• Another 100 Days of Good Karma: Day 256 (Radiation Treatment 14 of 30: On Infertility and Hard Choices)

    sometimeschangechangesus

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015

    Run/ Walk/ Bike/ Elliptical (Today:  0.00 miles;  Running Total: 212.99 miles)

    Day 256 of *Another* 100 Days of Good Karma.

    I did the Lululemon Leg Workout with the Get Fit Fast crew.  I liked their other bootcamp YouTube video from last week so decided to give them another go. Don’t let the 50:00 minute time length worry  you.  The video actually ends at 33 minutes.  Due to some video editing error there’s twenty minutes of black screen after the video ends. The instructors talk a lot more during this workout, so when I do this again on Thursday I’ll jog in place or something while they’re having their husband/wife moments.

    And now on to the serious part of today’s blog.

    Today I heard on the radio that Angelina Jolie underwent further cancer prevention surgery to have her ovaries removed. This means she’s in a hormone free-fall and in a state of menopause long before her time.

    I am also estrogen deficient now, though for a different reason. After surgery I started taking a drug called Tamoxifen. The type of cancer I am being treated for feeds off of estrogen. Tamoxifen blocks estrogen.  I have to take this drug for the next five years and I might experience symptoms of menopause during that time.

    Angelina Jolie and I differ in that she can take drugs to replace the hormones missing in her body after having her ovaries removed. I can’t take hormone replacements to offset the symptoms of menopause because hormones are feeding the cancer.

    Luckily for me I haven’t experienced many side effects from Tamoxifen. I attribute part of that purely to luck.  Staying physically active will help, too. It offsets weight gain and helps fight potential heart disease.

    One thing Angelina Jolie said in an interview about her surgery really struck home. She made a comment on now being infertile. At 39 it is now impossible for her to have any more children.

    This struck home because I know first hand how hard it is to have that choice taken from you before you’re ready.

    Taking Tamoxifen means I can’t have estrogen in my body for five years to help prevent the cancer from coming back.

    At least five years. Maybe forever.

    And you can’t be pregnant without hormones.

    I haven’t written about infertility before because for a long time it was too hard. Which is saying something because I’ve written about some really hard shit. Now, with a little distance and time, it isn’t quite so difficult to talk about.

    A few people already know this, mostly family, but when I was diagnosed with cancer Justin and I were trying to get pregnant. I’d been feeling the pull to have another baby for a few years and at 34 I knew I only had one more year before I was deemed medically ‘high risk’. We saw it as our now-or-never chance.

    When I found out I had cancer, we’d been trying for about three months. When the word cancer was dropped in my lap I honestly didn’t know if I was pregnant or not. I could easily have been in a stage of pregnancy too early to detect.

    Early on a doctor told me unless I delayed treatment and preserved eggs I would never have children again. He also told me that at my age I should just be grateful with the two children I have because he saw 25 year olds in his office who haven’t had the opportunity to have children and never would because of cancer.

    I saw his point, but it wasn’t easy to hear.

    I was suddenly presented with a choice no parent should have to make. A choice between a child that I might be pregnant with, someone who would be loved unconditionally, and two children who were already living and breathing and integral to my life.

    One of the first tests the doctors performed was a blood pregnancy test. While we waited for those results, Justin and I had some hard conversations.

    Very hard.

    If I was pregnant, I saw that I had two choices. One, delay treatment to preserve eggs or, if I was pregnant, allow the fetus to grow possibly giving the cancer time to spread further.  Or two, abort the pregnancy.

    Whether or not you agree with abortion, this is a terrible decision. Personally, while I don’t particularly like abortion I don’t see it as my place to tell anyone else what to do with their body. And just because I agree with a woman’s right to choose doesn’t mean I take abortion lightly. It’s just too easy to sit back and say what we would or wouldn’t do when we’re not facing the choice. I certainly never expected to have to face the decision for myself.

    And yet there I was faced with the very real possibility of having to choose between destroying a child that I would love with all my heart or living to see the two children I already had grow up.

    Every day we waited for results I waffled back and forth.

    Would you? Yes, of course. No, never. I will. I won’t. How could you? How couldn’t you?

    This decision was so gut wrenching I didn’t even know how to talk about it with Justin. Luckily he brought it up.

    “If you’re pregnant,” he said. “You’ll just have to end it.”

    Having him say it first removed a boulder from my back that I didn’t know I’d been carrying. Without even realizing it my husband, a conservative Texan who has never believed in abortion, gave me the pre-emptive forgiveness I needed to think clearly about the problem. I still hated having to make the decision, and I knew he would hate it, too, but to know that he would understand – no, endorse – if I decided to end a pregnancy that we both very much wanted was a relief so profound I struggle to find the words to express myself.

    When the call came and said I wasn’t pregnant, I cried. I cried because I didn’t have to make that horrible choice. I also cried because I knew I wouldn’t have any more children in my lifetime. I wasn’t ready to give that up, but the choice was taken from my hands.

    Now, taking the Tamoxifen, by the time I would be able to try getting pregnant again I’ll be 40.  I elected not to preserve eggs because I didn’t want to delay treatment. So now having undergone aggressive cancer treatment and hormone blockers, getting pregnant may be impossible.

    I’ve learned to live with the fact that it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever have another child. I’m okay with it now, even if I still stare at pregnant women for longer than is appropriate.

    My heart goes out to Angelina Jolie and any other woman facing these choices. I was in the same position not so long ago. I applaud her bravery in talking about a very difficult subject.

    Today’s silver lining: My children. Always and forever.

    {If you would like to leave a comment, please keep in mind that this post was not meant to be an abortion debate. For or against, I recognize that this is a touchy subject for a lot of people.  So if comments get out of hand in either direction I will close them down entirely. As always, thank you for your kindness. ~Meghan}

    What’s your silver lining today?  I love comments!

    Don’t want to leave a comment, but have something you want to share?  Send me an email at gettingthewordswrong(at)gmail(dot)com.

    xoxo,
    Meghan

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8 Responsesso far.

  1. Pam says:

    A beautifully written piece, Meghan, that addresses such an important issue for many people. Thank you for sharing your experiences ,as always.
    P

  2. Tina Gower says:

    Heartbreaking.

    Expletive Trigger warning
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    Fuck Cancer

    FUUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKK it.

    Fuck.

    *Punches any potentially judge-y people in the throat*

    I’m envious of people who think these are easy decisions.

  3. Rindi says:

    So much love to you and your family Meghan! And, I will line up behind Tina.

  4. Kristel says:

    Thank you for letting us glimpse into your very private struggles. I hope it helps other people to see into that world. Everything isn’t always black and white. There are so very many shades of gray. I’m grateful for your kids with you. *hugs* I’m grateful that you’re still here!! You are so brave and bearing your soul on the internet is such an incredibly brave thing to do.

  5. […] did the leg workout from Tuesday. This time around I noticed that the workout is very structured until the 28 minute mark. […]

  6. Phil says:

    I’m a little behind in my reading Meghan. Food for thought, if you do want another baby then you and Justin can adopt. There are tons of kids out there who need good loving homes. Something not many ppl know about me is I was diagnosed with male infertility 21 years ago. I prayed a lot and asked God why me? But then, he answered Ann and my prayers and led us to adoption. And, as the father of two adopted boys, I can tell you it was one of the best decisions of my life. Let me know if you and Justin ever want to learn more about adoption And we can tell you all about it. Thanks for sharing this part of your story with us.

    • Meghan says:

      We haven’t thought about adopting. It’s definitely something we’ll have to discuss. In the mean time, thank you for sharing your story, Phil. That was very brave of you. 🙂 ~Meghan

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