A New Perspective on Infertility

I think many cancer patients/survivors grieve for some part of themselves that’s been lost to this horrible disease. When you add the loss of body parts or the body that you used to know, the grief becomes greater. Then when cancer makes you infertile when you’re still of childbearing age, there’s another type of grief that is palpable.

One of the hardest paths I’ve had to travel post-cancer has been due to the choice of having a child being taken away. Since I was intolerant of the medications to help prevent recurrence for pre-menopausal women, I had to be medically induced into menopause in 2017, so I could try the medications for post-menopausal women. Plus, during my pre-cancer days, I had ongoing issues with my cervix and ovaries – multiple abnormal pap smears and cysts the size of lemons on my ovaries. I had a bicornuate uterus which means it was heart-shaped, so high risk for miscarriages and premature birth.

It’s painfully clear that I would’ve struggled to get pregnant and/or carry a baby to full term. Do I want to live, or die doesn’t seem like a fair choice.

I had stopped blogging about my feelings on infertility because I would get so hurt when people would say, “just adopt or foster.” It’s such a callous thing to say even though I know they were trying to be supportive. I constantly wanted to scream that I’m chronically single!!!

I grew up with divorced parents where my mother had sole custody of me. I saw how hard it was to raise me as single, divorced woman. It truly took an amazing village to help raise and support my mother and I and know we were blessed to have such amazing support. That’s why I would never want to raise a child on my own unless forced due to a divorce. I’ve cost my mother a fortune, even as an adult.

I would never willingly adopt or foster a vulnerable child without being able to fully support them financially and emotionally. I physically don’t have the energy to handle raising a child on my own. I can barely keep myself afloat with medical bills constantly hanging over me and chronic pain that can often turn excruciating. How would that be fair to a child? They need more than just love.

The part I struggle with the most is the longing to share my childhood and college memories, values and wisdom with a child.

Fast forward to Friday evening when I was talking with my friend Francesca. I mentioned her a lot last year because we partnered together to write an abstract that we were selected to present titled, “You don’t really have a say in anything…like you don’t have any options”: AYA Cancer Survivors’ Perspectives on Fertility Preservation Conversations with Healthcare Providers at the 16th Annual American Psychosocial Oncology Society(APOS) in Atlanta in February 2019. It’s honestly one of the proudest moments of my life post-cancer thus far.

Francesca & Megs at APOS Feb’19

Though I’m 20+ years older than Francesca, who is studying for the MCAT’s, she is authentic, thoughtful, brilliant and compassionate among other fantastic qualities. She floored me by saying she thought of me like a godmother, an aunt and a big sister rolled into one. She said I didn’t need to only think I can impart wisdom or share my memories and values with a child.

The way she said those words…her tone and inflection just touched my heart and gave me a new perspective on my infertility. As you can imagine, I was brought to tears but tears of joy and appreciation. Francesca was surprised I didn’t seem to realize that’s how she viewed me.

I had been so stuck on the grieving train thinking only about the loss of a baby or young child, I never thought about the true impact I could make and have apparently been making on an actual young adult outside the cancer world. I’ve mentored over the years but never had anyone say what Francesca said to me with such sincerity.

Yes, I still feel the loss of choice, but have gained a new and unexpected perspective on this loss.  I do have so much love to give and little words of wisdom to impart. I’m usually very observant but completely missed seeing I’ve been making a positive impact on someone for almost two years.

My life on the cancer train just took a lovely turn on an unexpected path which has given me a new sense of hope and purpose. Words matter. I see now that I matter too.

Nut-Meg Rises Again

Just when I’m teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown, something hilarious happens that snaps me back. I had originally written a woeful post but deleted it after yesterday’s hilarity. Let me set the scene of what happened and why I’m in better spirits.

I’ve been under more stress than usual since the last few days of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 due to my health and an unexpected death in my family. My body tends to do something crazy to rebel against stress. As usual, it’s always something spectacularly visual. This time a blood vessel popped in my left eye. Oh, my eye! My eye!

Seriously though, the fact it doesn’t hurt is the only reason I’m not going totally bonkers or even crying. I was and still am rather pissed, but my body no longer handles stress well.

It is highly noticeable and looks quite hideous. I’ve already had people at work asking what happened and a cashier at a store ask too. For once, I’m avoiding looking at my face. I couldn’t wear big sunglasses today because it was extremely overcast and raining.

So, my hair appointment had to be rescheduled because this particular natural hair dye I must use, due to being allergic to certain ingredients, did not arrive in time. Well, since I’m looking crazy, I was perfectly calm and said to call me once it has arrived and I’ll reschedule. My feathers weren’t ruffled. I love Tiramisu Salon and have been going to them for almost 13 years.

Since I was out, I decided to get my mail. I usually check my mail once a week because I hate having to get out of the car often due to pain. I had a lovely surprise when I checked my mailbox.

It was this gorgeous French beret. I thought a friend had sent it since I have so many amazing, thoughtful and generous friends who love to send surprises.  I had posted on my personal FB page about it, asking who sent it so I could thank them.

I was checking my wish list on Amazon to see if I could find a clue as to who sent me this stunning hat. Well, I totally forgot I ordered the hat off Amazon with Christmas money weeks ago!!! So, I surprised MYSELF!!! I literally have zero memory ever ordering it. So, it’s times like this where residual chemo brain comes in handy.

Should I send myself a thank you note?

All this to say, that even in a serious depressive state, my nuttiness always tends to poke through. I’m relieved I can still crack myself up even when the darkness tries to suffocate me. I was given the nickname Nut-Meg when I was 14 years old. Proud to say the nickname still fits.

Even through major stress, chronic pain, a popped blood vessel and grieving over my uncle, I can still find humor and channel my inner Bette Davis. I’m relieved the essence of me is something that breast cancer and this post-cancer insanity can never diminish.

