Friday, August 17, 2012

Moving forward...and now we wait...some more

We've made some major decisions over the past couple of weeks.  We decided to move forward with surrogacy in India using an Indian egg donor.  The down side is, we have to wait until April to transfer.  So again we wait and I am trying to keep myself occupied so I don't obsess over this.

We agonized over which road to take, but ultimately, we decided we were just making a simple decision very complicated.  It took the news of a friend's cancer returning to put things in perspective for me.  I was very upset by the news and it made the possibility of a recurrence of my cancer very real to me.  Suddenly it seemed foolish to stop taking the drug that could prevent a recurrence, and compound the risk by elevating my hormone levels with an IVF cycle or pregnancy.  I felt (and still feel) a fair amount of guilt that while I have the option of taking a drug to prevent a recurrence, and my friend does not, I was seriously considering choosing to not take the drug and tempt fate.  Once again life is showing me just how unfair it is.

So, it will be several months before we have much to report on the baby front.  In the mean time, I will be working on myself and trying to come to terms with the anger I feel toward the unfairness of life and our situation...and, of course, counting down the days until we transfer.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

...and We're Back

This is probably the sixth post I have tried to write in the past 6 weeks.  I've been avoiding blog land since our bad news at the end of June.  The good news for other couples felt like salt in our wounds and bad news for other couples made us feel even worse.  I have once again been struggling to come to terms with the anger I feel toward our situation.  Having always been an optimistic person who sees the glass as half full, I have found myself not seeing the good in anything in our life.  And to be perfectly honest, since our first BFN, our life has been full of bad news and horrible luck.  Mike's mom actually said over a month ago that she had never seen people with such bad luck...and she knows nothing about our baby plans.

But, I digress.  We have spent the last 6 weeks grieving, being angry, putting out fires (figuratively), and trying to figure out our next step on the road to parenthood.  There are several obstacles in our way, but my health and our finances are the two biggest.  Basically, as we see it, we have three options.  First, we could try again with SCI using an ED.  Second, we could scrap the whole surrogacy in India idea and TTC the old fashioned way.  Third, (and this idea came to me like a ton of bricks last week) self-cycling with SCI might be the happy medium between the other two options.  None of these options offers a perfect solution for us.  (But then, if we had the perfect solution, we wouldn't be in this boat, would we?)

So we are still gathering facts and talking to doctors and trying to decide the best way for us to go.  We have hundreds of questions, none of which have any definitive answers and we are in an impossible position. We will just have to take all of the information that our doctors can give us and make the best decision for us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Now What?

Another BFN with the added drama and heartbreak of a chemical pregnancy.  I'm not sure where we go from here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

...And the 2WW...again

We had our second transfer on Friday.  Three of our "pops" survived the thaw...again.  I must admit, I'm terrified.  These "pops" seem like they are better quality than the ones transferred last time, but I'm scared they aren't good enough.  I know how silly that is since the grade of the "pop" won't matter one way or the other in the end.

I was so convinced that it was our turn for something to go right for us that I never considered that our first attempt would be a BFN.  With this second attempt, I feel very disconnected.   I'm scared to enjoy the anticipation.  There is so little that we as IPs of a pregnancy on the other side of the world can do to feel connected to the baby growing in another woman's womb.  So we obsess over every email searching for hidden messages.  We consult with Dr. Google over every single test and scan and result.  We stare into the face of the woman who is loaning us her body so that we can feel like we know her.  We (speaking for what I am expecting of myself) go insanely overboard creating the perfect nursery for the child we are trying so hard to bring into the world.  We do these things so that we can feel involved in the creation and birth of our child because the only true contact we have with our pregnancy, is through a computer screen.

So now we wait...and I will try to get over my fear and enjoy the anticipation.  Because, even though I know how crushed I would be with another BFN, I need to experience this pregnancy as much as I can.  And that means building up the courage and getting on the roller coaster...again.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Two Years

Today is the two year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis.  So, I am officially a two-year cancer survivor.   I have very mixed feelings about my cancer-versary.  On the one hand I am eternally grateful that I am 2 years cancer free and hopeful that one day I will be a 40 year survivor.  On the other hand, it dredges up all of the emotions and stress associated with my diagnosis.   Two years ago today, our life was derailed and set on an entirely new course.   Two years later, we are still trying to put our life back together and we are still getting used to the new normal.

