Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

Nectar of the Gods

So far, the worst part of treatment has been managing the side effects from the medicines. At this point, I think you could say my side effects have side effects. One of my biggest challenges is getting enough liquid in.

I have a complicated medical history and getting enough liquid in was an issue prior to treatment for a variety of reasons. With chemo, this has gone from a small problem of “I can barely get enough liquid in,” to a crisis of epic proportions.

Two of the possible complications from the medicine are constipation and diarrhea. Maintaining a healthy amount of liquids is paramount to maintaining a balance between these.

I guess you could say my inability to drink anything has led me to the bowels of despair.

What? Not funny? Trust me, if you were my bowels over the past week you’d be howling with laughter over this. I just spent $50 on a variety of medicines my doctor thinks will turn my bowels into an obedient child, and am now on “bowel watch.” That’s right, folks, my BMs are so important that I get to check in every other day until we find the magical mixture to balance the pendulum.

Thank you, chemo, I didn’t already talk about shit enough in my life.

Oh, wait? Was it just this morning that two little girls shouted “Poopie butt–hee, hee, hee” across the table at each other? I guess I do talk about poop plenty already. Since I’m already obsessed with the daily BMs of three people, why not add a fourth to the mix? At least I’m not in diapers.

Back to liquid. Water tastes disgusting. I can’t drink anything carbonated. Flavored waters have always grossed me out. Gatorade–depends on the day. Ice-cold seems to help. Don’t ask me why, but cold seems to mask the flavor.

And now I’ve found it: the nectar of the gods. McDonald’s iced tea. Just enough flavor to mask the dead raccoons/metallic blech in my mouth, and not enough flavor to cause my nausea to turn into a full-body rejection.

If you need to find me during the next four months, I’ll be in line–at McDonald’s.

 

mcd

Advertisements
1 Comment »

The Fight of My Life

The battle lay before me, and I tried to steel myself.  Tim and I looked at each other and reached out to hold hands.  You could visibility see ourselves gird our loins.  It’s a battle we fight nightly these days.

It didn’t use to be this way.  Before.

Bedtime.

Before the twins turned two, bedtime was a bit of peace after a hard day at work.  It was something we looked forward to.  Bedtime meant singing and cuddles and then my girls crawling obediently into bed, while I went and rocked the baby to sleep.

These days, bedtime has turned into a war of wills. If we don’t time it perfectly, there is a battle over getting dressed, getting hair brushed, brushing teeth, taking a bath, not taking a bath, reading another story, rocking, not rocking, mommy singing, mommy not singing.  Anything is game depending on the moods of my little dainty dictators.

Last night was a doozy.  I misjudged the level of exhaustion in my children (Baby H was simply not tired, H and P1 were ridiculously overtired.) This simple misjudgment turned the three minutes of getting jammies on into a 30 minute battle of wills with tears, hairpulling and over-the-top wails.

For ease, one of us usually takes Baby H while the other does bedtime with the twins. Normally this isn’t an issue.  However, our twins have taken it into their heads to pick which parent is theirs.  I’m P1’s, Daddy is H’s.  On a rough night like last night, there are meltdowns if each kid doesn’t have “their” parent rocking them for bedtime.  Queue meltdown.

Bedtime was 60 excruciating minutes of tough love, comforting, rocking and trying to get a very untired baby to sleep.  We both were completely wiped by 9:00 p.m.  How that hell are we going to manage this if I’m sick?

These days happen.Bbedtime is sometimes a breeze, and some days it’s the seventh level of hell.  That’s life with a toddler. Their moods change faster than the wind.  This is my worry and my fear.  Normally, I reach deep and try to maintain calm in the midst of all of this chaos.  I’m not sure I can do this if I’m nauseous, exhausted (more so than the norm), or in pain.

Time will tell.

2 Comments »

Don’t worry, it’s the good kind.

