Cancer and Infertility: Writing our own story
What’s the first thing we all do when we feel sick or are trying to find answers about something going on in our body? We go to Google!
When Chris was diagnosed with testicular cancer, you know I went straight to Google. After I was reassured that this type of cancer is one of the most treatable, I started searching things like… “pregnancy after testicular cancer” and “testicular cancer fertility” and “chemo and fertility” and a million other things.
But, other than anonymous forums and the Livestrong site I didn’t find too much.
I remember one day a couple months after his surgery I was having lunch by myself (yes, at Chick-fil-a) and trying to find answers online about what our fertility future might look like. I had to cut myself off when I felt the tears coming. So this post is for 2016 Katherine… the girl looking for answers, or hope, or to just gain comfort in hearing from someone else going through a similar situation.
To tell you the truth, when we first learned of Chris’ testicular cancer diagnosis we were like, ok, time to get pregnant! We were naive enough at the time to think that with just a month or so we could make that happen.
He had surgery to remove his tumor just 2 days after hearing he had cancer. Then a few weeks later we decided to sell our Nashville home and buy a house in the suburbs in a great school zone - you know, prepare for the family life we’d imagined. Four bedrooms, finished basement, neighborhood pool... plenty of room to grow into. As Chris always says, we were “getting everything squared away.”
Everyone kept telling us they were so excited that we’d found our forever home. On paper we knew it was right, but even at the time we admitted to each other that we knew it was only temporary. We didn’t really know why we felt that way, but it was a mutual feeling.
What I’ve learned over the past two and a half years since this journey began, is that everything happens in its own time and that we were meant for more than we realized at the time.
This is that story... at least how it’s unfolded up until now.
After Chris’ recovery he went around to several doctors trying to get everything back in check. They all referred him to... the Fertility Doctor. Let me tell you, it’s very frustrating to hear that no one will help your husband feel “normal” again because they don’t want to make him sterile. The pressure was on us from multiple angles to get pregnant. Urologist. Endocrinologist. And of course the Fertility Doctor.
You have to understand, I’ve wanted a baby since before I knew how babies were made… but having pregnancy be suggested almost like a solution, so that Chris could then be treated? No, that wasn’t the way I ever envisioned it playing out.
Sure I understood the concern... until I didn’t.
Do you wanna know what my response was?
“No. Why are we trying to worry about creating another life when Chris is here now and he’s not ok?!” Not to mention mentally adjusting to the diagnosis and our new reality.
For the first time, I decided to take control and do something about it all because Chris had pretty much given up on doctors. Understandable.
I made him an appointment with yet another doctor, honestly unsure if he’d even show up for the appointment. But thank goodness he did! The doctor and nurses were skeptical when Chris arrived. They told him he was probably fine and wouldn’t need treatment but got him started on paperwork, “just incase,” while they ran his blood-work. Twenty minutes or so later they came back basically blown away he was still functioning and gave him some meds immediately.
From then on it was no longer about trying to get pregnant (because that was now impossible). It was about doing what was best for Chris and our relationship.
The stress immediately faded and I really do think this was the beginning of us writing our own story - not living the one we “thought we should” or the one we were “told we should.”
Infertility is a topic that many couples keep private. It’s a lot to handle and I know we’ve only just begun. But like I said at the beginning of this post, I know there’s someone out there Googling “testicular cancer and infertility” - and while I don’t have any answers or a pregnancy success story to share… I want others to know they’re not alone. And I hope that our story inspires others to take actions that are rooted in happiness… not out of fear or “suggestion.”
So what are we doing now? We’re just trying to live our best lives - as cheesy as that sounds. We’re super grateful to be happy and healthy and we will grow our family one day. But for now, we’re not going to let it become a stressor or determine how (or where) we live. Through it all, I’ve found a great deal of inner peace and guidance and I trust that when it’s time to bring a little one into our family, we’ll know.
These photos are from the (cold and rainy) day we moved out of our “forever home” in November. It gave us 2 years of important lessons… and now it’s time for us to write the next chapter!
I’ve had this post written in my iPhone notes for probably close to a year now. After catching up with a friend last fall I decided to let her read this. When she handed me my phone back with tears in her eyes I knew it was time to get it out of my notes and onto your screen too. I’ve had it sitting in the drafts here on the blog since December but still wasn’t ready to hit publish. Now it’s National Infertility Awareness Week (April 21-27 2019) and I think it’s time to share.
If you feel like giving, I’d love to point you to Bundled Blessings Fertility. I’ve been following Jenica Parcell and her infertility story on Instagram and think she is doing amazing things to raise awareness and support (both through creating community and raising money) for those going through infertility. This week they’re asking people to donate just $5 towards their “Five to Families” campaign to raise $40,000 during National Infertility Awareness Week to help assist those going through fertility treatments, adoption, and surrogacy. You can also buy this Hope t-shirt that Jenica partnered up with Cents of Style to create (I have the olive green one, but I hear spring colors are coming!?). The shirt features a small hemtag with 7 full hearts and an 8th empty broken heart to symbolize the 1 in 8 couples that struggle with infertility. A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the Hope tee goes to Bundled Blessings.
If you have any friends going through infertility or dealing with a cancer diagnosis - I hope you’ll share this with them. And, I will open up the comments and welcome your kind and positive thoughts!