It's kind of funny to me, but I look at this surrogacy journey we are on and our impending parenthood as not so different from our cancer journey.  Both are out of the ordinary and, in their own way, journeys into the unknown.  Both are stressful, (one is bad stress, one is good stress...but stress is stress) resulting in short tempers and sleepless nights.  Both have unknown outcomes with the high potential for complications and heartbreak.  Both change the lives of the people involved completely and irrevocably.  Both are terrifying.  For me, both of them are nine month journeys.  I was diagnosed in June and my treatment was complete in March.  In reality, neither is truly a nine month journey.  Both are journeys that last a lifetime.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Special Day for a Special Guy

Today is a special day for someone who is very special to me.  Not many people outside of my family know this, because I do not talk about it...ever.  A decade ago (in another life) I was married.  It was a very brief marriage, 2 years if you count the 6 months we were separated before the divorce was final.  What very few people know, and I never talk about, is I have a stepson.

Today is his 18th birthday.  K. was 6 when I met him and almost 8 the last time I saw or spoke to him.  Not a year has gone by that I do not think about him on June 6.   Today he is an adult and this week, very likely, he is graduating from high school.  I miss him very much, and I often wonder how he is doing.  Losing him was, and still is, very painful for me.  He was my stepson, and for a few days each week for a year and a half, I got to be his mom.  I got to pick him up from school, and help him with his homework.  I got to tuck him into bed and play board games with him.

Today he is taking his first steps into adulthood, but in my head he is always going to be the blond haired cutie I knew a decade ago.  I hope that as K begins his life, he makes good choices and finds happiness in whatever he does.   I have not forgotten you K, and you will always have a place in my heart.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Not Black...But Still Blue

Thank you everyone for all of your love and support.  One of the hardest things yesterday was not being able to turn to the people closest to us for comfort.  All of your messages of support mean a lot to us.  After a day of mourning our BFN and a good night's sleep (and maybe a glass...or two...of wine) we are not feeling so black, but we're still feeling pretty blue.  Life goes on and we will try again.  We're considering our options.

The negative result was just the icing on the cake of a lousy holiday weekend.  On Sunday morning Mike hit a deer with his truck.  He's OK, but may have totaled the truck.  Then later that day, he broke his toe getting into the shower.  On top of all that, two of our parents are having some pretty serious medical issues.  Then we got the news of our pregnancy test.  All in all, a very crappy Memorial Day weekend for us. 

I'm having a really hard time staying positive.  This was supposed to be the thing that goes our way, the thing that doesn't end up being a struggle for us.  We are so overdue for a good thing in our lives, I was certain that this would be it.  So I guess we take it one step, and one day at a time...hope the truck is not totaled, hope the parents get and stay healthy, and try again to make a baby...or two.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The dreaded 2WW

I have no news to report.  We're just in the middle of the 2WW and it feels like time is standing still.  I'm going stir crazy and driving Mike up the wall with my obsessing.  Here's hoping the waiting gets more bearable as things move forward.  We find out next Monday if any of the pops stuck.  Just 6 more "sleeps" till then.  Maybe I'll start practicing for retirement and go to bed at 5:00.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Buns in the Oven

The "pops" have been transferred!!!  Dr. S thawed 4 "pops" and one didn't make it.  But 3 "pops" were successfully transferred, so we have 3 buns in the oven.  We'll know the results on May 28th.
Holy Cow!!! This is really happening!!!  Grow little "pops" grow!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

To Tell or Not to Tell...

I know that many IP's struggle with this question.  Should we tell anyone?  Who should we tell?  How will they react?  Mike is much more reserved than me, but I am so excited by the prospect of finally becoming a mother that I want to tell everyone.  I want to scream it from the rooftops or tattoo it on my forehead.  It is so hard for me to keep this quiet.  Mike and I agreed that we wouldn't tell people until after the first trimester.  There is this HUGE thing going on in our lives and we aren't telling anyone for months.  I'm worried that some members of our family will be hurt that we did not share this with them from the beginning.  For our own sanity in these early stages, we need to keep as many people out of the loop as we can.