Being told this makes my head want to explode. After the radiologist’s verbal throw-up, breaking the C word, we quickly had another visit with the ENT where he also confirmed I had cancer and he went on to explain:

But it’s the good kind- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It’s considered curable in almost all cases.

Don’t get me wrong this was a huge relief,  I had already researched the various types of lymphoma and knew this was the best news we could ask for. Having this type of cancer gave me the best chance of getting what I prayed for- a chance to watch my babies grow up.

But somehow being told cancer is “good” when you know that you will have poison injected into your body to kill the cancer, and know that it’s likely you’ll have radiation that will burn your skin and can damage your organs, is incomprehensible. Both treatments may lead to  future cancers or additional long-term complications. If you ask me,  “it’s the good kind” is a load of crap.

This phrase should have been stitched on a pillow over the next week. We broke the news to family and friends and used it shamelessly to reassure them.

At same time, when someone familiar with this type of cancer says it to me, it raises my hackles.  I know my odds of survival are phenomenal, but I feel like this phrase trivializes the fight that is ahead. It’s survivable only because they know exactly what treatment it responds to, you still have to do chemo and radiation. You don’t get to push the easy button.

The survival rate lets me know that my fight should be worth it and I plan on clinging to that in my darkest hours. I appreciate that I know going in my fight will be worth it, and I love having less uncertainty.  But I don’t doubt for a minute that there will be a very real battle with some pretty shitty days.

It may be the good kind, but that doesn’t make it easy. It’s still cancer.

 

 

 

2 Comments »

The end of my world as I know it.

First off, let me start by apologizing. I left this blog so abruptly. I meant to tell more details of the birth of Baby H and neatly end the blog with our happy ending.  Make no mistake, it was a happy ending.  Our court proceedings went well and our adoption was finalized without a hitch.

I just couldn’t bring myself to take  a break from soaking him up to write.  Maternity leave was AMAZING.  Taking care of ONE baby when you AREN’T recovering from childbirth is the stuff dreams are made of.  Baby H was so easy-going, he was a dream to take care of and leave gave me extra days with P1 and H to play and have fun.

At three months, I wanted to write, but life was beautifully, wonderfully hectic with three kids under two.

I thought about it again when Baby H turned six months, but the little stinker was starting to crawl and really giving us a run for our money.  I was just so tired in my down time and I couldn’t find the time to put the words down that I kept writing in my head.

Updating you was a passing thought at nine months when Baby H was standing and trying to walk.  He was already saying words!!!!  But we’ve been basking in the milestones, and once again, I was just so tired between the kids and working.

Then Baby H got sick. I got the call from daycare and picked him up.  His temperature shot up to 104 and we made our first ER visit.  My girls had never had a fever this high and I was out of my mind with worry. The ER very condescendingly let me know we were overreacting and sent us home.

That night the fever climbed to 105.  We rotated ibuprofen every four hours religiously and continued to call the doctor with updates.  The next day, I made a quick run with the girls to get more ibuprofen.  That’s when I noticed that something was wrong with my neck.  I tried to turn my head and it felt like something “caught” in my neck.

I put it in the back of my mind and went home to take care of Baby H.  After four nerve-racking days of 104 degree fevers it abruptly broke, and Baby H was in the clear!  Somewhere during this time, I had gone to the bathroom to figure out what “caught” in my neck.

After looking closely I realized I had a lump in my neck. As soon as Baby H’s fever broke I called the Drs office to schedule an appointment.  When I told them why I was calling they said, “Why don’t you just come in to our prompt care.”  As soon as I got there, we were the first ones admitted, even though the waiting room was full.  I thought it was strange, but didn’t give it much thought.

The doctor look at my neck and recommended an ultrasound and bloodwork. As I was leaving, he casually mentioned, “We should rule out leukemia just in case.” Talk about your bedside manner!

Within the hour, Baby H and I were sitting in an ultrasound clinic and the lump was being scanned. I hadn’t been able to resist googling and knew that a cyst was a possibility.  I asked a few questions, and the tech told me enough for me to know that this wasn’t the case.