Cents & Sensibilities

It’s been a slightly difficult start to 2020. Toward the end of 2019, I spent hours on the phone with insurance, my primary, oncologist and doctor appointments fighting to get an MRI approved for my lower lumbar spine. Pleased as punch that I got my primary and oncologist working together as a team. It was a weight off my shoulders to have two exceptional doctors and a nurse advocating just as hard as I was to get it approved, especially during the holidays.

The good news is after being denied for the MRI twice by Cigna’s third party, my oncologist had a peer-to-peer discussion with them earlier this week. As of Thursday, January 2nd my MRI was approved. I was already organized and had rescheduled it two weeks ago for Tuesday, January 7th and will discuss the results and plan of action on Thursday, January 9th.

So, while I’m proud for advocating for myself along with my medical team, I’m still pretty pissed that I will be responsible for paying 80% toward my deductible since the MRI approval came on the 2nd. I truly do feel like Cigna did that on purpose so they wouldn’t have to pay because I had met my deductible and was $75 away from being covered 100% by the end of 2019.

It’s downright criminal that many of us must fight to receive the coverage and tests we deserve. Then we’re often stuck with huge bills that seem never ending.

A new year always brings added stress because of high insurance deductibles. Am I happy to have insurance through my employer? Of course, but it comes at a steep financial cost since I have to rotate between an MRI with contrast or an ultrasound every six months along with my diagnostic ultrasound + the cost of medications + copays to specialists. Me being me, I’m planning on fighting my portion of the MRI cost and file a complaint against the insurance. Sure, nothing will probably happen in my favor, but I must at least try for my piece of mind.

I do believe those pesky lesions on my spine are benign, but who knows what’s been growing there all this time since fighting with Cigna. Will they have to be burned off? Hell, if I know. Plus, will I have to get injections in the lower left side of my back to deal with this spondylitis? Will PT be part of the plan too?

All I see are dollar signs and scheduling conflicts as I move meetings at work to make it to appointments.

I’ve had people tell me to enjoy life, go on vacation and travel. I get so infuriated when I hear those suggestions. My insurance deductible through my employer is $6,500. How am I supposed to have fun and go anywhere or even save when that kind of cost looms over me? Getting critically ill is expensive and ongoing in the aftermath.

I want to go to different cancer conferences this year to meet more of the fabulous cancer warriors I’ve been talking to on social media but can’t take that kind of time off from work or have the extra funds since it all goes toward my high deductible. Yes, I know there are travel grants, but as I get older, I don’t qualify for some of those anymore. I’m at a weird age where I’m still “young” but not young enough to be eligible for some grants. Plus, I don’t have the energy to fill out applications once I get home from a very long day of working. I’m often mentally and physically spent.

As many look upon this new year as filled with possibilities, I’m already feeling the financial stress due to my health and the financial toxicity that is US healthcare.

My Big THANK YOU!

It’s always important to acknowledge our accomplishments personally and professionally. Those moments help reduce the sting of disappointments, fears and challenges. Well, that’s how I look at it. I’m prone to depression and fight hard to find things to help fuel my passions.

When I look at this list below, I did more than I thought this year. All of it is volunteer. Yes, it takes various amounts of energy that I don’t necessarily have, but each one of these have brought purpose to my life.

My blog has been syndicated on Cancer Health Magazine’s website June 2019 – Present.

SHARE Cancer Support – Pleased as punch to have a piece published on this great breast and ovarian cancer website. https://www.sharecancersupport.org/2019/12/what-i-learned-about-breast-cancer-megan-claire-chase/

VoyageATL – It is my first non-cancer publication to publish my cancer story. http://voyageatl.com/interview/meet-megan-claire-chase-life-cancer-train-dunwoody/

You can also find it in the Inspiring Stories series at the top of the homepage as part of the Sandy Springs collection. http://voyageatl.com/interview/inspiration-from-sandy-springs/

WATC TV Channel 57 – interviewed for October 2019 breast cancer awareness segment for young adult cancer survivors.

Brain Cancer Diaries – interviewed for an episode during October 2019 for breast cancer awareness on YouTube.

IHadCancer.com – wrote various pieces throughout the year that were published on their site.

Presented with Francesca Music from Elon University our abstract titled, “You don’t really have a say in anything…like you don’t have any options”: AYA Cancer Survivors’ Perspectives on Fertility Preservation Conversations with Healthcare Providers at the 16th Annual American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS) in Atlanta, GA in February 2019.

Francesca and I were also accepted for a Poster Symposia II: Sexual and Reproductive Health oral presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine in Washington, DC March 2019.

Our abstract is published in the medical journal Psycho-Oncology.  Here’s the citation:
Music, F., Chase, M. & Fair, C. (2019). “You don’t really have a say in anything….like you don’t have any options”: AYA perspectives on fertility
preservation conversations with healthcare providers. Psycho-Oncology, 28 S1, 17.  doi: 10.1002/pon.4986

Story Mistress for Paint Day and Speaker of Survivor Stories for Best Strokes: Hadassah Bares All for ART with Hadassah Greater Atlanta March 2019.

I also did a recap of my top five blog pieces that received the most views this year. It lets me know that many of you are still angry and still hurting.  I can see many of us desperately need a safe and supportive outlet to release the hurt and anger without judgement.

  1. Raging Against Myself
  2. So, hair me out…
  3. Hurting to Heal
  4. When Trust is Gone
  5. Palliative Care with a bottle of cannabis

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts. More importantly, thank you for reaching out either through my blog, DMs or on social media. Know you’re not alone. I thank all of you for not letting me feel alone either. I made it through another tough year because of your support and encouragement.

I hope 2020 will be a year full of healing, laughter, support, purpose and love for all of us.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!