Diagnosed in 1997 with throat cancer, Beck, then 22 and single, learned that the required chemotherapy treatments would render her infertile. "To me, getting married and having kids defined a successful life. I thought, 'Then, why bother? Why live?'"
Beck found a Bay Area medical center willing, for $15,000, to try the experimental process of freezing unfertilized eggs. She banked 29 eggs, and two days later began chemo. Four years later, she founded Fertile Hope, a nonprofit that offers financial aid and other resources to cancer patients seeking to preserve fertility.
Today, her New York City-based operation has negotiated deep discounts with sperm banks and 75 reproductive centers across the nation, and is raising grant money for scientific research. And Beck herself has gotten married and – after another bout with cancer, multiple miscarriages and three rounds of in vitro fertilization – given birth to Paisley Jane Beck on June 1, 2006. "She is why life is worth living. She is why I wanted to survive," the new mother says.