By the time I turned 35, I decided I did not want children since I was still single. Then I turned 37 and still felt the same way. I was diagnosed with breast cancer one month after my 39th birthday. I never had the discussion nor was counseled about fertility preservation. What is a single 39 year old with no prospects supposed to do when the oncologist says you need 16 rounds of chemo and then asks if you want to freeze your eggs in the same breath?
I went to Beyond the Cure 2018 in Atlanta last weekend. My main reason for going was to understand why fertility preservation isn’t a bigger conversation, especially for those who are single and diagnosed under 40 years old.
For me, I felt an insane amount of pressure and fear because I just wanted the cancer out of me. Once I was told I needed 16 rounds of chemo asap because my tumor was growing aggressively, I couldn’t focus on anything else. How could I even think about freezing my eggs when I didn’t know if I was going to live or die? Why didn’t the oncologist make it a requirement to get a consultation on fertility preservation first, even as a single woman?
I often wonder what that conversation would have been like. Would I have chosen to freeze my eggs if I had been required to have that conversation? They made damn sure I got genetic testing, MRI, PET-scan, CT scan and Echocardiogram but not a fertility preservation consult.
I feel oncologists and surgeons need to really treat their patients as a person and not a number. The crushing fear I felt as I was thrown into the eye of the storm with a slew of tests to make sure my body could handle chemo was dizzying and beyond stressful. My emotional well-being was not even considered a piece of the difficult puzzle in keeping me alive.
If one more person mentions adoption to me, my head might spin completely around like the character Regan from “The Exorcist.” I often do not feel supported in this area. I had to be medically induced into menopause at 40 years old due to difficulties with my post treatments. MY choice was taken away. Once again, there was no time to process the decision. The fear of recurrence was/is so great, that I just wanted all the surgeries over with so I could move forward.
Now I am 41 and still single because it took 22 months to make it through all the treatments and surgeries. There was no time or energy to even think about dating! Plus, add the weight gain and chemo induced curly hair and all the scars…my self-esteem has been very low.
People often say, “You can still be a mom and adopt.” My feelings are not being validated. They are being completely dismissed. Here are just a few of the reasons I feel this way.
- I will never get to experience what it’s like to carry life inside me.
- I will never get to experience having a child who favors me.
- I will never get to experience choosing a godmother and godfather and getting a baby christened.
- I will never have all those “firsts” you get with having a baby.
I am not going to adopt a baby at 41 years old and STILL single. I grew up as a child of divorce. I always wanted to be married with a child. When it became increasingly apparent that marriage may not happen in my 30’s, I had to work at convincing myself that I did not want a child when in reality, I really did want a family of my own. That was a hard and honest conversation with myself.
I feel cheated because I don’t even know how viable my ovaries were pre-cancer. There was no counseling offered or even suggested after my hysterectomy/oophorectomy either. How long will this grieving over what will never be last? I think it will be forever but not be as palpable over time.
My story ends with me.
Until next time,