People battling serious illness or disease can face added stress if their medical diagnosis and treatment impact their ability to have children. Now, there's a push to get Massachusetts to require insurance companies cover what is known as "fertility preservation."
"My first visit I was told I would need a double mastectomy and as well as chemotherapy," said cancer survivor Mary Keenan.
Keenan was a 28-year-old newlywed when a stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis shattered her world.
"My first question was will I lost my hair? My second was, what about children?" said Keenan.
She realized chemotherapy could jeopardize her dream of having children. Her doctor recommended she preserve her eggs, but her insurance didn't cover that.
"We kind of looked at each other and said, what do we do?" she said.
Disease, treatment can derail dreams of having children. I spoke w/ a cancer survivor, diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at age 28. She says family and friends donated thousands to help her afford fertility preservation. Now she's fighting to change MA law.@boston25 at 4 & 6 pic.twitter.com/2NsP2Ir5Pn— Kerry Kavanaugh (@KerryKavanaugh) October 7, 2019
Keenan's husband started a GoFundMe. Donations from friends and family enabled them to move forward with preservation before she started chemo.
"It was almost like a light at the end of the tunnel," she said. "Like if I can get through this, and we decide we want kids, I have hope…"
Keenan wants all families to have that hope.
"If they want to have kids, they should be able to. And something like cancer shouldn't have to stop them."
That's why she's advocating for a change to Massachusetts law. Mass. has had a fertility coverage mandate since 1987, but it does not include preservation.
>> MORE: Read the proposed legislation
"Fertility preservation allows patients that have a medical condition or treatment that's going to impair their fertility to store either sperm, eggs, or embryo either prior to undergoing that treatment or prior to that disease advancing," said Kate Weldon LeBlanc.
LeBlanc is with Resolve New England, which supports and advocates for people facing reproductive challenges.
Boston 25 News anchor Kerry Kavanaugh asked her what the Massachusetts law is lacking now.
"We don't want those decisions to be based on financial concerns," she said.
She says fertility preservation is expensive, particularly for women, upwards of $10,000 plus storage fees.
"The way the Massachusetts law is now, what types of decisions are families that get these diagnoses facing?" Kavanaugh asked.
Keenan replied, "I just think about how many people were in my same position and didn't have family and friends who could chip in…had to say... OK, I guess children aren't for me. And that doesn't seem fair."
Some insurance companies do offer preservation coverage, but there's no requirement or uniformity.
>> Read more: Fertility preservation fact sheet
On Tuesday, Keenan and LeBlanc will head to Beacon Hill to testify about the proposed change to the current law. Massachusetts would be the 8th state to require insurance companies to cover fertility preservation.
Fertility preservation laws have been passed in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Illinois, Delaware, New Hampshire and New York. Other states are considering fertility preservation legislation.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.