ATLANTA — Imagine being diagnosed with cancer and then being told the treatment might cost you the dream of having a family.
That’s the reality for the 80,000+ young adults who are diagnosed with cancer in the United States each year.
A local nonprofit called Team Maggie's Dream is on a mission to help.
“It came out of nowhere, I just found lumps one day," Sarah Shearouse recalled. She was diagnosed with Stage 3C breast cancer at only 36 years old.
That was the first blow. The next followed shortly after.
“I had a doctor who told me by the way, this treatment can make you infertile," Shearouse said. "At the time I was diagnosed, I had a three-year-old son. It never occurred to me... that I might not be able to ever have another one.”
Shearouse then learned her insurance wouldn’t cover the $10,000+ cost to preserve her eggs.
“Cancer sort of turns your entire life upside down and puts your life on hold, and to know that it might affect me in that way as well, was just sort of adding insult on top of all of the other insults and injury," she said.
Her doctors referred her to Team Maggie's Dream, a nonprofit that gives fertility preservation grants to young cancer patients.
Thanks to their help, Shearouse was able to harvest and freeze her eggs before undergoing what would be more than two years of cancer treatment.
“It was chemo, radiation, more chemo surgeries," she said. "To know that it wasn't closed to me to ever have another child meant a lot. It kind of... it symbolizes hope and a future.”
Hope and a future for her family that's now growing by one. Shearouse is months away from giving birth to her second child.
“My son, he’s happy to be getting a little sister or brother," she said smiling. "He tells me that there's one person he loves more than me, and that's the baby!"
Shearouse said although her journey was difficult, she knows what got her through.
“There are some really dark days, but there's a lot of hope,” she said.
Hope found in family, faith, and perfect strangers.
“I hope... that I can be sort of a cheerleader, a source of some hope or support or inspiration to support the organization that gave to me," she said. "Life is really good after cancer.”
On Saturday, Sept.17, Team Maggie's Dream is hosting a 5K fundraiser in Roswell along the Chattahoochee River. You can also participate virtually.