There are some people who won't understand why we would go to such great lengths to have a baby.  We have heard comments over the years about not taking extraordinary measures to have a baby.  Some people say that if they are not able to get pregnant on their own, they would not pursue alternative ways of having a child.  I think they feel we are foolish to spend so much time and money on becoming a family.  I understand that many people do not have the same desire for children as I have.  But those comments, spoken so flippantly by people who have not really tried to conceive and probably could without a problem, hurt.  Why is it so hard for people to see things from the other side? 

It feels like many people, whether parents or not, find it very easy to dismiss an infertile couple's desire for parenthood and the heartbreak that goes along with infertility.  But I wonder if they ever take the time to think about how they would feel if they tried for years and never had a child, or if their children never existed because of a quirk of biology.  Infertility is not at all like choosing to live life without children.  Infertility is a deep sadness that no one ever seems to discuss.  It's so deep, it's often not even an elephant in the room.  It makes people uncomfortable and the cliches people say, things like "think of what you can do with all the money you'll save" or "it just wasn't meant to be," they invalidate and belittle the the enormous empty sadness.  An infertile couple grieves.  They grieve not only the loss of children not born, but the loss of themselves as they had hoped to be, and the loss of the life they had hoped to lead.

So telling people means opening ourselves up to questions and judgements and unwanted advice.  Why do people feel like they have a right to tell us how to build our family?  Why do people ask if we have thought about some other alternative?  Why do people feel the need to tell us all about the horrible thing they heard somewhere about someone else in our situation?  Why do people seem to think we walked into this decision with no knowledge of the process and having done no research?  We fully understand all of the risks involved in what we are doing...but we are doing it anyway.  Because there is hope that at the end of this road, we'll be a family.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Things Not to Say to a Cancer Patient or an Infertile

Ok, I've seen other lists out there.  This is my list with a twist.

  • (While looking pointedly at my head scarf) "Are you sick?" - Did you really just ask me that in the most insensitive way possible?  And for the record, no, I'm not sick.  I have poison dripped in the veins once a week, but other than that, I feel fine.
  • "My friend/coworker/sister had a baby, and she wasn't ready and she just wants to send him back.  Having a baby is really hard work" - Are you kidding?  A woman on the other side of the world is having my baby, I think I'm ready.  And if your friend/coworker/sister wants to send her baby back, I'll take him, no questions asked.
  • "Oh, you have cancer?  My sister/mother/friend/cousin died of that." - How exactly am I supposed to respond to that one..."Ummm sorry to hear that but I don't plan on taking that route."
  • "Maybe you should go to Dr. X or hospital Y" - Seriously!? Who I choose as my medical professional, is MY choice.  Obviously I have faith in them, why try to make me second guess myself?  How is that helpful?
  • "Eating/drinking/breathing X causes cancer/infertility." - Yeah, until next week when eating/drinking/breathing X prevents cancer/infertility.  And by the way, did you just say that cancer/infertility was MY fault?
  • "Why do you have to do that now?  Can't you wait to have a baby/climb Mt. Everest/travel the world?" - Why should I wait?  Life is too short.
  • "Everything happens for a reason./He always has a plan." - What possible reason could there be for my cancer and my childlessness.  His plan sucks.
  • "Life isn't fair." - You're preachin' to the choir.
  • "Think positive thoughts." - As if it's soooo easy to be a Pollyanna all the time.  Did cancer/infertility take away my right to be sad and/or pissed off?
  • "Christina Applegate had breast cancer and then she got pregnant and had a beautiful you can too." - Did you get your medical degree from Dr. Oz?  Just because we had cancer in the same body part, does not mean they were the same cancer.  Her cancer was found on a routine mammogram that I was too young to have and it was discovered at a MUCH EARLIER STAGE!!!  Another woman's fertility post-cancer has NOTHING TO DO WITH MINE!!!
  • "Have you thought about adoption?" - Adoption? What's that?  Come on, do you really think that if we thought adoption was a viable option for us, that we would be having a woman on the other side of the world, that we have never met, or seen, or spoken to carry our baby for a country ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Things are Moving Along

Well, our "pops" (aka the kid-cicles) arrived in Delhi on Friday, more than a day sooner than expected.  We were shocked they made it though customs as quickly as they did.  Surrogate profiles were in my email when I woke up Saturday morning and after much discussion we emailed Dr. S with our choice on Saturday evening.  Dr. S responded back that she would get the paperwork organized and that should be on it's way to us in the next day or so.

