Fertility Will Always Be a Tough Subject For Me As a Young Cancer Survivor
Fertility is always a tough subject as a cancer survivor, it’s one of those things that brings me to tears and I honestly feel like something I never even got the chance to really think about has been ripped away from me.
At 21 I remember being confident in saying I never want my own kids, that I would rather adopt or foster… I was newly single, I had my whole life ahead of me and in reality, I was just exploring my options.
When I was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma initially I was facing a localised cancer with localised surgeries as my treatment. Fertility was not an issue… I mean I did wonder whether or not it would be a good idea genetically, if I had children would my cancer increase their risk of having cancer and if so could I live with that? With time those worries slipped away because at the end of the day I was 22 and children were just not on my radar.
It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with late stage metastatic melanoma at the age of 23 and everything from surgery, treatment and big conversations got fast tracked. I remember my oncologist telling me that I needed to be extremely careful and not get pregnant or it would put my life at risk… luckily for him I was single and slightly more focused on my own health than getting frisky. So this conversation floated to the back of my mind as I fought for my life. It wasn’t until I had been stable for 12 months and had been dating my boyfriend for a while that this conversation came back to me. I started to wonder whether the risks around pregnancy were just while I was on treatment or if they were ongoing.
I remember having to bring this up with my boyfriend, the fact that I may never be able to have kids and being terrified that it would jeopardize my relationship. It tore me apart as I realised the implications cancer could have on my future that I hadn’t even considered. It caused me a lot of distress and agitation as I worried about my options… or if I even had any! Eventually I brought this conversation up with my oncologist, and his answer ripped open the old wound! While I was still technically fertile, a pregnancy after late stage melanoma is dangerous and would be risking both my life and the life of that baby.
While logically it made sense, emotionally I broke down. All the times I had so carelessly said I never want children came back to haunt me. When I had said that, I had been thoughtless and it was still an option. It wasn’t until this option was being ripped from my grasp that I felt the devastation. I felt like I was less of a woman as I realised my body would never be able to house a baby, even though from a physiological stand point I am still fertile.
I am still working out what the next step is for me. While I am not ready to have children in the next few years I know whatever route I choose to go down will take time. I am in a position where I can now look into having my eggs harvested which is incredible, and then hope to find a surrogate. I am also looking into my options around adoption as well as the potential of fostering. I just hope in the future these options become more easily accessed by young cancer survivors. It’s really difficult to know that I need to make a decision soon if I want to have children by the time I’m 30.
While this is a tough subject it is amazing to know that I still have options to explore.