A Teen's Battle With Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
- Jaymz Goodman was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia at just 19 years old. Now 26, and having been in remission for nearly eight years, Goodman is thankful to have undergone fertility preservation.
- T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) affects a type of white blood cell known as T lymphocytes.
- A cancer diagnosis may be scary, but it doesn’t mean fertility is out of the question. While certain treatments can affect a man’s fertility, there are options to preserve fertility.
- Terry Lynn Woodard, an Associate Professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet that the common option is for men to freeze their sperm in a bank.
- Dr. Woodward says it may be significantly easier for men to save their sperm as it’s less costly than preserving an egg or an embryo, but men need to be proactive and ask whether the drugs they will be taking can affect their fertility.
Now 26, Goodman has been in remission for nearly eight years. He’s sharing his cancer story to help others know what to expect when it comes to battling disease and the hard decisions that need to be made along the way.Read More
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Goodman was only 19 years old at the time. He was young, and though he had been in a two-year relationship with a young woman, having children wasn’t a thought on his mind yet.
“That was a conversation we never had. We were way too young to even consider it but then when handed the forms there was a section on there for on the off chance of my death, do I want to leave my sperm sample available for anyone?” he told the news outlet.
“That’s an unbelievably weird consideration at such a young age and in such a young relationship.”
He recounted being “thrusted” into questions like, “Oh … do I actually want a family?” and “Am I going to be here to have a family?”
“I think the last thing that you’re really thinking about in that moment is ‘Do I want to have children?’ I think it’s more like ‘What have I not done with my life? What’s next and I’m going to still be here in a year,'” he added. “The prospect of having children is definitely something that you think about after the fact.”
Thankfully, Goodman, who is now living in Manchester with his current girlfriend, still has his fertility and is thankful to have frozen his sperm just in case.
Fertility Preservation After Cancer
A cancer diagnosis may be frightening. However, it doesn’t mean being fertile is no longer an option.
Cancer treatments like chemotherapy can damage sperm in men, and hormone therapy can decrease sperm production, according to the National Cancer Institute. And radiation to the reproductive organs or nearby areas has the potential to lower sperm count and testosterone levels, causing infertility.
However, there are options for men to preserve their fertility before treatment.
Dr. Terry Lynn Woodard, assistant professor, Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center, previously explained to SurvivorNet that there are various options for fertility preservation, depending on the type of cancer someone is diagnosed with.
“The standard-of-care options for fertility preservation for women would be egg or embryo freezing. For men, it would be sperm banking,” Dr. Woodward said.
Goodman decided to take this route and freeze his sperm in a bank. Thankfully, he said, he had his friends around to make light of the situation and help with the embarrassment that might come along with something like this for such a young person.
Dr. Woodward added that other available options “would include Ovarian Tissue Freezing for women, Testicular Tissue Freezing for men.”
Preserving Fertility During Cancer Treatment What Are the Options?
In regards to men needing to undergo cancer treatment, Dr. Woodward suggests they question their doctors on what type of treatment they will have and how it will affect their fertility.
“If they think they want to have a child in the future or even if they’re unsure they should ask about sperm banking,” Dr. Woodard told SurvivorNet.
“Fortunately sperm banking is much cheaper and much easier than freezing eggs or embryos is for a woman. Unfortunately, we still miss a lot of men because they simply don’t know that this is something that is available.”
Dr. Woodward noted that it may be significantly easier for men to save their sperm as it’s less costly than preserving an egg or an embryo, but men need to be proactive and ask whether the drugs they will be taking can affect their fertility.
Dr. Jamie Knopman, the director of fertility preservation at CCRM New York, also spoke with SurvivorNet about fertility preservation and explained how she doesn’t see many men coming in to freeze sperm before cancer treatment.
Preserving Fertility During Cancer Treatment
“Usually, men that are going to freeze sperm, we send them to a clinic. And so, they will go there, they’ll produce a sample or a couple of samples, and then that’ll be frozen for the future,” Dr. Knopman said.
“I’m more likely to see a couple where the male partner has been diagnosed with cancer, but they want to move forward with fertility treatment immediately. And oftentimes, what we’ll do in that case is they’ll just freeze sperm and then we’ll use the sperm down the road to make embryos, or to do inseminations, or whatever it may be.”
What Is Leukemia?
Leukemia is a blood cancer that develops when the body produces large quantities of abnormal white blood cells. These cells prevent the bone marrow from producing any other type of cell including, red blood cells and platelets.
“One cell got really selfish and decided that it needed to take up all the resources of everybody else, and, in doing so, took up space and energy from the rest of the body,” Dr. Nina Shah, a hematologist at University of California San Francisco, previously told SurvivorNet.
What Is A Blood Cancer? How Is It Different?
Below are the four basic categories doctors use to identify the different types of this blood cancer:
- Acute leukemia grows very quickly.
- Chronic leukemia grows more slowly, over several years.
- Lymphoid leukemia grows from lymphoid cells, which produce antibodies and protect against viruses.
- Myeloid leukemia grows from myeloid cells, which is the body’s first defense for bacteria.
Overall, blood cancer means that your bone marrow is not working normally.
“And when your bone marrow doesn’t function correctly, it means that you can have something happen to you like anemia,” Dr. Shah said. “Or you can have low platelets, which makes it possible for you to bleed easily. Or your immune system is not functioning correctly.”
Symptoms of leukemia depend on type of leukemia and can present as seemingly benign, according to the Mayo Clinic. Signs and symptoms of the disease usually include:
- Fever or chills
- Extreme tiredness or weakness
- Frequent or severe infections
- Unintended weightless
- Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged spleen or liver
- Bleeding or bruising easily
- Recurring nosebleeds
- Small red spots in your skin (petechiae)
- Excessive sweating (usually at night)
- Bone tenderness or pain
Understanding T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is “a type of acute leukemia meaning that it is aggressive and progresses quickly,” which affects the lymphoid-cell-producing stem cells, LeukaemiaCare.org explains.
The cancer affects a type of white blood cell known as T lymphocytes, which is different from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that usually affects B lymphocytes.
What Is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)?
Dr. Olalekan Oluwole, a hematologist with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, previously sat down with SurvivorNet to discuss what ALL (type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow) is, how it affects the body and the type of treatments that work to fight it.
“ALL is a type of cancer that is very aggressive,” Dr. Oluwole told SurvivorNet. “It grows very fast. Within a few weeks, a few months, the person will start to feel very sick. And that’s why we will have to give it an equally aggressive type of treatment to break that cycle.”
Oluwole noted that leukemia is often rested in the bone marrow, and due to it being an abnormal growth, it continues to divide.
“It doesn’t follow rules, and it doesn’t stop,” he told SurvivorNet. “Not only that, because this is part of the immune system, the immune system is sorta like the police of the body. So those abnormal cells that have now become cancer, they have the ability to go to many places. They go into the blood, and they often go into the tissue or the lining around the brain.”
“By the time somebody comes to us and they have ALL we already assume that it has gone everywhere in the body, and we have to treat them like that,” Dr. Oluwole says.
He says many patients often have a fever or infections due to the bone marrow having “failed in its ability to make other types of blood cells.”
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff
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