With Mother’s Day coming to a close, I felt that this was an important entry for the blog. The side of cancer that everyone seems to forget or not address for younger survivors, is the possibility of infertility after treatment. The stabbing pain of wanting to start a family and being told you can’t because of the medication you are taking for the next five to ten years, the knowledge that you may never conceive on your own, and for some the fear of passing on a genetic tie to the very cancer that put you in this position in the first place can be overwhelming. For so many young cancer thrivers, fertility is put on the back burner to everything else. Thankfully, my oncologist addressed it right away, but that is not something that is common in the young adult cancer community from what I’ve heard from others’ experiences.
The physical process of trying to harvest eggs for the future is a lot. We go through the process of IVF in a quick time frame, under loads of worry and stress, before starting treatment. Women who experience the pain and struggle of infertility on their own understand the range of emotions that go with injecting yourself multiple times a day, every other day blood draws and ultrasounds, and the effects of the hormones on your body. Now add in the fact that you know you have a ticking time bomb in your boobs, you’re about to willingly put poison in your body to save your life, and get surgery soon. It’s a whirlwind. For cancer patients, some organizations help pay for the medication and injections, but the frequent visits to the fertility clinic, ultrasounds, the egg harvesting procedure itself, and storage are not usually covered by insurance. I was blessed to have family and friends that helped lift the burden of some of these costs, but not everyone has that. Yet another blow to a young person. Another blow is, you are not guaranteed anything. You may go through all of this and not get any eggs that are viable to be harvested. Some women can get many, some a few, and some none. I got four. Four chances for a possible baby in the future. I’m so thankful for those four, but as I said, they are chances, not guaranteed. So for now, my four little chances wait in a freezer until I can try and use them.
The mental aspect of this is devastating and so very hard. I have always wanted babies, from the time I was little I knew I wanted to be a mom. I love kids, they make the world better. Knowing that I may never have my own biological children is a hard pill to swallow. I have nothing against fostering, adoption, or using a surrogate; if that is what we need to do, I will. It just isn’t my first choice. I want to experience pregnancy and bringing my own baby into the world someday. I pray often about this and hope I get the opportunity to do so someday, but that doesn’t make it any less difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I am so so so very happy for all my sweet friends and family members that get the joy of being moms or soon to be mommas! I am so thrilled every time one of my friends announces a pregnancy, but in my heart, there is a little twinge of pain also for my own longing to have that announcement.
I think this is a topic that is often swept under the rug for cancer patients and it should be addressed more and talked about more. I understand that many women and men struggle with the pain of infertility outside of the cancer world, and that is awful in itself, cancer just adds another ugly layer to it. Mother’s Day is a weird day for me, as I am so happy to celebrate my own mom and all the amazing moms I know, but also have an ache in my heart for myself and others I know that long for a sweet babe of their own. So as Mother’s Day comes to a close, I just want all you ladies struggling with these painful feelings of uncertainty, longing to be a mother, trying desperately to conceive, or going through the IVF process; I see you and you are not alone. Your fears, worry, and tears are felt deeply by so many of us that can empathize on so many levels. I am holding a special place in my heart for each of you that are on this same path with me, today and always. With that being said Happy Mother’s Day to the fur baby mommas, cool aunties, and moms of the friend groups! Just because we may not have our babies yet, doesn’t mean we can’t be honored for the mothering roles we play in other areas!