First Baby, Then Breast Cancer…Then Baby Again?
In honour of Infertility Awareness Week, Rethink is sharing stories of young women who are impacted by infertility because of a cancer diagnosis. Infertility is just one of the unique challenges that can come with being a young woman with cancer. From adoption to surrogacy to pausing life-changing treatment, read on for the ways in which some women cope with their infertility.
I never wanted to be pregnant. I wasn’t one of those women who dreamt of the husband and 2.5 kids. To me having it all meant a premium Netflix subscription, living close to a subway station and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Yes, I know, I set the bar high. But those dogs are very cute, although they do shed a lot.
So when I started writing a dating column for Conde Nast’s now-defunct JANE magazine I didn’t expect to meet the love of my life. But on blind date number I-don’t-know what, at my favourite coffee shop in NYC (71 Irving in Gramercy, go there!) I met my best friend. Very cheesy, but so true.
We dated, moved in together and three years later were saying “I do” in a Ukrainian Catholic Church in Toronto. We wore crowns, a Ukie tradition. Our own little Royal Wedding, well, with 15 guests and a priest who wore leather sandals, but you catch my drift. And while I adored my husband and the life we were building together I wasn’t sold on the baby thing. But my husband, he was born to be a dad. And when I saw him with our friends’ kids, my heart melted. Everyone’s did. He’s this super intense guy who sometimes struggles to make eye contact but get him around kids and he’s as relaxed and playful as can be.
When I got pregnant a few years later, I was scared but so excited to be going through this with him. And much to my surprise, pregnancy rocked. All those things I dreaded like swollen feet, massive weight gain and severe mood swings never happened. In fact, I was so happy being pregnant I almost, ALMOST wished I could do it longer. (Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t crazy, I wanted to see my feet again not to mention be able to shave my lady bits.) It was just so much better than anything I could have ever imagined. And I was good at it. Not to mention having this little human in our lives was really growing on me. (Growing on me, throwing up on me, potayto, potahto.)
Anyhow, once our son was nine-months-old, my husband and I started to discuss having baby number two. It was also around this time that I stopped breastfeeding. My son was an early teether and let me tell you I was more than a little over the bite-marks-on-the-nipple look. And that’s when I found it. The thing that no woman ever wants to find, a lump.
A few weeks later my worst fears were confirmed, breast cancer. The days and weeks after were quite possibly the worst of my life. Tests, more tests and then finally the double mastectomy, which would, at last, remove my deadly miniature mounds. The surgery wasn’t too bad mainly because I was so relieved to have those sinister cells out of me. However, with cancer, there is always a risk of a stray cell veering off and settling into another area of your body, waiting for the right time and conditions to grow. The pathology report on my particular tumour determined that my cancer fertilizer was estrogen. As such, hormonal therapy was my best line of defence. This has included monthly injections putting me into menopause as well as daily anti-estrogen pills. And while these meds are critical to my treatment and prevention of a recurrence, taking them also means I can’t get pregnant.
Luckily, if you can believe this, years ago my husband and I froze our embryos. We had recently settled in Toronto and I had just read an article in the Wall Street Journal (or maybe it was Cosmopolitan), talking about baby back-up plans for women in their 30’s wanting to put off pregnancy. So off to the clinic we went to create some babies-to-be where they currently remain, safely stored on ice. Thus, our dreams of having another biological child are still within our reach.
As such, we have started the process of finding a surrogate. I’ve been working on our bios for the application and we just recorded a “Meet Us” video to help entice a great surrogate to select us, totally getting major flashbacks to my column-writing days and the online dating profiles I scrolled through. “Couple looking for surrogate to carry baby. Non-smokers only. Vegans preferred.” I’m just kidding, I would never deny my unborn child meat and cheese.
Joking aside, this will be an awesome journey that’s sure to test the limits of our relationship. Not to mention it’s going to be an incredibly expensive and stressful process, one that in all honesty may not work. Once we find a surrogate she might be able to get pregnant or successfully carry the child to term.
But we have hope. Breast cancer is not going to take that away from us. And while it’s not exactly how we thought we would grow our family, if we’re successful, and we get our number two, we’ll be amongst the luckiest parents in the world. Because sometimes a detour takes you to the place you always wanted to go. Very cheesy, but so true. Sarah DiMuro