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Looking Forward After Colon Cancer

Summer 2006 – At age 27, Tammy Figg was looking forward to marriage. But six weeks before her wedding date, she learned she had stage III colon cancer.

Tammy and Ayden Figg “Tammy started having some bloody stool and cramping and had noticed some changes in her bowel habits,” says Benjamin Tan, MD, a medical oncologist at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. “A colonoscopy showed that she had cancer in her rectum. After a CAT scan and a biopsy, it was confirmed that the cancer was localized and there was no metastasis anywhere else."

Surgery was performed to remove the tumor, but after the surgery, pathologists found that one of the lymph nodes was involved, and that changed the story for Figg. She was told that she needed intense chemotherapy and radiation, and it could leave her sterile.

"It was devastating because I always wanted to be a mom,” Figg says. “And to have that concern that maybe I would never be able to have children…" But Tammy and her husband, Bryan, did their homework and quickly learned that they had options.

"She chose to go through IVF cycle,” explains Valerie Ratts, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “We retrieved her eggs and fertilized them with her partner's sperm, then after her treatments, we placed the embryos in her uterus. It’s a wonderful story."

Though Tammy had a less than 30 percent chance of getting pregnant, the couple's second attempt was successful. Last September, Ayden Figg came into the world.

"It's a miracle," Ratts says. The Figgs agree. "I still live with cancer every day, and I do worry, 'Is it going to come back? Am I going to see him graduate from high school and get married?' " explains Tammy. "But Ayden is my hope."

Tan emphasizes the importance of colorectal screening because when caught early, colorectal cancer can often be cured. “Even if you’re young, if you have the signs of colon or rectal cancer, you should see a doctor and ask for a screening such as a colonoscopy," he says. "If Tammy had not gone through the screening, if she had ignored her symptoms and waited several more years, it probably would have been too late.”

Now, thanks to advanced treatment and the expertise of specialists at the Siteman Cancer Center, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, Tammy is looking forward to watching her son Ayden take his first steps.

Cancer Patient to Parent
Learn more about Tammy's journey from cancer patient to parent.

Understanding IVF
Read more about in vitro fertilization and how it's used to help cancer patients become parents.