Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

Which is worse? Cancer or Infertility?

One study of 200 couples seen consecutively at a fertility clinic, found that half of the women and 15% of the men said that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives. Another study of 488 American women who filled out a standard psychological questionnaire before undergoing a stress reduction program concluded that women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack. – Harvard Health

I heard many sentiments similar to the study above when we attended support groups for infertility, but I’ll admit, it seemed hard to believe. I’m here to tell you it’s the truth, at least for me.  Some of this may simply be a matter of what came first.  Infertility was the first battle this type A could not finagle her way around, or circumvent.  It took all of my strength, research abilities and resources to find our family.  I couldn’t stop the miscarriages, I couldn’t make myself get pregnant.  

The impact that had on my life, my friendships, my family relationships is hard to quantify.  The experience forever changed me, and changed the very core of who I am.

Cancer is quickly shaping up to be  the same.  Yet, it’s a little easier. I’m familiar with not being in control. I’m familiar with pouring through medical research. I’m familiar with peppering doctors with questions and researching side-effects of drugs.

So far, cancer treatments are also easier than infertility treatments were- in terms of quantity:  it’s fewer doctor appointments, fewer heartbreaks, fewer disappointments and far less money.   That’s right folks, cancer is going to cost me about 1/5 of what our adoption did, and about 1/10 of what it took to get our girls. This is part of why cancer is not as stressful.  So far, we aren’t worried about having to sell our house, having to sell a car, having to make some really tough choices.

And yet, this may change.  Right now the path seems straight forward with cancer. Finish the treatments, kill the cancer. And yet, it doesn’t always work that way.  If my PET scan shows activity in the next couple of week, I may retract these words, but for now Infertility is far worse than cancer has been. Even with the horrible side-effects from cancer. Because I can tell myself they are temporary.

Statistics are on my side.  For infertile couple the national success rate for IVF hovers around 40%, the clinic we ended up at was closer to 60%.  The chance my doctor quoted of me surviving this cancer is 97.5%.  I’ll take those odds.

What makes infertility so much harder than cancer?

Almost everyone is supportive when you have cancer.  It seems like everyone knows someone who had cancer, they are familiar with chemo and radiation and they offer to help. There are also far more resources for people who have cancer. Livestrong, Cleaningforareason, Susan G. Koman. Cancer is an ugly, terrible disease that impacts far too many.  And everyone has rallied to find a way to cure it.

These same voices were silent for the most part as we underwent infertility treatments, or even when I was on bed rest through my pregnancy.  Not once, did someone say, “When can I bring you dinner?” “Why don’t I help you mow the yard.” I went to the doctor 3-4 times a week, constantly had shots and mood-altering medicine and most treated it as if I was just having a lot of sex.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Infertility is clinical, invasive, painful and involves a ridiculous amount of needles.  Some of it is simply unfamiliarity.  Infertility is not spoken of as often, it’s often treated as a source of shame or blame. It took our families a long time to see  the strain infertility put on us emotionally and financially.  When I was on bed rest, it simply didn’t occur to people that my husband was visiting me every morning and evening and still taking care of the dog, the house, cooking meals (so I would eat) and getting the nursery ready.  Very few came forth to help during that time. I was on bed rest for five months, and few visitors darkened our doors.

You get far fewer offensive sentiments offered to you. “If God wanted you to have a baby, you’d have one.” This one riles me the most, it implies that God is punitive.  That he deliberately chose me to lose three babies because of something I’ve done.  I don’t believe that. Others simply share stories of people that kept trying and one day got their miracle baby.  It does happen, it depends on the root cause of the infertility.  As I’ve said before infertility is not the same thing as sterility, there is a small possibility.  7% of infertile couples who forgo treatments do get pregnant on their own.  Yet no one felt the need to share the stories of the other 93% who weren’t able to get pregnant without help.  Their stories are far greater and yet they were silenced by lack of support and heartache.

