At age 26, I was on my own, self-sufficient, secure and independent. I was already a few years into building my career as an adolescent therapist; a job that well suited me. I had my own apartment, and was about to move in with my boyfriend of several years. I took care of myself physically and emotionally. Life was perfect, until the routine trip to the gynecologist that wound up saving my life.
When you hear the words, “you have cancer,” there is truly no way to be prepared to absorb all that comes with it. My now unstable life became filled with terms like prognosis, oncologist, surgery, treatment and chemo. My doctors overwhelmed me with choices about what course of action to take. Suddenly, my secure sense of self became unraveled and presented me with a new identity – cancer patient.
My oncologists’ (who are wonderful) main goal was to rid me of cancer as quickly as possible. The recommended course of action when diagnosed with ovarian cancer is to have a complete hysterectomy. Being only 26, the idea of parenthood wasn’t even on my radar yet. But suddenly the idea of losing my ability to bear children was becoming a reality. Not willing to relinquish the option of one day having children, I stressed to my doctors how important it was for them to make every attempt at preserving my fertility.
Over the course of 7 months, I endured three surgeries, and six rounds of chemotherapy. The treatment took my hair, put my body in menopause, left me feeling twice my age. The doctors weren’t able to save my ovaries. I recovered and slowly acclimated to my new normal – survivor.
I sought support both online and in my community, determined to find other people like me facing cancer in their 20’s. In all of my searching, I only found two other young women with similar diagnoses and quality of life issues. TWO! I knew that there were others, but how could I locate them?
After a few years, they found me, through a blog I started about my experience with cancer. I was contacted by “I’m Too Young For This,” an organization working to meet the needs of survivors under 40. In forming this link, I suddenly had access to a group who not only were in similar positions, but also were all over the country. I began attending social events with this group and met young adult survivors. What I quickly came to realize that even though our diagnoses were different, our quality of life issues were the same. They, too, were faced with issues of infertility, how cancer impacted relationships, intimacy, employment, finances etc. I finally felt understood. Over time, I have continued my relationship with the group, now known as Stupid Cancer.
My involvement has waxed and waned depending on where my life has taken me, however, the people I have met and the relationships I have formed have enriched my life.
As I moved further away from my date of diagnosis and it became less scary to invest in the idea of leading a longer, healthy life, my thoughts about future began to change. My then boyfriend and I were married in 2005, and after several years were comfortable exploring the idea of having a family. I had come to accept the loss of my fertility and began exploring the options. I reached out to my oncologist and those at Stupid Cancer about surrogacy and adoption. I met a few survivors who also had been gathering information about family building.
It quickly became apparent that there was a lack of information about surrogacy. My husband and I came to the conclusion that we preferred the idea of using a surrogate to build our family.
We met with Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation and immediately felt comfortable trusting them with guiding us through this process. We signed our contract with them and moved on to the matching process. Within four months of meeting our surrogate we were expecting our son. The entire experience felt “right,” as I believe this is the way we were intended to become a family. Our surrogate is truly an amazing woman, who we felt connected to from the start. Going into the experience, I had some anxiety about feeling envious or jealousy toward our surrogate as she was able to bring our child into this world; something that I couldn’t do. I remember feeling surprised that I didn’t feel this way toward her at all. As we were awaiting the arrival of our son, I felt humbled and grateful that she was doing this for us.
The day our boy was born was truly the most amazing day of my life. It was as if all the struggle, loss and upset caused by cancer had been undone. Or perhaps more so, solidified the reason for the journey.
Learn more about becoming a parent as a cancer survivor with egg donation and/or surrogacy.