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This Woman Found Out She Had Ovarian Cancer While Trying to Get Pregnant

Jennifer Marchie knew she was going to have trouble getting pregnant even before she started trying. With polycystic ovaries, a hormonal disorder that causes an irregular release of eggs, she knew that her chances of conceiving naturally were pretty slim. (Related: 4 Gynecological Problems You Shouldn't Ignore)

Jennifer tried to get pregnant for a year before reaching out to a fertility expert to explore other options. "I reached out to the Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey (RMANJ) in June of 2015, who paired me with Dr. Leo Doherty," Jennifer told Shape. "After doing some basic blood work, he conducted what they call a baseline ultrasound and realized that I had an abnormality."

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Marchie

Unlike a regular ultrasound, a baseline or follicle ultrasound is done transvaginally, meaning they insert a tampon-size wand into the vagina. This allows doctors to see a lot better by getting views of the uterus and ovaries that an external scan cannot get.

It was thanks to this heightened visibility that Dr. Doherty was able to find the abnormality that would end up changing Jennifer's life forever.

"Everything kind of sped up after that," she said. "After seeing the abnormality, he scheduled me for a second opinion. Once they realized that something didn't look right, they got me in for an MRI."

Three days after her MRI, Jennifer received the dreaded phone call that's every person's worst nightmare. "Dr. Doherty called me and revealed that the MRI found a mass much bigger than they'd expected," she said. "He went on to say that it was cancer—I was in utter shock. I was only 34; this wasn't supposed to happen." (Related: New Blood Test May Lead to Routine Ovarian Cancer Screening)

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Marchie

Jennifer didn't know whether or not she'd even be able to have children, which was one of the first things she thought of after receiving that call. But she tried to focus on getting through her eight-hour surgery at the Rutgers Cancer Institute, hoping for some good news after.

Thankfully, she woke up to find that the doctors were able to keep one of her ovaries intact and gave her a two-year window to conceive. "Depending on the size of the cancer, most recurrences happen within the first five years, so the doctors felt comfortable giving me two years from surgery to have a baby, as a safety cushion of sorts," Jennifer explained.

While on her six-week recovery period, she started thinking about her options and knew that in vitro fertilization (IVF) was probably the way to go. So, once she was given the clearance to start trying again, she reached out to RMANJ, where they helped her start treatments immediately.

Still, the road wasn't easy. "We had some hiccups," Jennifer said. "A few times we didn't have any viable embryos and then I also had a failed transfer. I ended up not getting pregnant until the following July."

But once it finally happened, Jennifer could hardly believe her luck. "I don't think I've ever been that happy in my entire life," she said. "I can't even think of a word that could describe it. After all of that work, pain, and disappointment it was like boom—validation that everything was worth it."

Overall, Jennifer's pregnancy was pretty easy and she was able to give birth to her daughter in March of this year.

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Marchie

"She's my little miracle baby and I wouldn't trade that for the world," she says. "Now, I just try to be more aware and treasure all the little moments I have with her. It definitely isn't something that I take for granted."

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