I was shocked at how strongly and quickly I became attached to the lovely Mrs. T.  Mike and I independently chose her as our first choice, but I was ready to fight for her before I knew who he had chosen.  Having our surrogate booked makes this seem so much more real.  And I can't stop looking at her picture.  I pull it up on my computer a dozen times a day to see her beautiful smile and it makes me happy.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Big Things

Having a baby is one of the biggest moments (maybe THE biggest) in my life, and Mike's too.  Starting a family the way we are, by having a stranger carry and give birth to our baby on the other side of the world, makes it that much bigger and more special.  But I can't write about this without also writing about the cancer because cancer is just as big and it's the reason we are where we are today.

It has been nearly 2 years since my diagnosis and I have just recently begun to accept my new normal.  I call it the "new" normal because what was normal for me 2 years ago is not the normal of today.  Cancer changes and affects everything...much like a baby.  There have been times when I have wondered if I should give myself more time to adjust to my new normal before we bring a baby into our lives.  But we were ready for a baby before cancer and cancer has taught us to live life today because tomorrow is not a guarantee.

The first 10 months after my diagnosis were spent getting through treatment.  The object of every day was simply to get through the day.  My job was to show up to appointments, take the drugs that they gave me, and basically do everything in my power to keep myself as healthy as possible..while feeling like death warmed over.  That meant resting, and eating (healthy foods) and drinking LOTS of water (chemo dehydrates).  Mike's job was to handle everything else.  He managed the house and the cooking.  He managed our fledgling business on his own.  He managed the logistics of getting me to and from my various appointments and treatments.  He even managed the communication with family members about how I was doing so that I didn't have to deal with phone call after phone call when I wasn't up for it.  He took care of me. My job through treatment was easy.  Mike's job was the hard job. 

The year after my treatment ended was arguably the hardest year of my life.  While I was going through treatment, I was focusing on getting through each day and I wasn't able to grasp the enormity of what was happening.  Looking back, that's a good thing because if I could have seen how big and far reaching cancer would be, I wouldn't have been able to get through the day.  I couldn't deal with the emotional part of cancer while I was trying to get through the physical part of cancer.  Treatment ended, the physical part was over, and the emotional part came crashing down on me.

I was warned that after treatment would be a difficult time, but like everyone else, I thought chemo would be the hard part.  After months of doctors, and drugs, and nurses, and CBCs (complete blood counts) suddenly I was cut loose.  Suddenly my cancer freeness was only being monitored every six months and I was not actively doing anything to keep the cancer from coming back.  The possibility of a recurrence seemed huge and terrifying.  In addition, I found myself consumed with an irrational anger toward everything and nothing.  I was constantly on the brink of tears.  Life seemed so hard for me and so easy for everyone else.  I had no hope that things would get better and that my life would move forward.  Mike was worried about me.  I was worried about me.

The thing that made those months the hardest was, to everyone else (except Mike), cancer was over.  I was "cured."  I'd had a rough year, but it was behind me and I didn't have to think about it any more.  But that is not how cancer works.  Until the day I die, I will be SURVIVING cancer.  To me, the word survivor indicates that something was beaten.  Given the insidious nature of cancer, I will never be under the false impression that I have "beaten" cancer.  This is why I cannot stand to hear that I have been "cured."  My cancer could recur today, or next week, or twenty years from now.  For the rest of my life, it will be something hanging over me.

I have worked very hard for the last 6 months to get my head in a better place and to get my life moving in a direction again.  It was maybe the hardest thing I have ever done, to fight the fear and anger and hopelessness.  I took control of my life again.  It feels good.  I know that many IPs have written about the lack of control they feel with this process.  I get it.  Feeling a loss of control over your life is a horrible place to be.  True I have almost no control over anything that happens from here on, but I CHOSE to do this.  I made a decision to be out of control.  After two years of having no control and no choice, this feels amazing.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On Their Way!!!

