At just 16-years-old, McKindree Patton froze her eggs before enduring a blood marrow transplant and chemotherapy. Now a year later, her mother tells Yahoo Parenting that the decision gave her daughter not just a promise for the future but hope as she continues her battle to get better. (Photo: Facebook/Kin Can Kick It).
Deciding at age 16 if you want to freeze your eggs isn’t a dilemma most high school students face. But that’s exactly what McKindree Patton had to consider, and quickly, before undergoing chemotherapy as part of a lifesaving bone marrow transplant last year.
“When you’re sick, you’re inundated with the mentality that life could be cut short,” McKindree’s mom, Aimee Patton, tells Yahoo Parenting. “But when you’re 16, do you really get that? Deciding whether to freeze her eggs allowed McKindree to look to the future.”
For the Arizona teen — diagnosed with a rare bone marrow condition at age 12 and in and out of Phoenix Children’s Hospital ever since — illness had separated her from her peers, the gymnastics team that she used to compete with and typical high school life. So the decision to freeze her eggs became “a turning point,” says Aimee. “It let her think, ‘At some point this may be over. There is hope that I can do something that I’ve always wanted to do. And that’s be a mother.’”
McKindree Patton during recent treatment. (Photo: Facebook/Kin Can Kick It).
Deciding to undergo the three-week procedure last June “changed everything,” says the mother of four children — a 21-year-old son, McKindree, now 17, a 14-year-old daughter, and a 12-year-old son — with her husband Jye Patton. “She has something going forward that motivates her for the future.”
Yet coming to the conclusion to go for it wasn’t automatic for anyone but McKindree’s father, Jye. “My husband had come to me months prior before going to get [the] transplant and said, ‘I just have the strongest feeling that we need to give McKindree the choice to have a family if she chooses to,’" Aimee told Fox 10 News.
“I didn’t think of the future and her having a family because I was just thinking of keeping her with us,” Aimee tells Yahoo Parenting. “And she had been through so much physically with her body constantly suffering. I didn’t want to see her have to do something so hard for her.”
Aimee and McKindree Patton. (Photo: Facebook/Kin Can Kick It).
A friend of McKindree’s who went through the same transplant years earlier helped the teen decide that freezing her eggs was worth the pain and the hefty price tag of about $20,000. “She told McKindree that her greatest regret was not having enough time to store her eggs,” says Aimee. “That was the moment McKindree says she wanted to do it. It was a really powerful moment.”
Plans came together rapidly after that. Working with Angel Mamas, a non-profit organization benefitting families who have ill children, they raised $5,000 on Facebook in just three days to contribute toward the cost. Then McKindree’s eggs were retrieved at Boston IVF in Scottsdale on June 13, about a month before she had her transplant on July 29 and began chemo.
The average age that women have their eggs frozen is 38, according to Eve Feinberg, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Fertility Centers of Illinois, who calls age 16 unusual but not unheard of. “It’s pretty intense,” Feinberg tells Yahoo Parenting of the two- to three-week procedure. “Especially for someone 16 years old.” There are almost daily ultrasounds and hormone injections in addition to the 20-minute egg retrieval procedure, she says, adding that viability of said eggs at age 30 and older isn’t guaranteed. “We don’t have long-term data on frozen eggs,” explains Feinberg, “but we do have data on frozen embryos which shows success up to 10 to 15 years later.”
That’s a strong enough possibility to bring McKindree and her family some peace about what happens next while they battle through today. As of press time, the teen is enduring a new round of chemo and trying to make the best of being in the hospital after having endured most of last summer and all of her winter at the medical facility.
(Photo: Facebook/Kin Can Kick It).
“She’s the strongest little fighter I know,” says Aimee, admitting that while her daughter still takes 23 medications daily, she and the family have grown accustomed to taking things week-by-week. McKindree has “learned to find the beauty in every day,” she says. “She makes the most of bright moments.”
A milestone moment is actually coming up on Saturday: the prom with a fellow transplant buddy. “Right now, it’s everything to her,” says Aimee. “She has a flair for fashion and we even got to go shopping at the mall for her dress and a cute hat. All she can talk about is where they are going to take pictures. She’s so excited.”
McKendree Patton with a friend at her prom May 2. (Photo: Facebook/Kin Can Kick It).
What Aimee is excited about is seeing her little girl with a child of her own one day. “It makes me cry thinking about McKindree being a mom,” she admits. “Her focus, and the perspective that she’s gotten from all that she’s been through, would be a powerful thing to watch her use in parenting,” says the aspiring grandmother. “It’s so easy to lose yourself and be overwhelmed raising kids but I think she’ll be able to avoid that because her perspective will be so different than most. And I know that she won’t take any moments for granted.”