At the age of 31 I feel like I am living someone else’s life, someone much older. I was diagnosed in October 2012 with stage 1b2 adenocarcinoma cervical cancer. I was originally told that I would need to have a hysterectomy to treat my cancer. I was only 27 and recently divorced. I had entered the dating scene, how was I supposed to explain this? I had a three-year-old son, however, I was not ready to give up on my fertility. I was thrilled on October 18th, 2012 when my oncologist told me I would be a perfect candidate for a fertility preserving procedure: trachelectomy and lymph node removal. If all went as planned I would not need additional treatments and I would be able to conceive and carry a child naturally in the future with a C-section delivery.
In November 2012 I underwent the surgery with only minor complications. The oncology board determined that I was not in need of any additional treatment and I would simply be monitored. We had successfully preserved my fertility and removed the 2.5 cm by 3 cm tumor from my cervix. I felt like a success story and immediately tried to put the cancer behind me. All I wanted to do was move on with my life.
But my cancer story didn't end there. In December 2013, I saw blood in my urine. In April 2014, my urologist ordered a scan and determined that my cancer had returned--with a vengeance. At this point I was engaged to be married, using birth control to prevent pregnancy, and planning to conceive a child in just a few short months. My son thought so, too. He said, “As soon as Momma gets married we can have a baby.”
This recurrence changed everything. It meant I couldn’t just forget that I had cancer. It meant time for treatment again. It meant putting my life on hold again. It meant my body was in danger again, and so was my fertility. I remember walking into the oncologist office expecting to hear that it was time for a hysterectomy and that I would no longer be able to conceive a child. To my surprise, he said, “Oh no, it is far too bad for that.”
I was 28 when I started treatment for my recurrence. Before my 29th birthday, I had officially lost my fertility and started menopause
. I was devastated, unquestionably. But it was something I had to accept emotionally in order to make it through the aggressive treatment. I was forced to look at what I did have: my son, and that I had to make myself better so I could raise him
. I had to put the fertility issue in the back of my mind and move forward with my life.
In March 2015 I received the news that my treatment had been a success and I was NED (no evidence of disease). The celebration was short lived, though, as I was diagnosed in May 2015 with my second recurrence.
Now, I am 31 and living my life with persistently recurrent, metastatic cervical cancer and I have gone through a spectrum of definitions for my body and my fertility. At first, I thought that I had push past the loss of fertility if I wanted to outlive the cancer. Then, I found out I could have a trachelectomy and save my fertility, I thought I was okay. I thought maybe I could both survive cancer and keep my fertility in tact. But then came the real kicker-- that recurrence that stole my fertility. I have mourned the loss of the life I was supposed to have.
Now I am moving forward and advocating so other women know they aren't the only one without their fertility. We need to know we are not alone. I am living my life to its fullest, even with cancer, and I challenge each of you to live life that way as well.
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Image courtesy of Jon Flobrant