Cute title, right? I am now in the part of my cancer journey where we are preparing for radiation treatment, and my husband and I need to make some quick decisions regarding fertility before the radiation zaps my uterus away. I do not need a hysterectomy or have anything removed, but since the radiation will be specifically targeting my uterus it will most likely lose all functionality. I knew since the day I diagnosed with cancer that I would lose the ability to carry a baby. However, I didn’t really force myself to think about it until about it until recently. Sigh … where to begin?
For starters, my husband and I had always planned to start a family after he is done with school and we are settled down – so maybe in five years or so. Since I won’t be able to have a baby, we have two options. Option 1 is adoption, and Option 2 is to freeze our embryos and have a baby via a surrogate (there is a better success rate with embryo freezing than freezing just the eggs). Both options are expensive, surrogacy being the most expensive. Going forward with Option 2 means that I will have to have my eggs extracted before I start radiation treatment in order to create healthy embryos. The fertility process takes around 3 weeks … and my oncologist wants to start radiation treatment within one or two weeks (at the most). The clock is ticking, so which option do we choose? I personally lean more towards adoption and my husband leans more toward surrogacy. We decided to prepare for both. We can’t know what our situation is going to be like in 5 + years, and I would hate to miss out on some good eggs while we still have the chance.
So, we are currently waiting to hear if my oncologist will approve the extra time to go through the embryo freezing, and we should be hearing back any day now. If he approves then I will go through 3 weeks of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF, just like celebrities do!) which controls how and when eggs are produced so they can be extracted and made into an embryo. Then they will be frozen until we are ready to pursue a surrogate (and no, frozen embryos do not expire). OHSU has an amazing fertility clinic, and my oncologist referred us to one of the best fertility doctors who also leads research to specifically help young women with cancer who become infertile. Learning about fertility treatments and organizations dedicated to this cause has been such an inspiring and eye opening experience.
I am also excited to pursue adoption one day. Even if we have a child through a surrogate, I would still like to adopt. I feel strongly about being a mother to a child who desperately needs one. Since my husband was adopted as well, I feel like we would be awesome adoptive parents!
Having to research our options and make a decision super quick has been emotionally draining and overwhelming. Since I am technically supposed to start radiation treatment next week, we had to let our fertility doctor know our decision right away. Will delaying radiation treatment for two or three weeks be bad for me? I don’t know. That’s for the doctors to decide. If we don’t get to go through with embryo freezing, that’s ok. I totally trust my doctors, and I’d rather be alive!
So, the golden question: Since finding out about my infertility, do I feel jealous or angry towards other woman who are pregnant? After all, I thought being a newly wed meant that preparing for a future pregnancy was just a given. I was looking forward to carrying our child, doing pregnant yoga, reading all the books and my mother giving me hell. To be honest … it stung at first [to be around pregnant people]. And especially at this stage in life it feels like EVERYONE and their mom is either getting married or getting pregnant. It was not necessarily anger or jealousy, but it felt like this little jab in my side. After talking to my cancer therapist, I learned that the jabbing was me suppressing my emotions. I had not acknowledged my feelings and it was eating me up inside. Since coming to terms with my infertility, I feel much better. This cancer is making me into a whole new person, inside and out, and I accept that. And OF COURSE I am absolutely thrilled for my friends and family who are mothers-to-be! Some sensitivity would be nice, but I really have to get over it. There will always be pregnant people. And there may be that awkward conversation from time to time of, “Alex and Kathy, when are you going to start trying??” Hopefully this post will diminish those conversations.
Everyone has their own path, and I am proud that this is mine. Just like I will never walk on the moon or travel back in time, I will never experience pregnancy. And that’s OK! I’m alive, empowered and I am going to live an amazing life. And nothing is worth taking that away.
UPDATE: I finally have an official cancer diagnosis. It is technically a uterine cancer called endometrial carcinoma. I was told that it is a very rare form of cancer. It’s hard to pinpoint a prognosis, but according to wikipedia.com my stage of this cancer has a 47% 5 year survival rate. …. 47 percent. Wow. I seriously have been given a gift.
Do you have to be given 47% to live YOUR life to the fullest? Think about it.
Love you all!