We celebrated Mother's Day this past weekend with my older brothers, my sister-in-law, my nephew and my mom. Everyone came over for brunch and mimosas. Side note: Quinn loves quiche, can inhale the stuff. It was my first Mother's Day since my diagnosis. Another side note: I wonder if everything from here on out will be referenced as either "before cancer" or "after cancer"?
The day had me thinking about babies. A number of close friends have had pregnancy successes - and failures - recently, so the topic has been on my mind. Also, making babies isn't something that gets discussed in the national cancer dialogue very often. It may not even occur to you how the two are related. But for many women, cancer means the end of our fertility.
Let me explain. Chemo works because it's toxic, but it doesn't just attack cancer cells. It affects a person's whole body, throwing many of us - including me - into what some dub "chemopause" (hot flashes and all). Apparently, it's only permanent about 50% of the time, and in my case, it's too early to tell.
But that's not the only issue.
Breast cancer is often driven, in part, by hormones. For those of us whose tumors had positive hormone receptors, we've got to take hormone-suppressing medications for typically 5 years after treatment, sometimes longer. As you might imagine, these pills are not compatible with pregnancy.
And I know cancer isn't the only thing that causes infertility. But when your choice is taken out of the equation by something that could also take your life (so you feel grateful to be alive despite grieving your losses), it stings a special kind of sting.
I've come to terms with the fact that I probably won't be able to give birth to another baby. (And that's okay. The one I've got is wonderful.) It took me awhile to reach this point, though. I had always imagined having lots of kids. Even when I got married at the age of 30, I assumed we'd have more than one.
I know I'm one of the lucky ones. I had my baby. Every day I get to experience all those incredible, poop-filled, sleepless, terrifying, proud moments that come with motherhood. It is the most insane, exhausting, amazing job on the planet. I am not even close to out of adjectives.
Some women have time to freeze their eggs prior to chemo. My doctors were in a rush to start fighting my aggressive tumor so I didn't have that option. It's also an expensive procedure, and there's no guarantee pregnancy will be an option down the road. Giuliana Rancic is paying someone to be a surrogate for her. Estimates for the costs of that kind of treatment are in the six figures. I wish we all had that choice.