A few nurses came in to entertain Baby H while I had a very extensive scan.  The tech then asked me to go to the waiting room. I didn’t even know ultrasound clinics had waiting rooms!  After about 15 minutes she came back to tell me that the doctor would be giving me a call.

At this point, I knew that something was wrong, and it was more serious than I hoped. My mom has thyroid issues, so that seemed to be a strong possibility. The  urgent care doc said I needed to get into a specialist and he was going to make a call to an ENT clinic.  Within the hour, the clinic called me and they were going to get me in that day.

Three appointments in one day! I called my husband to let them know this was getting serious.  The ENT reviewed my ultrasound and talked about abnormal things in my thyroid and a growth with bloodflow. He wanted me to get a CT and a small biopsy so that they could learn more about the mass in my neck.

Just seven days later, my head & neck CT quickly became a head, neck & chest CT. I knew. I just knew, when they added the extra CT without telling me that something very serious was wrong.  The radiologist confirmed it.  Before he even performed the biopsy, he turned to me and said three words that turned my world upside down.

“You have cancer.”

 

 

4 Comments »

Why Don’t You Just Adopt?

Five little words that hit you like a bullet. They hurt you on so many different levels when you are infertile.

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

Condescending, well-meaning, full of ignorance, so incredibly naive…These words are loaded, and, while I truly believe that everyone who ever uttered them to me was well-meaning, these words hurt when you are infertile. I also believe that they ignore the most central part of any adoption: the child.

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

I hope you’ve learned as we’ve gone through this process that there is no such thing as “just” adopting. Adoption is not easy, it is not simple, and it’s certainly not cheap. We have one of the most streamlined adoptions that I’ve ever heard of, and ours is still complicated, exhausting and difficult. There is no such thing as “just adopting.”

And, as an infertile, you have to be screened more in order to prove that you have healed from the grievous wounds that infertility has inevitably made on your psyche. It still gets me that when we looked into adoption before we had any children, roadblock after roadblock were thrown in front of us: “A one-year wait is required after ending fertility treatments.” “We would require that you undergo physiological evaluation and counseling prior to adopting because you are infertile.”

The real wound behind these five little words is they imply that you haven’t even considered adoption as an option. It’s an option that I think every infertile considers at different points along their path. We considered and reviewed it several times, and our views on adoption changed throughout our journey.

The one view that never changed was that we had to KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that being adoptive parents would be in the best interest of the child. Infertility gave us oodles of time to contemplate and quantify exactly why we wanted to be parents. We knew exactly how far we were willing to go in pursuit of a child, something that most people never consider. Adoption is not the magical solution to a problem and adoptive children are not a consolation prize. They are THE PRIZE.

For us, we had to reach a point when we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that adoption was THE answer. And it had to be the right answer. When we received that text offering us a child to adopt, we each only had one word in reply: “YES!”  That’s what made us know that this was our answer – the only one we needed.

We never doubted at any point that we could love a child who wasn’t born of our bodies. We doubted that we could withstand the journey to get him or her. Adoption is a long and arduous path. It’s emotional and it can be draining. And if you are infertile, you may be starting this trek when you are already low on reserves. You’ve been dealt emotional blows; physically you may have gone through exhaustive treatments. An oft-quoted study in the infertility world shows that infertility patients undergo the same level of emotional stress as HIV or cancer patients. Imagine the gravity of the stress you would be in, and then apply that to making a decision that will forever alter the life of a child. It’s not to be taken lightly.

Adoption is also expensive. That was another one of our hesitations.  With adoption, the majority of the money is paid before you ever know for sure that you are going to have the child. Relinquishment is one of the final steps, well after all legal and adoption fees are incurred. It’s a bet. It’s a gamble. It requires a leap of faith. Once again, you have to know that you are willing to pour all of your money and resources into something that may not pan out. You can spend every last dime you have and still not have a baby. One of my friends described the difference between international and domestic adoption very well:

“In international adoption, you pretty much never get an infant. If you’re lucky, you bring home a 6-month-old. But in an international adoption, you pick a number and stand in line. You know that you will have a baby in the end, you just have to be patient and wait your turn. It could take one year or it could take three.

