This Infernal Racket | my life, after cancer

A Toronto-based lifestyle blog by a 2x cancer survivor

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The truth about infertility in your 20's.

Last year, I decided to get my fertility checked. I wanted to know my options. I've known for years that the chances were low and maybe impossible. Unfortunately for me, my transplant caused my infertility. I did preserve my eggs when I had the opportunity. So when I had my test done, and the doctor told me that I could not have my own biological children, I was not surprised but still sad.  


A female is born with all the eggs she will have. As she moves through puberty, hormones allow mature eggs to be released every month during the menstrual cycle until the female reaches menopause and the hormonal cycles eventually stop. Chemotherapy (chemo) works by killing cells in the body that are dividing quickly. The hormones, such as estrogen, needed to release eggs each month and prepare the uterus for a possible pregnancy are made in the cells of the ovaries (oocytes). Oocytes tend to divide quickly, so are often affected by chemo. This can lead to the loss of those important hormones and can affect fertility. Sometimes a woman will go into premature or early menopause – Cancer.org

When I was first diagnosed with cancer at the age of 21, getting my eggs frozen and preserving my fertility was the LAST thing on my mind. I was in survival mode. I was not interested in being pumped full of hormones and going through another painful procedure to have my eggs removed and frozen. All I could focus on was not dying.

There are so many chemotherapy drugs that cause infertility, and it just so happens I was given many of them: Cisplatin, Doxorubicin, Vinblastine and Cyclophosphamide.

During that first year of cancer treatment, I still got my period every month, so I was like, "Okay, I am good." And maybe I was. But when I relapsed at 22 and found myself in another year of treatment that would be more difficult, I still decided not to go through with any fertility preservation. To be honest, I actually have no memory of even discussing it with my team of specialists, but my mom says that they did ask me and when I said no they moved on to other topics, aka signing my life away if I died.

After my transplant, my period stopped, and I went into premature menopause. I went through all the regular hot flashes, weight gain, hormones out of control (or lack of hormones) and my thyroid also stopped working. Fast forward to now; medication and time have given me some stability. Now the realities of infertility are hitting me.

When I was younger, being a mom was not something I considered. I had a lot of dreams and aspirations that were more important to me. I've lived many of those dreams and they have been great. I  have more dreams but now that I am getting closer to being in my 30s, I am thinking more about how I might want my future to look.

I still do not know if I want to have my own biological kids, but I do want to have the option open. During my appointment with the fertility doctor, he told me I was less than 0.1% fertile. He then began to tell me about the other options I had available to me. Just because I can not create my own biological baby does not mean I can't carry a baby to term. My body is able to carry and provide for a baby, I would just need to find a donor egg and sperm (depending on if I was with a partner). I could also adopt or connect with a surrogate. If I found a partner with their own kids already, that could be just or more fulfilling. So I have a lot of avenues to explore if the time comes. 

I am not in any place to have a kid right now. I know this. What I think about is whether I'd be financially able to try. IVF and donor egg/sperm are very expensive. We are talking in the $20k USD range. That's a huge amount of money. How would I ever be able to afford that AND save for retirement AND maybe buy a house one day? Is it even possible to have all these things? 

So this is where I am right now. What is important to me? Do I want a house to build my life in and use as my financial nest egg for the future? Do I want to save for a comfortable retirement? Do I want a baby in the next 10 years? I have no fucking idea. I do not even know what I want to eat for dinner tonight. 

I know I want a house. I know this. I know I want to have money for retirement, and I know that a home could provide that financial stability and equity for retirement. I know I want to continue to reach my goals. I am 29 years old and I have to think about my future so much more than someone who has not had cancer because I do not have the luxury of having the same advantages as they do. And that fucking sucks. I hate it. I hate that I had to make that choice at 21 years old, on whether I wanted kids or not. Like HELLO, I was just told I had stage 3 cancer, I couldn't take another blow and be asked to make a decision. And to be honest, if I could go back and redo it, I do not know if I would make the same choice or not.

I do not know if I want to have a biological baby. If I met someone with kids, I would be so happy and love them as my own. I know I could be a good mom if I had the chance. I also know that even being a stepmom, I would want the option of discussing having another child. I do not need a yes/no I just need it to be an open conversation and possibility. I think about going through IVF and not having it work. How horrible would that be both emotionally and financially? But is it worth not trying?

I cannot help but wishfully dream of raising my own baby. Teaching them about Estonia and their heritage. Decorating the house for Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. Watching them learn to swim and be as good as I am. Helping them with homework...or hiring a tutor because my math skills are shit. Art fairs, science projects and reading books together. Showing them the rich cultures of the world and watching their eyes light up with curiosity. I know in my heart I would love to have these experiences if I could. I know I could do it alone, I could be a single mom. That does not bother or scare me and maybe that is the path I will take someday. 

I also think about my freedom a lot. I have a lot of freedom as someone without kids, and I would continue to have that into my adulthood. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. I do not have to provide for another person (well, except my sister who lives with me). I love my life and the freedom I have to be selfish. Am I willing to give that all up? I am not sure. 

I won't ever be sure until I am at the point where I have to make a decision. I am leaving all the doors open. Whatever happens, will happen. I have options even though I cannot do anything to change the course of my infertility.

Comments

  1. Beautifully said. Thank you for sharing ♥️

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