I celebrated my 31st birthday last month (5/3). While I’ve always thought of my birthday as a “big deal,” I’ve found a new appreciation for the occasion since my cancer diagnosis.
There’s nothing like having a doctor look you in your eyes and say, “we want to make sure you see 30,” to make you appreciate life. It’s hard to believe that it was around this time 2 years ago that I was so focused on counting down to my mastectomy that I couldn’t even enjoy the thought of my birthday.
I often reflect on my breast cancer treatment and kick myself because of all the questions I felt like I should have asked. I constantly replay my first doctor’s appointment over in my head and wish that I hadn’t let the doctor breeze by the fertility issue. I was so overwhelmed with the idea of starting treatment that I didn’t even bother to ask what effects chemo would have on the possibility of my husband and I having a child.
It wasn’t until I was half way through treatment that the doctor apologized for not mentioning more about fertility and options for preserving my eggs. I was told that it was unlikely that my menstrual cycle would return. I was told that I would probably need to have my ovaries removed. I was told that we’d “just cross that bridge when we come to it.”
It was one of the most frustrating conversations I’ve ever had. I was upset with my doctor and I was disappointed in myself for not speaking up and asking more questions before I ever sat down for my first round of chemo. My husband and I have talked about our options and I’ve had second and third opinions about fertility.
When you’re sitting at the doctor’s office being told you need to start treatment immediately because your cancer is very aggressive, you don’t really stop to think about the collateral damage that follows. It wasn’t until I was on the other side of treatment that my husband and I sat down and had more talks about having a baby.
There was not much support from my doctor, in fact he was adamant that I should move forward with having my ovaries removed because…well the possibility of conception was slim and even if it were attainable it would be expensive to go through fertility treatments.
Don’t get me wrong, I value my doctor’s opinion. While I don’t hold a medical degree, my husband and I have strong faith and we stand on that faith the same way we did when I was first diagnosed. Thus, I’ve decided that I am not going to move forward with the surgery. I hate having to explain why I won’t take tamoxifen and why I won’t have the surgery every time I go see my doctor.
However, I realize that had I spoken up before I started treatment and asked more questions, I wouldn’t kick myself every time the issue of fertility comes up. I now understand the importance of speaking up and advocating for myself. I won’t make a decision based on fear or because I feel pressured by my doctor and nurses.
This is a decision I’ve made based on my faith, my family and myself. Conception after cancer is not impossible.
I've always believed that we tend to be the most effective in areas where we have been the most affected. It's often our deepest pains that draw us closer to our purpose. Those words never really hit home until I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 28. I had watched both my mother and grandmother battle the disease, but never thought I would find myself in the same battle, especially not so young. I've learned through this journey that it's not what you go through, but how you go through it. I wanted to share my story in hopes that it will inspire someone to keep fighting, keep the faith and live on purpose.