It’s just a matter of life and death. This one may seem strange, but because I don’t feel like I’m dying, I’m simply not worried about it. With infertility it was my entire future at stake, it was my hopes and dreams. I worried every second of every day, that I would not find a way to have children.

While I have no plans to leave my husband and children behind, if treatment doesn’t go as planned, I can find contentment in the fact that I have a husband and children who will survive me. My greatest hopes and dreams are part of my life each and every day.  They are the reason I fight, they are the reason I will win.  If my family is my reason for living, imagine not having that taken from you.  That is why infertility is worse. It takes away the life you dream of.  It robs you of your joy.  Cancer can’t do that- not to me.  I have too many blessing in my life to be thankful for.  My children remind me to smile and have fun even as I go “blech.”

 

 

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10 Things That Don’t Suck About Cancer

10.) It’s an excuse to get a motorcycle! A motorcycle would go great with my new scars and tattoos, right?

9.) No more shaving! Let’s be real, ladies, we all know we stop shaving in the winter, but now I won’t have to shave in the summer.

8.) I get to try out a Brazilian–without the embarrassment of someone actually giving me the Brazilian. Who really wants someone waxing there?

7.) I may actually get to read a book. Granted, it will be with chemo dripping into me, but I can’t remember the last time I just sat down to read a book. I love to read.

6.) I don’t have to cook. My sister organized a “food chain” and I think it will take a U-Haul to bring down all of the food she solicited from friends and neighbors from my hometown.

5.) People will no longer give me shit for wanting to take a nap. I can play the cancer card. That’s right, cancer = my right to take a nap. Every. Damn. Day.

4.) I’ll get to see my family more. My extended family, that is. My mom and sisters are going to travel down regularly as I go through treatments. My children love all the family that has been coming to visit.

3.) No more itchies!!! I’ve been crazy itchy from the neck down for nine months. I wake up scratching myself bloody. They tell me this should go away.

2.) Cancer is cheaper than adoption. I actually repeat this one quite often (for example, every time I open my mail). My estimates put it at about 1/5 the cost of adoption, provided I can keep working and minimize any time on disability. The plus side is, even if I have to stop working, cancer is covered under short-term disability and leave, unlike my adoption leave time, which was unpaid. I’m pretty sure it will end up being significantly cheaper.

1.) I’ll finally meet my Weight Watchers goal weight. I mean, let’s get real. Cancer is probably the only way to hit THAT unrealistic number.

As an added bonus for my husband, he gets to be married to a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead at the same time. Behold, the power of wigs!

Who am I kidding? I’m pretty sure that just about everything is going to suck about having cancer. And that last one? Apparently, not all cancer treatments make you lose weight, and I might actually gain weight on my treatment. I feel like I’m getting ripped off.

Cancer without weight loss?

For a girl who has struggled her entire life with her weight, that’s just rubbing salt in the wound. Thanks, cancer, now fuck off.

 

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Eye of the Storm

The adoption is really the center of this blog, but sometimes the rest of my life spills over.  My husband and my children, including the one we are adopting are undoubtedly the center of my world.  Still there are other parts and pieces of my life that makes me balanced and enriches me.   Balancing all of the parts and pieces of my life continues to be a challenge, and no more so, than during the final weeks of this adoption.

I want to be the best mother possible to my twins that’s my #1 priority.  But I also balance this with having a career.  I started a new job after they were born, and I have a responsibility to live up to the job I was hired to do.  It’s become more difficult to balance this as we’ve moved forward with the adoption.  This week, I’ve begun to feel as if I’m in the middle of a hurricane.

I got promoted at work, er, well, sort of.  I’m being promoted to the position I was originally hired to do (long story)– I’ve spent the last-year building an on-boarding and training program for my company and I’m now going to transition into the role I thought I signed up for from the start.  I asked for the change and am excited about it, but it also means that I have to hire and train two replacements so that I can transition to the new role -during the final weeks of the adoption.   The baby is coming early. Life could not be more complicated or out of control right now.  I have evening meetings every week to help plan and prepare work for my leave;  I’ll have to travel shortly after I return from maternity leave due to the new job responsibilities.  It’s going to be a challenge.

