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.

Survivor’s Envy

I no longer have moments where I can ‘forget’ I had breast cancer. I’ve never bounced back after all my treatments and many surgeries.  My body continues to deteriorate instead of growing stronger. The physical pain continues to increase instead of decrease. The skin issues on my face, neck and chest continue to flare up.

This can’t be my permanent quality of life, can it?

I’m plagued by Survivor’s Guilt but also plagued by Survivor’s Envy. How is that possible?

I see others who I met during the start of my cancer path and see how well they bounced back afterward. I see those starting families, getting better jobs or continuing to kick ass at their current job, dating, getting engaged and married, working out and just looking fabulous.

Am I seeing only what they want others to see? Are they really struggling privately? Is it a show for the masses because social media never shows the whole story?

Then I get mad at myself because I know that other warriors are suffering in many ways post treatment or experiencing recurrence and metastasis, but don’t reveal it on social media.

My reality is I no longer have the strength to mask the physical and emotional pain. My quality of life plain sucks. This isn’t a pity party. I’ve tried to push through the physical pain. I get told to just exercise and will feel better. Well, all that movement is actually causing more inflammation and severe pain. My weight is going back up because the pain has become excruciating to the point of almost debilitating most days. It makes exercising and just moving incredibly hard and painful.

I just want to feel better.

I want to have energy.

I want to not feel envious of those survivors who are truly enjoying life. They’ve been through hell and back, too.

For me, my hell continues. The more intense the pain, the harder it is to manage other life stresses. It has increased my anxiety level to the point where I’m waking up nauseous each morning. My sleep is off cycle again.

I underestimated the effects of being medically induced into menopause, becoming officially barren and zero sex drive. How can I even think about dating when I feel and look like crap?

I’m having a tough time igniting my spark and passion. I’m so worn out from working and dealing with the office nonsense that I can barely write or do what I need to do to press forward.

I feel guilty for being envious of other survivors. I feel like October or PINKtober brings out the Grinch in me.

I want to celebrate my life, but is this really a life when I’m single and can’t date? When the pain is so debilitating that I cry out in agony and only my loving cat Nathan can hear me? When I’m so fatigued that I can barely do the laundry, vacuum and dust or make dinner?

For me, life post cancer has its many ups and downs. It seems these days are more down because the constant pain and fatigue is tearing down my defenses.

I fought so hard to try and not die from this. It’s not all smiles, pink tutus and walks. It’s shocking, stressful, utterly painful and exhausting to pretend I’m okay because I look healthy.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie