Aug. 8, 2007 — -- Caryn Chomsky was only 25 when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and confronted with the news that she and her husband would not be able to have children the traditional way. So the newlywed and her husband were forced to find a solution.
"Giving up wasn't an option for us. You know, it was figuring out how to solve this problem," Caryn said.
It became clear to the couple that the solution that best suited them was a surrogate mother and one person jumped at the chance. Ann Stolper was the first person to volunteer.
Stolper is Caryn's mother.
"I didn't want her and her husband to miss out on this wonderful opportunity," Stolper said.
And in December, Stolper gave birth to twins, Itai and Maya, her grandchildren. For parents Caryn and Ayal Chomsky, their daughters' arrival was the sweetest possible event.
"Every day I look at them and think of them as the greatest miracles in the world," Ayal said.
But there were hurdles along the way that required help. The doctors' first concern: Caryn's cervical cancer.
Caryn had a hysterectomy and surgeons also performed an "ovarian transposition," carefully repositioning Caryn's ovaries out of her pelvic area and into her abdominal cavity. This way they could give her the radiation she needed for the cancer without damaging her ovaries.
Caryn's eggs were saved.
But then another medical hurdle presented itself: Stolper, Caryn's mom, is 58. If the embryo implant worked, she would become the oldest woman in America to give birth to her own grandchildren.
"Certainly the older someone is their risks are much higher and Ann was post-menopausal," said Rebecca Stern, Caryn's OB-GYN.
As of today, in the United States, there are no laws dictating an age limit for fertility treatments, but there are voluntary guidelines. Ideally, a candidate receiving the treatments has not yet gone through menopause, when bones weaken and muscle tone takes a big drop. Additionally, the stress on the vascular system is greater — risks like high blood pressure, which may lead to premature birth.
"Those risks are high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, which is a condition including hypertension that can progress to seizures, and diabetes is very common in an older pregnant lady," Stern said.
As a result, most U.S. infertility centers choose early 50s as the cut off simply because it is the average age of menopause. The center from which the Chomskys were seeking treatment had age 55 as the cut off.
With Ann at 58, permission for an exception did not come easy. She went through countless tests, including those for bone density, heart health and stress. She passed with flying colors and doctors gave her the go-ahead.
"The doctors told me I was healthy. I've done it before. Why not again?" she said.
After extensive hormone therapy to reverse menopause and prepare her uterus for pregnancy, Stolper successfully carried her daughter's twins.
All went well until seven months into the pregnancy, when Stolper's blood pressure spiked. As a result, the twins were delivered by Caesarian section, six weeks early.
Completing the circle, the OB-GYN who delivered the babies was the same doctor who had diagnosed Caryn with cancer a year and a half earlier.
"I mean, to go from terrible to amazing was … was just wonderful. I was just very lucky and so are they, obviously," Stern said.