The baby coming early means  our well-laid transition plans are out the door. I don’t even have time to interview anyone, let alone get someone hired and trained!  My company is also experiencing a rapid period of growth right now, so the workload is growing exponentially.  And then there are those other pesky little details: hire a nanny, get the baby’s room ready, travel to see birth mom, plan for the birth, pack up everything the girls will need and arrange for childcare when the baby is born, legal issues, pay adoption bills, apply for a loan, take not one but two cars in due to recalls. The list has grown out of control and there are days when I feel like the storm is just swirling around me getting worse every second.

I had a bit of a meltdown over the enormity of all we need to accomplish in the next two weeks. But after my meltdown, I found my moment of zen.  We can do this, we’ll tackle each item one at a time, and it will all work out.  Yes, I’m obviously crazy to have taken on a job change in the middle of all of this, but we will figure things out.  I embrace crazy; I’m over-the-moon at having three children under two.  Crazy is obviously my middle name.

We will adapt.  And if we can find the eye of the storm, we can remain calm as the world is crazy around us. In the end, the job change is the right thing for my family.  The pain of the change will be temporary.  And I need to keep my priorities clear. It’s not easy to be a working mother, but it’s not easy to be a stay-at-home mom either.  Everyone has to prioritize and find balance.  I need to keep an eye on my priorities as I navigate this change.

My challenge is to find this balance as we welcome a son into the world.  I may not have a replacement trained before my maternity leave starts, but it won’t be the end of the world. My coworkers are wonderful, compentent people, they’ll pick up the work and do their bests. Clients will understand.  We’re having a baby!  Life rarely goes as planned when there is a baby involved.

The challenge for myself is to not get so caught up in the shuffle, the craziness at work that I’m not able to fully enjoy the birth, our son,  and my maternity leave.  This is precious bonding time that I’m able to have with my son.  My husband doesn’t get the same thing.  He’s going to have a single week to bond with him.  That hardly seems fair.  So, I’m going to find a little piece of calm in the middle of this crazy and make sure that I enjoy the time I get to bond with Baby H.  I’m going to revel in having more time with all of my kiddos. It’s going to be crazy, but you know, sometimes crazy is just another name for fun.

 

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EARLY!!!

Can you make it back for an ultrasound tomorrow?

Things that are bound to give me a heart attack and cause me to worry incessantly should never come via text.  As usual, my phone had run out of juice and this was the message that greeted me when it finally chirped to life. How many hours had passed since the text was sent? Was there something wrong with the baby? Why did we need an ultrasound so soon?  They just said at the last appointment that there wouldn’t be any more ultrasounds.

My mind pinged back and forth imagining all sorts of things, as my fingers frantically dialed.  Luckily my mom answered right away.  She had called Tim when they couldn’t get a hold of me. The doctor wanted to schedule the ultrasound ASAP and Tim agreed to scheduled it for Friday afternoon.  Why?  Because they are pretty sure the baby’s big and it looks like the safest thing to do is to induce and have him come early.

This gives the birth mother a better chance at a natural delivery and less chance of complications during the birth.  She’s small. The baby is big.  You do the math.  Ouch!

An induction is really a best-case scenario in our minds.  We are a four-hour drive away, plus the time it takes to pack two toddlers and a car.  Our birth mother would like us to be there for the birth of our son. We want to be there for as much of the birth as possible. We all feel better with the delivery being scheduled.

I also know that they have you go to full-term whenever possible because it’s best for the baby.  Part of me worries about another preemie, but he’s already pretty-well cooked.  When a baby is born a little early, there is a small chance of breathing or feeding issues, but usually not many major issues.  We have to trust in the doctors judgement on this one.

