Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fertile Future???

As kids, we have everything planned out, don't we? I mean, playing MASH foretold so many of my potential scenarios. The number of times I ended up in a Mansion with a Ferrari, married to Brad Pitt and having three kids, is unbelievable. (For those of you who don't know, MASH is a game that primarily girls play that determines what kind of house you'll live in, who you'll marry, how many children you'll have and what kind of car you'll drive.). So far, I live in a two bedroom condo, drive a Ford, have never met Brad Pitt and am childless, hmmmm, not exactly what I had planned. As I got older, I learned that out of all of the MASH categories, the only one I could really control was the number of children I was going to have and now that seems to be out of my hands as well.

I’ve dreamed of having kids for as long as I can remember. I was the youngest of fifteen grandchildren on my mom’s side and so I have always been closer in age to my cousin’s kids. I considered myself very lucky in that respect because I loved being surrounded by kids all the time.

Before I was diagnosed, I was a little baby crazy. Once Keith and I were confident in our jobs and in our incomes, I wanted to start trying to get pregnant. At 26 years old, I felt like I was ready to be a mom. My biological clock wasn’t only ticking but it was screaming at me and for the first time in my life, I felt like I could care for another human being other than myself.

Five days after my diagnosis, I sat in a hospital room with my mom, waiting for my oncology surgeon to tell me about surgery, recovery, and a little about chemo. I asked if chemo would affect my fertility, expecting a swift ‘it might’ and instead I was told right then and there that after chemo was over, I would have a 40% chance of having children. I can’t even express to you the amount of tears that fell from my eyes with those odds. 40%? You’re telling me that in order to kill the cancer, I might have to potentially give up being a mother; the one thing that I have been certain of my entire life?

So, I managed to file that 40% in the back of my mind, along with many other cancer variables and effects as surgery approached. And like I have said before, as the cyclophosphamide was being pumped into my veins during each treatment, Keith and I would have a bit of a pep-talk with it, trying to convince it that we were on the same side and if it could focus on the cancer cells and spare hurting my ovaries, we would be so grateful. I also talked to my ovaries, hoping that my talk would prepare them for the chemical warfare that they were about to go under.

Now that treatment is almost a year behind me, that 40% has crept back into the front of my mind. Although I am more than four years away from finishing my Tamoxifen, I have started thinking about having children again. Keith and I have already decided that fertility treatments are not for us. With all of the hormones, injections, procedures, etc. and having already had a hormone based cancer, we are not prepared to put my body through that. And if one more person says ‘there’s always adoption’ like they think they are providing an option that I had never thought of before or like it’s the same thing as carrying a child for nine months, I may scream.

This is about choice. I have some friends who never wanted children and then when they have had that option taken away from them, they were devastated because it is no longer their choice – it is now cancer’s choice. I have had the option to be a mom in my twenties taken away from me and although 32 isn't old to start a family, it wasn't part of the plan, and it wasn't my choice.

I have started thinking about what it would be like not to have children. I have always pictured myself with children because that’s the way it was supposed to be but now that I’ll have to wait until I’m 32 to start trying, I don’t know how I feel. I walk through the grocery store and hear children wailing because they can’t have jujubes or because they’d rather be outside and I find myself thinking about how grateful I am that once I turn the corner, leave the department or go home, I am child-free (and screaming-free). I've never felt like that before. Usually what goes through my mind is, ‘My child would never act like that’ (spoken like a true non-parent, eh?’). I have started to wonder if I am becoming less interested in having children or if I am just using a coping mechanism in case cancer has taken that choice away from me. I just keep coming back to Christmas morning, thinking about waking up without children asking if they can open their stockings at 6am because they can’t possibly sleep another wink, so excited that Rudolph ate part of the carrots that were left with Santa’s milk and cookies, ripping and tearing through presents and in an instant, I become certain about having children again. I have started to wonder what it would be like without children because that may be my reality and I am bracing myself for what might happen. And my biological clock has not only stopped screaming at me, but it’s more like a faint tick anymore. Am I just trying to come to terms with being a childless woman by pretending like it’s not what I want anyway?

Like I have said so many times, cancer doesn’t end when treatment does and the effects of cancer will forever be with me, it’s just a matter of if cancer left me with a fertile future.

*Fertile Future is an incredible organization for cancer patients how have not yet gone through treatment and need financial aid to be able to afford fertility treatments. For anyone who is interested, here is a link


  1. Never day never. I have one friend who had bc at 29 and now has two daughters. I have another friend who had bc at 28 and is just finishing tamoxifen and plans on starting a family next year. Both had heavy doses of chemo. So there is no reason you should think you cant. Never give up hope.

    1. Hi Caroline, I really appreciate your comment. I wasn't trying to imply that I had given up hope, I am just in a 'hurry and wait to see if cancer will allow you to conceive in four years' kind of situation. I had a less than 1% chance of having breast cancer at 26 and that happened, so 40% chance of having children seems pretty good.

      Thanks again,


  2. Katie,

    I do feel your pain. I wanted to become a mom in the worst way, and cancer stripped me of that. Cancer stole my fertility, thanks to a chemo regimen. And, get this, the odds were in my favor: before treatment, my oncologist told me that there was only a 1 percent chance of me becoming infertile as a result of treatment, but just to be on the safe side, I got Lupron injections on treatment day in order to protect my ovaries.

    Guess what? I was in that 1 percent that becomes infertile from this particular chemo regimen. I remember when I found out I was in full menopause. The grief, depression, heartache. I so wanted to bear a child and carry a baby. Cancer stole that dream from me.

    Now I'm not going to harp on the benefits of adoption, but in my case, I adopted a beautiful baby girl from China. And I healed. I still feel the loss of not being able to conceive and birth a child, but I'm so happy that my now four-year-old daughter is mine. I wouldn't trade her for the opportunity to birth a child. I wouldn't trade her for anything.

    Whether adoption is for you or not, that's YOUR choice. You still have choices -- even if cancer has made them more difficult.

    1. Beth,

      I am so sorry to hear of your fertility struggles. My heart breaks - it just isn't fair.

      I does put a huge smile on my face to hear about your daughter though. How wonderful for you! I love that you said 'And I healed', what a calming sentence.

      Thank you for sharing your story with me. I really appreciate your openness.


  3. Over a decade ago, I was exactly where you are today. I had chemo at 27 and took tamoxifen for 5 years. I didn't even have a husband yet! Then I had the added complication of having huge, benign uterine fibroids, and another major surgery. So I know what you mean about being in a hurry and having to wait. It was difficult, especially when all my friends were getting married and starting a family.

    My husband and I talked about having children before we even got married, because I knew the odds were against me. I became pregnant with my first daughter when I was 35, and then had my second daughter when I was 38. No complications! (Well, I had to have c-sections because of the fibroid surgery.) I was even able to breastfeed both of them with one breast.

    I hope this is encouraging, and I wish you luck while you wait!

    1. Ginny, you are a friggin' angel. Your comment literally warms my heart.

      I LOVE hearing about people like you.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story and for giving me a little more hope.

      Seriously LOVE this!


  4. "they were devastated because it is no longer their choice – it is now cancer’s choice." I am so feeling that! I found your blog through Ashley's.. will add you to you my blogroll (hope that's okay). And will definitely to come back to read more! XX for now!

    1. Hey Ciel! Thanks for connecting.

      Can you send me a link to your blog?