Paul Simms was just 24 years old when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer and the last thing on his mind was freezing his sperm
He was single at the time and being a father wasn’t a high priority, but his parents and doctors persuaded him to – something he will be forever grateful for.
He said: “I had been feeling ill for some time and had been going back and forth to the doctors without any progress. In the end I felt so ill that I paid to see a consultant privately and my cancer was diagnosed very quickly but by then the cancer had progressed to the point where the tumour had attached itself to my bladder and pelvis.”
Paul was told that he would need several rounds of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and major surgery. While still reeling from this news he was given the option to freeze and store some of his sperm.
If a man’s sperm count or quality is affected by medical treatment then fertility preservation may allow him to have his own biological child in the future.
Four years later and fully recovered from his cancer, Paul met and subsequently married Kayleigh
He was open with her about the likelihood of him having fertility issues but admits that he was slightly in denial.
He said: “In the back of my mind I always hoped that everything would be fine but then deep down, I knew that there would probably be a problem. It was difficult to face the reality that having a child may not happen.”
“It was quite tough. I am a man with an ego and it’s really hard to face up to that kind of thing. There was a lot of pride there. I was quite good at blocking things out; sometimes it’s the way I deal with things.”
“I didn’t want to talk about it, even with my wife really to a certain extent, and certainly not with friends and family.”
After trying to conceive for a while without success, the couple consulted with doctors and fertility specialists and learned that their chances of having a baby without assisted conception techniques would be slim.
Paul and Kayleigh were referred for IVF
The couple, who were living in Stevenage, were eligible for NHS-funded IVF treatment and chose to have their IVF at Bourn Hall Clinic just outside Cambridge and saw Mr Oliver Wiseman, Consultant Urologist and specialist in male fertility.
Mr Wiseman says that Paul was fortunate as often fertility preservation is not discussed ahead of surgery and even for boys as young as 13 this can be an option.
Before the couple could have their treatment, Paul’s frozen sperm had to be transported to Bourn Hall
At Bourn Hall some of Paul’s sperm was thawed in the lab and directly injected into a number of Kayleigh’s harvested eggs using a process called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). One of the resulting embryos was transferred to Kayleigh’s womb.
“The staff at Bourn Hall were fantastic, absolutely brilliant,” says Paul. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more. They were all very nice, helpful, informative, made us feel at ease and at home every time we were there. I’m really grateful to them for everything that they did.”
Paul and Kayleigh were delighted when Kayleigh became pregnant
After their second treatment at Bourn Hall Paul and Kayleigh were ecstatic to find they were pregnant and on July 31, 2016, daughter Sophie was born. Now a lively toddler Sophie will be celebrating her third birthday next month.
Paul’s remaining frozen sperm remains stored at Bourn Hall and the couple, who now live in Enfield, North London, have every intention of having further IVF treatment in the hope of having a brother or sister for Sophie.
“We are definitely going back to Bourn Hall to try again as we definitely want another baby, in fact Kayleigh would like another two but we will have to see,” smiles Paul.
Reflecting on their IVF journey Paul, now aged 36, said: “When we went through IVF, we didn’t tell many people, but as time went on I became less and less embarrassed. Although at the time I wasn’t, I’m now quite happy to talk openly about my experience.
“Fatherhood is the best thing I’ve ever done, and I’m grateful to be in this position now because for a time it didn’t feel like I would ever be a Dad and have a child wishing me a Happy Father’s Day.”
For more information on the fantastic Bourn Hall clinic, visit here