When it began to sink in that he will be early, my knees started to shake and my stomach began to hurt so bad I thought I would throw-up.  I’m so unbelievably excited, but I’m also a little scared. We’re going to have THREE children.  Is anyone every fully prepared for that? And it’s finally real.  There are some strange parts to adoption.  It’s harder for me to remember exactly how far along we are or how close time is getting without the aches and pains of an actual pregnancy.  Time is more abstract. This made it real.

This text slammed home how quickly we will have a son.   Soon.  So incredibly soon.

I’m giddy, I’m laughing, I’m ready to shout my joy from the rooftops. I can’t help myself. I give a little twirl and chant “We’re going to have a baby.” My coworkers look at me a little strangely, but I can’t contain my excitement.

Life. Is. Good.

 

Want to help support our adoption? 
Visit our youcaring page and make a donation. Until March 1, each $20 donation will get you entered to win a 3 night stay at the Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach, Missouri. View here for more information.

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Another Leap

We started this process of adopting by taking a leap of faith. Our hearts simply screamed “YES!” when we were offered the chance to adopt Baby H and we had to follow our hearts. As we leapt heart-first, we decided would worry about the practical details later.

We took another leap when we dove into the world of adoption fundraising and realized that money would be a barrier to completing this adoption. We decided that we would share our story and hope that others would want to help us complete our family; that there would be others that felt that us bringing Baby H into our hearts and homes was worth supporting.

To be honest, we thought we’d be lucky if we raised $1,000. Neither of us had ever tried to fundraise before and we lacked knowledge and skill as we blindly entered into the process. Today we are blown away to realize we’ve raised over $6,000.00. That’s enough for a car, a down payment on a house–that’s enough to cover most of the legal expenses for this adoption. An insurmountable hurdle to having a third child has melted away due to the generosity of friends, neighbors, and even strangers. We have been so blessed by those who have rallied to our cause.

There are so many people that we can’t even begin to thank them all. The unpaid editor of my blog, the friend who has done all of the graphics work and helped set up this website, the friend who helped us brainstorm fundraisers and get publicity, everyone who helped serve at the pancake feed, friends who sold our raffle tickets… the list goes on.

This process has made me more aware of the generosity that surrounds us. It’s the little things that make a big difference. During one particularly rough week, when bills were piling up, someone left a stack of coupons for Silk yogurt at Target. They were expiring soon. It was nothing for them to leave a coupon they wouldn’t use.

It made my week. It made it possible for me to treat my diary-free toddler to her favorite food on a week that we were cutting back on everything to afford this adoption. Another person donated $10 to our youcaring site and said “I know it’s not much.” But it is: that $10 means so much. The fact that you are giving me the only $10 you have to give to help support this adoption says worlds about your heart. Thank you.

I’m blown away by the parents and neighbors of coworkers that contributed to our cause after hearing our story. They don’t even know us. We know that the world is full of generous, wonderful people thanks to our fundraising. We’ve been the recipient of that generosity first-hand.

I’ve also learned that everyone has a story behind what you see every day. As we’ve opened up to others throughout this process, people have shared these struggles. I’ve heard stories of miscarriages that were never shared, secret desires to adopt or stories of adoptions that fell through. Others told of their struggles to pay for medical bills and asked how we went through this process and how much time it takes. What I’ve learned is that you never truly know what is on someone else’s plate at any given moment. We judge others by the cars they drive and the houses they live in, but give little thought to what life may have thrown at them after those purchases were made. Hopefully, I’ve learned something through this process about helping others and being more aware of their needs.

And now we leap again. We need to leap heart-first into welcoming our son into our home, hearts and arms. To do this, we will put a pause on any fundraising. Our youcaring page will stay active, but we need to focus on welcoming our son. The time draws near. We must take a leap of faith yet again. We will have faith that the costs will be less than we project, the adoption will go uncontested, that we will be able to line up a loan for any gap in what we have raised and saved. We will pray that everything goes smoothly from here on out.

We will also leap into the unknown world of having three children. That leap brings me to tears. For someone who couldn’t have any children to have a chance to end up with three, it’s a dream come true. I’d take that leap any day.

 

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