“Domestic adoption is different. You can get a newborn, but you also take the risk that you will make it to the end and go home empty-handed–or that you won’t be selected for a baby in the first place.”

I’ll be honest. I don’t know that we could have stayed the course in this adoption–that we would have remained as calm–if we didn’t already have other children. I know the little pregnancy scares we’ve encountered these last few weeks would have given me a heart attack if I hadn’t had a very complicated, but successful, pregnancy of my own. Hearing that our birth mother’s mucus plug fell out at 30 weeks or that she is in the hospital and they are monitoring the contractions at 34 weeks is not for the uninitiated–trust me.

And then there is the most central part of any adoption: the child. We have taken every step and evaluated every option with the child in mind. Often, when we’ve mentioned the complicated and expensive process of adoption, people say, “But you can adopt from foster care.”

That isn’t a simple answer, either. Every child deserves a parent who loves them fully, who is prepared to learn and grow and be the parent he or she needs. Not everyone is prepared to parent someone who may have special emotional needs or medical needs. This is often the case with foster care. Tim and I considered this very carefully and we were never able to say that we knew we could be the right parents for a child or children from foster care. We don’t know that we are cut out to be foster parents and adopt through that system.

Maybe this will change someday, but until we know this, until that day, those children deserve better. Personally, I feel like a child with additional emotional needs would benefit from a parent who is staying at home with them. Me being a stay-at-home mom was our original plan when we started trying for a family years ago, but we have loans now that we took out to get our girls. Staying home is no longer an option.

And, finally, we get to my other pet peeve about adoption. Think about Angelina Jolie for a moment and her children. How often do you hear people refer to her “real” children and her “adoptive” children? Our son and every child of adoption deserves to be accepted fully. There is no line drawn between “real” and “adoptive.” This child is not a second-class citizen, and there will be no qualifier when we introduce him to others.

If you don’t know that you will simply see this child as your child, then you are not ready to adopt. If you don’t believe you can withstand the process of adoption–the emotional rollercoaster–and emerge as an emotionally healthy parent, then now is not the time to adopt.

That is why “just adopting” is not an answer to an infertile couple. It has to be about what is right for the child, not what’s cheap, perceived to be easy, or socially acceptable. It’s a big committment of time and emotional and financial resources. You have to be ready to commit fully to enter the process. And there will be times when you question if you are doing the right thing. You have to have the reserves to make it through the doubt.

Every infertile couple is different in their journey. I know couples that have gone immediately to adoption, and I know others who knew it would never be the right fit. Unfortunately, I also know others who have tried, and failed, to bring home a child and have no additional resources–emotional or financial–to try again.

I would compare considering adoption versus infertility treatments to determining the course of treatment for cancer. You know whatever decision you make will impact the rest of your life. You have to carefully weigh the options, risks, and benefits and determine what gives you the best chance of a successful outcome.

And it’s not a static answer.

Sometimes, one little thing happens that tips the scale. My crappy liver, even crappier immune system and overall health issues made a pregnancy in my body a path we weren’t willing to go down. The scale tipped. Risks from another pregnancy were greater than the chance of an adoption falling through. The cost of the adoption didn’t seem so bad when weighed against possibily losing five months of income again and paying for more treatments. In other words, our perspective changed. Adoption became THE answer.

And this child will be our son, but make no mistake: we are not “just adopting.” We are blessed to have this opportunity to adopt. We are so lucky to be able to have a son and third child. He will never be an afterthought or a consolation prize.

So please, don’t say we “just adopted.”

Want to support our adoption? Help share our story, or consider making a donation to our youcaring page.

 Baby H will be home soon!

1 Comment »