after their previous disappointments. Their case was a complicated one, but Dr. Roth says Advanced Reproductive Medicine welcomes the challenges of complicated cases. This time, they decided to try in vitro fertilization (IVF). In November they did the first cycle.
“We ended up with four embryos that were viable. On December 2nd they did the egg retrieval. Dr. Roth looked at how the embryos were growing and gave us the option of transferring one or two. We transferred two embryos, and they were successful!” says Emily. “We have two healthy boys coming. The other day during the ultrasound they waved at us and stuck their tongues out at us. My due date is August 25th.”
Their 13-year-old son is excited that he’s going to have two little brothers. Emily and Andy bought two cribs recently and are shopping for two of everything, which makes it especially nice that insurance covered most of their treatment costs. Emily is thankful for that, and knows how tough it is on other couples that don’t have that insurance option.
Her niece and nephew have one healthy girl but they’ve been trying for about a year to get pregnant again, but she’s had three miscarriages. Their insurance doesn’t cover infertility treatments, claiming that it’s not medically necessary.
“Insurance companies often equate it to plastic surgery. Giving someone a life is not the same as plastic surgery at all. Part of quality of life is having children around,” says Emily.
A large factor in keeping up her quality of life through her trying times was Andy.
“It’s difficult from both sides, everything’s happening to me but Andy is just as invested as I am. We leaned on each other. Especially these last few months. He’s been amazing through this whole thing—dealing with all my mood swings, all the medicines I had to take and him giving me shots,” says Emily.
“We couldn’t have done it without each other. People going through this, shouldn’t give up hope. We did for a while, but we found that hope again,” she says. “It made us closer as a couple.”