Our "pops" (frozen embies) are on their way!!!  Our clinic here in the US packed our "pops" up and shipped them to India today.  All with the help of a cryoshipping company in Canada.  This is truly a global project.  Our kids are taking their first airplane trip!!!

All of this is very exciting for me but my inner crazy is definitely coming out.  And since we aren't telling anyone yet what we are doing, poor Mike is the only one with whom I can let the crazy out.  I'm hoping once the "pops" have landed, I'll be able to relax...yeah...right.

Friday, April 27, 2012


OK, so I've learned that I'm not going to handle the waiting very well.  We sent our initial payment on Monday and spent three days waiting for confirmation that it was received on the other end.  I was a bit of a crazy woman, stalking my email, worrying that something went wrong with the wire, and just generally driving Mike nuts.  This does not bode well for my sanity for the rest of this journey.

Waiting is the name of the game.  Now I am waiting for the embryos to ship.  Next week I'll be waiting for the embryos to reach India.  Then I'll be waiting for the paperwork...then the transfer...then the results of the pregnancy test...and on and on and on.  Waiting, waiting, waiting for the next step, and next scan, and next milestone.  I never realized I was this impatient. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Finding Joy in the Littlest Things

When we moved into our new home in January, one of the things that made me sad about leaving my old home, was that I was leaving behind my Pink Lady Slippers.  For those who don't know, Pink Lady Slippers are flowers in the orchid family.  They grow wild in wooded areas in our region.  They are notoriously hard to cultivate, so they are typically only seen in the wild.  They are also somewhat rare, being listed as endangered in many areas.  In our old home, I was always so excited to see them popping up and I would go on Lady Slipper treks through the property to see how many I could find.  I would drive Mike nuts making sure he didn't run over one with the tractor or the truck.  I LOVED the Lady Slipper time of year!!!

How excited was I when I noticed a Lady Slipper in my new front yard yesterday morning!!!  And this morning I found a second one!!!  Now that the rain of the last few days has stopped, I'm going to have to go on a Lady Slipper hunt.  Lady Slippers make me happy!

Here is a picture of one:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What Can Change in Five Days?

Isn't it amazing how quickly life can change?  One minute you're a healthy 30 year old woman and the next minute you're a "sick" cancer survivor.  One minute you're half of a childless couple and the next minute you're a mother.  So much has changed in 5 days!

We moved to a new home in January and I love gardening, so I am excited to see spring coming and see what pops up in the yard.  Five days ago our flower beds were full of the remnants of daffodil blooms and spent cherry tree blossoms were blanketing the yard.  Now the yard is full of color and trees are budding in new green.  Dogwoods and azaleas are blooming full force.  I have a lilac bush!!!  How appropriate that we are beginning the road to parenthood in the spring when life is renewing every day. 

I returned from India last night.  Out of deference to concerns over my safety as a youngish woman traveling alone, I didn't want to put this on the internet until i returned.  Hence, the gap in my posts.  I was so excited about my trip in the week and a half before I left, I couldn't focus enough to put a coherent post together.  Anyway, I left for India at the crack of dawn on Saturday and returned Wednesday evening.  I was gone for 5 days, which gave me 2 full days in Delhi.  Yes, I spent nearly 3 days in the air and waiting in airports to visit India for 2 days.  Crazy, right?  I wish I could have spent more time but, with our busy season gearing up into full swing, I couldn't take more time.  We need every sale we can get to help fund this journey. 

I went to Delhi to meet with the doctor and her team and to see the clinic and to generally try to get my bearings so that when Mike and I arrive to pick up our baby/ies, one of us is not in complete culture shock.  I was on the fence for a while about whether to go to India or not.  Mike and I both felt pretty good about our choice of clinic and the communication we had received in answer to our questions impressed us.  I was having trouble justifying taking the time away from work at this time of year and spending the money when I felt mostly certain that I would find exactly what I expected in India.  In the end, the little devil of doubt whispering in my ear won out and I booked my flight.

