This piece was published on IHadCancer.com last week. I always keep it raw and real as I talk about the grieving that comes along with infertility.
I always knew there would be challenges if I ever decided to have a baby. It took my parents six years to conceive and finally resorted to IVF treatments. My mother developed ovarian cancer when she was three months pregnant with me. Somehow, we both survived. I used to comment that physically I look nothing like my mother, but am identical to her in the reproductive area. 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?
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 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 at least an initial 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.
My post cancer treatment has not gone well at all. My body did not metabolize any of the post treatment protocols for pre-menopausal women. I can still see my second opinion oncologist’s face when he suggested I should not only have a hysterectomy but also a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. He looked so defeated and upset, that I wanted to reach out and comfort him. Once again, I was faced with another major life decision in a very short amount of time. My oncologist and gynecologist worked together and decided it was best to get all my lady parts removed. Let me break it down for you…
My maternal grandmother had cervical cancer and ultimately died of lung cancer.
My mother had ovarian cancer and now has a blood cancer.
My mother’s middle sister had breast cancer in her 50’s.
Then there is me…breast cancer one month after my birthday at 39 years old.
By getting these surgeries, I would be removing the risk of getting uterine, ovarian, cervical cancer and endometriosis and fibroid issues. I was already having issues pre-cancer with my cervix and many ovarian cysts, at times the size of lemons over the years. It was that moment when I realized how angry I was because essentially MY choice was taken away again. The fear of getting a reproductive cancer became very real and there was no choice but to have all those parts removed. I just wanted to rest a little bit longer before going under the knife and being medically induced into menopause 15 or so years before my time.
I feel like damaged goods. It was already hard enough to be single. Then it’s been hard enough to be single and battle cancer. Now it feels impossible to be single, cancer warrior, barren and in menopause. Adoption is not an option for me. Why? It’s because I am still single! What if I get metastatic cancer? The mental and emotional battle constantly replays in my mind like an old movie.
I will never get the chance to have my OWN baby. No one will ever favor me or inherit some of my natural talents or really get to know and respect MY family history. I will never get the experience of a pregnancy.
I’m thrown back into stormy waves of grief because I have lost not only more body parts thanks to cancer, but also my dreams and choices are dead. Who will want me now?
Until next time,
One thought on “No One Tells You How To Navigate Being Single, Infertile, and a Cancer Survivor”
I was 38 and married and no one ever spoke a word to me about what the radiation would do to my fertility. It was never brought up. I’d had brain surgery, a TIA caused by a blood clot from the surgery and was facing 32 radiation treatments; fearful I would die. The thought of my fertility never entered my head. It should be mandatory for oncologists to discuss fertility with men and women of childbearing age.