Meet Rebecca, talented 36-year old woman and participant of the BIG Time for Baby study

Intro text: 


Launched in 2014, BIG Time for Baby (scientific name: POSITIVE) is an international academic study that represents a unique opportunity for young women with breast cancer to safely plan and become pregnant without waiting many years after completing their endocrine treatment.

We had the pleasure to meet Rebecca, a breast cancer survivor from Switzerland who has joined the BIG Time for Baby study in the hope of starting a family. This talented and passionate art historian has kindly accepted to share her story with us.

BIG: How did you feel when you learned about your breast cancer diagnosis?

Rebecca: As soon as I touched the knot I knew that this is not business as usual. But getting the definite diagnosis was nevertheless shocking. Because I did not know what a breast cancer diagnosis actually meant. Was it life threatening? Could I die? How long did I have to live? The first impact was that of outmost uncertainty. 

I have always had a healthy life. I had – and still have – a great life in fact. Everything was good and all of sudden, I felt the ground falling from under my feet, as I changed from feeling healthy to being sick within a week. My life took a completely different course than the one I had planned for myself the day before. 

At the time, our wedding was just one month away and I did ask myself whether getting married was still as important as it was before my breast cancer diagnosis. I had so many other questions on my mind. But my fiancé insisted on getting married as planned and having a big party with all our friends and family, so we did and it was great to have such a project full of joy and happiness to balance fear and uncertainty. 

I am so thankful for my family and friends who had stood beside me, supported me, and loved me through this tough time. I know that it was difficult for them and how helpless they felt, especially my parents. Having them with me made such a difference, as did very supportive and flexible working arrangements with my employers.

'That was the first time I realized that having kids was much more important for us than I thought.'

Were you worried that your breast cancer might impact your chances to have children, and how did that make you feel?

I did not think at first that having breast cancer could impact my chances to have children. I was living happily with my fiancé, I had a great job and a loving family. Children were more a long-term plan but not at the time of my diagnosis. I remember thinking first about the direct effects on my personal future, my family and my work.

After considering the different treatments it became clear, that getting pregnant will not be an option for at least 2 to 3 years. That was the first time I realized that having kids was much more important for us than I thought. I was 33 years old, it would have been an ideal age to start a family. But my doctor recommended to wait for the moment.

Which treatment options did you consider?

A week after having had a skin-spare mastectomy of my right breast, I was informed that my cancer had not yet spread. After a meeting with my doctor, Dr. Monica Castiglione, we decided to do a hormone therapy. Fortunately, chemotherapy was not necessary, which was a huge relief.

I received great support at the Breast Clinic in Zürich from my oncologists, the plastic surgeon, the breast care nurse and the whole staff. They were readily available and always took the time to answer any question or doubt I had. They kept me up to date concerning new scientific findings and treatments as well as aesthetic possibilities. Together we made the right decisions. I felt safe and trusted my doctors.That was priceless and made such a difference during my treatment.

'The knowledge generated from the study is essential to provide young women like me who desire a child with answers to their questions and information about available possibilities.'

How did you come to find out about the POSITIVE study?

My doctor had advised that I had to take my hormone therapy for 2-3 years before taking a break to try to become pregnant. After 2 and a half years, my husband and I decided to interrupt the therapy and start building a family as we felt ready and I am about to finish my dissertation. I discussed the possibility of having children with my doctor. She then told me about the POSITIVE study. I was an ideal candidate as I fully met the eligibility criteria. My decision was an easy one. I will participate in that study. For me, that was a sign, the timing was perfect.

Why did you decide to participate in the study?

The knowledge generated from the study is essential to provide young women like me who desire a child with answers to their questions and information about available possibilities. What we need is to know what our options are in order to make the right decisions. 
Also taking part in such a study means getting the best of care. I know I will be closely monitored by those doctors that I trust and feel confident and safe. 

We wish you the best of luck in trying to have a baby. Would you be willing (with full confidentiality if you prefer) to inform us if you are successful in becoming pregnant, so that we can share the good news about the study’s success?

Yes, I would be happy to let you know.


Editor's note: The names have been changed to protect the privacy of those mentioned in this article.