Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

The hardest thing I’ll ever do.

As a child, the hardest thing I ever had to do was:

… get on the school bus with a complete stranger
… speak in public for the first time
… hear the word divorce
… say goodbye to my best friends

As an adult, hardest thing I ever had to do was:

… hear there was no heartbeat
…allow myself to be stuck with needle after needle
…go to the hospital and leave without our baby girls
…bleed for months on end, laying it that bed, praying our babies would make it
…rock two colicky newborns all night long
…walk into that hospital not knowing if I’d leave with a son
…say I had Cancer out loud
…hold out my arm for that first IV.

No.

Now I see those weren’t really that hard at all because you were by my side, doing whatever was needed, being my shoulder to cry on. It turns out the hardest thing I will ever have to do is:

…get out of bed and face the day without you by my side
…walk into the kitchen to cook breakfast, when you should be standing there
…go to bed alone, never again to cuddle up against your side

No.

The hardest thing I’ll ever have to do is:

…to explain to our children why you aren’t here
…to make sense of what you’ve done
…to understand why you didn’t fight to be at our side.

No.

By far, the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do

….is to forgive you.

I love you.

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Gone

A single snowflake falls.

The mighty oak doesn’t even feel it’s weight.

Winter brings more rain, more ice, more snow.

The smaller trees begin to break under the weight of the snow.

The mighty oak continues to stand proud as trees around it buckle.

The next ice storm downs a medium size tree, who helplessly falls under the weight of the ice in it’s branches.

The mighty oak continues to stands tall in the promise of spring. But even for the mighty oak, the winter has taken it’s toll. The ravages of the rain, the snow and the ice are there, but unseen.

A single snowflake falls.

The mighty oak falls too.

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Obituary

This blog has been an outlet during some of the hardest times.  Times just got harder.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/olathe-ks/timothy-henderleiter-8148749

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What Cancer Stole From Me

You have to remember, I’m coming at this backwards from a lot of young men, women and children who are diagnosed with cancer. For far too many, cancer steals their dream of a family, their ability to have children. For someone who is young and diagnosed with cancer, they are often told there isn’t time to preserve their ability to have a family in the future.

Cancer couldn’t steal that from me.

I am already infertile. I’ve already fought that war, and I’m so blessed to have three amazing children to show for it.
Cancer also shows you that you are mortal. It steals the illusion that you will live forever. It adds a paranoia about your health, worries about cancer coming back, fear about developing a complication. It changes your expectation from living into your 80s or 90s into one (once you survive) of living into your 50s or 60s.

Cancer couldn’t steal that from me.

I have an autoimmune condition that contributions to my infertility, and is quite possibly to blame for me getting cancer. For now, I’m diagnosed as MCTD (mixed connective tissue disorder), but my rheumatologist really believes it’s lupus, even though I don’t meet the clinical criteria. I have no illusions about a life without health complications, because for the last six years, my health has been nothing BUT a series of complications. This is the reason they think my liver failed in pregnancy. It’s why no additional pregnancies are recommended for me.
I’ve poured over the scholarly articles. I’ve read the statistics. My mortality has been shoved in my face for several years now.
Tim’s and my reaction to the cancer diagnosis was shock, followed by “of course, it’s cancer.” That’s just the world we live in. I’m the 2%, medically speaking. I thought my one advantage coming into this battle is that there wasn’t much more that cancer could steal from me.

I was wrong.

Tim and I were in the process of donating our frozen embryos and the process takes a little over a year. We started the process the month Baby H was born because we knew our family was complete, and even if we decided down the road it wasn’t, my body could not sustain another pregnancy. We both wanted to donate our embryos to another couple.

We’ve gone down both paths in this infertility journey: IVF and adoption. We know the heartbreak of loss and we know how much you can love a child who comes to you as a gift from another. Those embryos represent hope for another couple, a chance for someone else to find their family. They are the dream of something more–that one of those embryos could become someone’s sought-after child.

 Cancer stole that from me, and it breaks my heart.

Cancer also took that hope from somebody else and they don’t even know it. One or maybe two couples could have had a chance to find their family.
Our fertility clinic notified us today that we are no longer eligible to donate our embryos. The logical part of me understands. My type of cancer has a genetic component, and, combined with my autoimmune disorder (which is sometimes genetically related), the clinic can’t broker an embryo adoption in which a couple may end up with a child with a possible known genetic condition. If I were looking to adopt an embryo, I wouldn’t take that chance.
My heart is an entirely different matter. I’m sad, angry and whole host of other emotions I can’t even describe. I mourn the loss of hope and want to rage at cancer for taking this from me, from us, from those possible parents-to-be.

 

 

 

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Resolute

“I just want you to know, I’m not going to change my mind about giving you this baby.”

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, I’m sure that it’s apparent what my biggest fear is. I’m so afraid of losing another child. We’re not unusual–hell, in the infertility world, we’re not even a particularly sad story. I know women who have had four, or five, or even six miscarriages.

I can only admire the strength it takes to try again when that much pain has gone before. Tim and I had discussed this at length and losing a fourth child was our limit. We would not have attempted another pregnancy in my body. Amazingly, my girls held in there, my body held out long enough and they are here with us today. And even though they both have ear infections, one is getting a set of molars in as we speak and my evenings and nights this week are filled with crying, fussiness and very little sleep, I wouldn’t miss a single solitary minute of it.

“I just want you to know, I’m not going to change my mind about giving you this baby.”

When our birth mother made this statement, I could hear the conviction. She was addressing my biggest fear head-on. And I believe her. We both believe her. I’ve focused so much on my journey, our journey, in the blog, because her story is simply not mine to tell. But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been on a journey of her own; that she hasn’t thought this adoption through.

Sometimes, I think that maybe she is light years ahead of me in this process. She knew about this pregnancy long before we did and had those extra months as she contemplated her options and decided on adoption.

We’re playing catch-up. We entered with far more exuberance and hope than knowledge when we dived into the adoption. And we’ve stumbled our ways ever since. I finally feel like we have the right team surrounding us to help us navigate the waters of this adoption. The new counselor is stepping in to help with the entrustment ceremony. She’s also offered to help us finalize a plan for contact between our families going forward. I welcome an experienced person to this process. I’m not sure how it all should work.

This is where I believe a private adoption is definitely harder than an agency adoption. The middleman is lacking in a private adoption, and you either have to hire one or figure it out on your own. You have to ask the right questions in order to find the answers. And if you fail to ask, you may stumble into a quagmire.

To me, an agency adoption appears to have this central lynch pin. For us, this help comes from so many directions. Our home study agency suggested the classes, and has provided direction on key steps in the process. This is really going above and beyond what we’ve contracted with them. The new counselor has done the same.

“I just want you to know, I’m not going to change my mind about giving you this baby.”

In the end, whether we stumble inelegantly or move with the grace of a gazelle through this process, nothing else matters but the end result. Every minute of worry, every bit of effort we’ve put into this process will be worth it when we hold our son in our arms.

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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