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There's no such thing as a good day to hear your doctor utter the terrifying words "breast cancer," but when Stacey Bolton was diagnosed on September 11, 2006, no one would have blamed her for seeing the 9/11 anniversary as a bad omen. As it happens, the 32-year old Ottawa resident is an optimist.
"My first question was 'What does this mean about babies?'" she says. "Of course, I was told that what I needed to be worried about was saving my own life, but I explained that it was very important to me that I take care of the children I will have one day."
A fertility expert in Ottawa referred Bolton to the McGill Reproductive Centre and its founder, Dr. Seang Lin Tan, Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Obstetrician and Gynecologist-in-Chief of the McGill University Health Centre. Within a week, she had been assessed, admitted and had eight of her eggs collected for the relatively new process of in vitro maturation, or IVM.
Bolton is among a group of former and current fertility patients addressing the 14th World Congress on In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and the Third World Congress on In Vitro Maturation (IVM), to be held in Montreal September 15-19, 2007. Among those who have agreed to speak are the parents of the world's first baby conceived from an in vitro matured and previously cryopreserved, or frozen, oocyte.
"Courageous patients play a vital role in the advancement of fertility treatments, which is why we wanted them to tell their stories," says Dr. Tan, president of the Congress organizing committee. "Whether they have been through oocyte cryopreservation, or have given birth to an in vitro baby, they are the human face of the latest advances in human reproductive science."
Organized by the newly formed, Montreal-based International Society for In Vitro Fertilization (ISIVF) in collaboration with McGill and a number of international fertility societies, the Congresses will review an array of major scientific breakthroughs and new clinical procedures in the areas of assisted reproduction, as well as ethical and social aspects of the technologies.
Bolton, now 33 and cancer-free, credits her recovery in large measure to her decision to undergo IVM. "When the doctors were telling me all this bad news, it was something positive. I got to hear people saying wonderful things, and I had these babies frozen. It was something to live for and to fight for, and I was subconsciously telling my body that 'I'm going to be healthy enough to raise these children.' That was huge for me."
Among the Congress' honored guests will be British reproductive technology pioneer Robert Edwards. Dr. Edwards developed the technology which led to the birth of the world's first IVF baby, Louise Brown, in July 1978. Prominent McGill ethicist Margaret Somerville will also be addressing the congress delegates.
The 14th World Congress on In Vitro Fertilization and the 3rd World Congress on In Vitro Maturation will be held at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Sept. 15-19, 2007. For details, please see www.isivf2007.com.