Part III: Sarcoma survivor and wife have first baby after treatment that could have led to infertility

Karmanos cancer specialists plan treatment with quality of life after cancer in mind

"I’m happy and healthy and have a great family."


While choosing a hospital carefully after receiving a cancer diagnosis, it’s important to select one with expertise in treating your specific cancer and helping you achieve your goals after treatment.

As Carl Pfadt of Detroit would attest, his choice to seek treatment at the Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit has made all the difference for him and his growing family. Pfadt and his wife just welcomed a new baby boy, thanks to an integral conversation they had with his orthopedic oncologist before starting his treatment plan.

Pfadt’s cancer journey began in August 2019 when doctors diagnosed him with an undifferentiated pleomorphic soft tissue sarcoma in his right leg.

Soft tissue sarcomas affect the body’s connective tissue and occur in less than one percent of all cancer diagnoses. Patients are typically diagnosed in their 20s and 30s. Pfadt was 32.

Highly treatable when caught early, chemotherapy is often part of soft tissue sarcoma treatments. However, this treatment can also lead to infertility.

“Chemotherapy is toxic to the gonads, which produce sperm in men,” said Alysia Kemp, M.D., leader of the Sarcoma Multidisciplinary Team at Karmanos. “Because patients often cannot produce sperm after receiving certain types of chemotherapy, we refer patients to a fertility specialist before beginning treatment. The chances of having children are good for patients who preserve their sperm before receiving chemotherapy.”

Carl and his wife, Anna Pfadt, had been married for less than a year when he was diagnosed. They discussed their options with Dr. Kemp and decided to see a fertility specialist.

“We had been open to the possibility of having children when we got married,” Pfadt said. “Realizing our life would be changing sooner than anticipated due to the cancer diagnosis put a renewed focus on it. We decided to give ourselves options. We wanted to at least try to have a child of our own, so I made appointments with a fertility specialist to begin banking material before treatment.”

After two rounds of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation, he underwent surgery in February 2020. His surgeon removed 6.5 pounds of tumor and surrounding tissue. Shortly after his surgery, he began physical therapy to improve his mobility.

Today, Pfadt is not only cancer-free and back to performing low-impact exercises with orthotic support, but he’s also a new father. Leo is the couple’s first child.

“Anna and I are thrilled,” Pfadt said. “We’ve been very fortunate in how things played out. I’m happy and healthy and have a great family.

“Cancer doesn’t define me. I’m not focusing on it. I have other new challenges: being a good husband, father, colleague and neighbor. I’m writing my life story; cancer was just part of a previous chapter.”

Pfadt continues to see Dr. Kemp for follow-up exams every four months. She and the Karmanos staff are thrilled about his post-cancer life.

“Carl’s completed his treatments and is doing wonderfully,” Dr. Kemp said. “He’s a super nice person and the staff looks forward to seeing him when he comes in for routine checkups. We’re excited to see him enjoying life and focusing on his little boy.”

Dr. Kemp added that Pfadt’s story highlights the importance of talking with your doctor about your personal life goals before beginning cancer treatment.

“It’s important to not just focus on cancer, but to look past the diagnosis,” Dr. Kemp said. “Since Karmanos is a comprehensive cancer center with multidisciplinary teams that work closely to develop individualized treatment plans, we focus on treating cancer aggressively while keeping each patient’s personal goals in mind. Patients shouldn’t be afraid to advocate for themselves and discuss their life goals with their doctors. Treatment involves more than just cancer.”

Pfadt’s cancer journey is a great example of how a cancer patient can continue life during and after treatment. By communicating with Dr. Kemp, he was able to achieve many of his personal goals, including completing the 2020 Detroit Free Press Half Marathon in October 2020.

Looking into the future, Carl and Anna Pfadt have the option to continue expanding their family.

“It would be nice if Leo had at least one more sibling,” Carl added. “Right now, we’re excited to help our little one grow.”

Read Part I of Carl Pfadt's Story here.

Read Part II of Carl Pfadt's Story here.

If you or someone you love has received a cancer diagnosis, it’s important to seek an evaluation from cancer experts before beginning treatment. Call 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266) for more information or to make an appointment.