I found exactly what I expected to find in Delhi.  Dr. Shivani was exactly what I had heard about from other parents.  She was very nice and introduced me to everyone in the clinic, explained a bit more in detail how everything works, and answered all of my questions.  Most of my questions had already been answered but it was reassuring to hear directly from Dr. Shivani.  Everyone in the clinic was very nice and helpful and, during my tour, I was able to see many surrogates and potential surrogates waiting for various appointments.  It was reassuring to see these women and their families.  And obviously, is was reassuring to see the baby bumps on some of the women.  So the result of my trip is that everything I believed before is confirmed.  I have faith in the doctor we have chosen.  I have faith that this is the best way for Mike and I to start our family.  I have faith that this will work for us.

I heard that I would either love or hate India.  Well, I didn't hate it, but I was not there long enough to fall in love with it.  I had a pretty good idea what to expect, so nothing I saw shocked me.  I would not call my self a globe trotter, but I have traveled a bit to both first and third world countries.  I have seen poverty in other parts of the world, but not like in Delhi.  My travels have given me an appreciation of how lucky I am to have everything I do.  But I think, like most people, sometimes I lose sight of that, especially when things don't go my way.  I hope India will make it harder for me to forget how lucky we are, even when we are living paycheck to paycheck and maybe can't afford to buy latest, newest, biggest thing.  I hope I can teach my children to appreciate how lucky they are.  I found Delhi to be a busy, grimy, friendly, beautiful place.  It's a place full of contrasts...ugly and beautiful, rich and poor, fast and slow.  Given more time, I think I will love it.

On the other hand, I think Mike will hate it.  To begin with, he is not a city person.  A few years back, he surprised me for my birthday with a weekend trip to New York.  We saw a show on Broadway, walked around the city a bit, rode the subway.  I think he hated every minute.  He doesn't like crowds, or traffic, or noise, or dirt (he's a bit of a germaphobe).  He doesn't like being outside of his comfort zone and is content when he lives life in his little box.  I love him to death, obviously, but he's not a person who likes new things or adjusts well to change.  India will be WAY outside of his box.  I hope he will be able to see past the dirt and grime and poverty and see the beauty there.  And I hope that it will give him an appreciation of how lucky he is...even if he hates it.

Going to India ended up meaning more for me than I first expected.  In my teens and most of my twenties, I traveled.  It helped me find my independence in addition to exposing me to different cultures and people and experiences.  I did the majority of my traveling alone or at least without anyone in my immediate family.  When I was in 6th grade, I learned that my school offered a 10 day trip to Russia for 8th graders.  That day I went home and told my parents I was going to Russia, and for two years I worked my butt off doing odd jobs for my neighbors to save up the huge (to an 11 year old) sum of $1000 to go on the trip.  With one semester left for my college degree, I decided to change majors to study archaeology.  Two months later I was at an archaeological field school in Belize.  I drove myself cross country for a job in New Mexico doing archeological survey and took a 3 day Greyhound bus trip to Texas to find an apartment for grad school.  I wanted to see the Grand Canyon, so I spent 3 of the most memorable days of my life camping alone and soaking in the beauty of the world.  My friends used to joke about me "fleeing the country" and knowing that I had a passport and could just go any time I wanted was exciting for me.  My cousin called me "fearless."

In the last decade I have "settled down."  I've, more or less, lived in a little box...a happy, comfortable box with Mike.  But it's a part of my life that I have missed.  At the same time, I lost my "fearlessness."  I would imagine traveling somewhere and the doubt and fear would take over and I would make excuses not to travel.  My two days in Delhi gave me back the confidence to step out of my box.  I'm older, and smarter about many things, but I can still travel someplace new to me and not like anyplace I have ever been and I can manage.  I don't have to stay in my happy, comfortable box all the time.  I can climb out when I want and experience some of the best things the world has to offer. I can do it even though it scares my mom or worries Mike.  I don't have to listen to the little voice in me that says I'm too old, or too female, or too weak.  I can still be "fearless."

Friday, April 6, 2012

So What's Wrong with the Old Fashioned Way?

So how did we get to where we are now?  Why are we having a woman on the other side of the world carry our baby for us?  What's wrong with the old fashioned way?  It worked for our parents, right?  Our infertility story is very different than any I have read about so far.  We are a heterosexual couple, so we have all the right parts for baby-making.  As far as we know, all of our parts work as designed, more or less.  We have not had the heartbreak of failed IVF cycles or miscarriages.  In fact, as far as we know, we could make the leap and try tonight and have a bun in the oven in the morning.  But it's not that simple.

On June 10, 2010 I got a phone call from my doctor.  It was about 4:30 in the afternoon and I was at work, alone.  She was calling to tell me that the lump in my breast was malignant.  She was calling to tell me I had breast cancer.  I was 30 years old.

My first coherent thought as I hung up the phone was "holy s#*t, life just got so much more complicated."  My second thought was "oh my god, what about kids."  I had quit my "real job" two months before so that I could run the retail end of our business full time, and Mike and I had decided that though we weren't going to actively try to start a family, we weren't going to do anything to get in the way of a happy accident.  That afternoon, all of our plans for everything came to a screeching halt.  Our lives were suddenly on a whole different course.

In the first weeks after my diagnosis, I saw doctor, upon doctor, upon doctor...various specialists and second opinions.  The first question I asked every one of them was, what about babies?  Some doctors passed it off as a question for a different specialist.  Some doctors essentially said "Why are you thinking about babies when you have cancer."  In their defense, we live in small rural community that is a haven for retirees.  These doctors typically see post-menopausal women who have had, or not had their families, and I was diagnosed with a disease that typically occurs in someone at least twice my age.  (As I have since learned, breast cancer in pre-menopausal women is not as uncommon as we would like to believe.)  Bottom line, my fertility was a priority for me, but obviously not for my doctors.

To be fair, the objective of my oncology team was to "cure" (oh, how I hate that word in this context) my cancer, but I was not willing to let cancer take away the possibility of my having a child.  So against my cancer doctors' advice, I decided to preserve my fertility.  I consulted a fertility specialist and after speaking with me over the phone for 2 days, she told me she had consulted with her partners over my situation and they agreed that I could join the IVF cycle they were beginning that week.  That meant a crash course in the process of IVF.  I went to the clinic on my first day of injections, had an ultrasound and spent 6 HOURS with various nurses and administrators learning how to give myself the injections, what the process would be, getting approval from my insurance company to cover the cost, and having them answer all of my questions about what the hormone surge would mean for the cancer.  It was a mind-spinning and exhausting day trying to learn in 6 hours what most couples learn over several weeks or months.  But less than two weeks later, they had collected my eggs and we had 17 embies on ice. (My mom calls them her grand-"pops")

For those of you that don't know much about breast cancer, there are several different kinds of breast cancer.  When they removed the tumor, it was tested to determine which type of cancer it was and to determine my course of treatment.  Very long story, very cancer was estrogen positive.  That means that the cancer "fed" on the estrogen in my body.  One of my doctors described it as miracle grow for my tumor.  Because the cancer was estrogen positive and because I was so young (in cancer years), the cancer was considered aggressive.  My oncologist advised me not to go forward with the fertility treatments for two reasons.  First, he did not want to delay chemo (ultimately, it delayed the start of chemo for about a week) and second, the surge of estrogen from the injections would make any random cancer cooties left over from my surgery go bananas.  I decided it was a risk I was willing to take, knowing that I would start chemo the day after the retrieval.

But that doesn't explain why I can't be pregnant now.  Chemo ended 15 months ago and radiation ended 13 months ago.  Part of the standard of care for my type of cancer is to take a drug called Tamoxifen for 5 years following treatment.  Tamoxifen blocks the estrogen receptors in my body so that if there are any estrogen receptive cancer cooties floating around inside me, the estrogen cannot feed them and they will not grow.  Eventually they will die.  So bottom line, Tamoxifen GREATLY reduces the chance that the cancer will return.  Tamoxifen has many annoying side affects but the one that matters most to me is that it can cause miscarriage and/or severe deformities in a pregnancy.  So my choices are to take the drug and not have a baby and GREATLY reduce the risk of the cancer recurring, or not take the drug and have a baby and live with the very good possibility that my cancer will return.  And the kicker to all of this is that pregnancy itself creates a long term estrogen surge.  So if I get pregnant, a baby may not be the only thing I am growing.

So there is the Tamoxifen which is not good for a fetus, and there is the estrogen during pregnancy that could make the cancer return, but there is also the very real possibility that chemo damaged my ovaries and I am now infertile.  As anyone who has gone through IVF knows, there are tests they can do to determine my fertility.  However, everything is hormone dependent and because of the Tamoxifen, there is nothing normal about my hormones right now.  Tamoxifen mimics (and sometimes causes) menopause.  So the drug has to be out of my system for any of these tests to be reliable.  I may or may not be fertile, but we won't know until I have finished my 5 years of Tamoxifen (4 years to go).  

So that is a very shortened version of how we got to where we are today and why we are taking such a drastic step in starting our family. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Going to India

My visa is in the mail on the way back to me!!!  Hopefully I'll be in India in the next week to 10 days to meet Dr. S and get the ball rolling!!!  I just realized, this time next month, we could have a bun in the oven OMG!!!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My First Blog Post

I'm Maggie.  My almost-husband's name is Mike. Mike is my almost-husband because it seems silly to call him my "boyfriend."  He's an old soul who was a man long before he had to shave.  We've been together for 9 years this May but we've yet to tie the knot.  People always ask us why we aren't married yet.  I don't really have a good reason.  Life keeps happening and we haven't made the time. 

Even though we don't have a piece of paper saying we are husband and wife, we have lived more life and more "marriage" than most married people we know.  In nearly a decade, we've bought homes, built homes (literally with Mike's bare hands), we've lost loved ones, we've struggled with our relationship, we've built a business, and we've done the whole "in sickness and health" deal.  We are partners in every sense of the word. 

So why I am I writing this blog?  Mike and I want to start a family.  Mike is not a risk taker.  Every decision he makes is analyzed from every angle before he commits.  I, however, am much more a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl.  I figure, everything will work out in the end and the bumps along the way are what life is all about.  I've been ready for motherhood since...forever.  Mike, ever the analyst, has been waiting for the "perfect time."  Events over the past two years have forced us to realize that life is too short to wait and there will NEVER be a "perfect time."  Now that we are ready to start a family, I cannot be pregnant.

We talked about and considered adoption.  Sometimes it seemed like the best way to go, and sometimes it felt wrong.  Having other people evaluate us and our lives and determine whether we were worthy to parent a child feels wrong and cold and stressful.  Not to mention the possibility for heartbreak if no one chooses us to parent her child, or if she chooses us and then changes her mind.  The process outlined for us by the adoption agency we consulted, helped contribute to an all consuming anger I had for many months last year.  Eventually the back and forth of "it's the way to go, it's not the way to go" crossed it off the list of possibilities for us.  If we both couldn't be 100% certain that this was the way to go, it was not the way to go.  I think we only really considered it because it felt like the only option available to us.

Surrogacy was an option that seemed like a great possibility until we learned that the laws were not favorable toward it in the US.  Even if I was the biological mother of the child, I would have to adopt the child after birth to be the LEGAL mother of the child.  That meant that I would have to do the home study and have someone else determine whether I was "fit" to be the mother of a child that is already genetically mine.  Because of the laws protecting paternal rights, Mike did not have to worry about that.  Apparently paternal rights are based on genetics while maternal rights are based on the womb used for gestation.  The concerns over who exactly the legal mother and father of the child would be added to the concern that the surrogate may not give us the baby when it was born.  We briefly considered having my mom carry our baby (her idea, not ours).  But while it is definitely possible for a post-menopausal woman to carry a pregnancy, and has been done (several times), the risks were simply too high.

So we were left with our last option which I had crossed off the list very early in our thinking.  We decided to pursue surrogacy in India.  Initially, I was very against the idea.  It felt like I, as a "rich" American, would be exploiting a woman from a developing country.  When all of our other options were crossed off the list, I started doing much more research into the surrogacy industry in India.  It felt right.  There are a million hurdles to starting a family this way and we fully expect that there will be all kinds of stress.  Mike, after all of his analyzing, felt the most comfortable with this avenue.  I have come to trust that we would not be exploiting anyone and also trust that we will not be exploited.  So we are excited and scared and we have a thousand questions.  We're having a baby in India!