Facing Cancer
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A Natural Ambition

Having cancer in your twenties means facing issues that you may not face in your fifties or sixties like worrying about a student loan, feeling isolated from your peers, the loss of your womanhood in your prime because like in my case part of it was literally removed, and the ever-looming fertility.

I had six rounds of chemo and Tamoxifen has put me in a medically induced menopause. Ah, menopause at 27, 28, and now as of last Wednesday, 29. Yep, sure am living the dream these days. I still get my period (and because they just don't have the research about young women on Tamoxifen, they aren't exactly sure if that is a good thing or not - I've been told two opposing viewpoints by two different oncologists) and every time I do, I have such a huge sense of relief because I know that for another month, I have managed to avoid going into permanent menopause at 29.

With social media, and primarily Facebook, I am bombarded with pictures of babies every day. When I see friends who post pictures of their 'positive pee stick' (yes people do that), or their growing bellies or their newborns, 1 year olds or the first day of school pictures, I feel lost.

Not one part of me is angry with friends or frustrated with them, shit if I had a baby, I'd be plastering those pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, can you post pictures on LinkedIn?, you get my drift. But, it seems that if my double mastectomied chest wasn't enough of a reminder that I may not ever have children, Facebook is right there to reinforce it.

Writing about this only furthers my feelings of isolation which I mentioned earlier. I have been so apprehensive to write about this because I fear that friends might distance themselves from me because they are going to be so conscious of 'throwing their babies in my face'. This is nothing for friends and family to apologize for. That is not why I am writing about it. This is an issue that I have, not an issue that they have. As I said, if I am blessed with children one day, I will be shouting it from a mountain top.

Although I know that being pregnant would not be the safest thing right now, I think about it all the time. In an alternate universe where I didn't have cancer, I would be pregnant with my second baby and in love with my first. But we don't live in an alternate universe and here's my reality; last month, after I was about four weeks post-op, I missed my period. That is the first period that didn't show up on time, the day that it was supposed to since chemo ended. On about day three of being late, the thought crossed my mind that I may be pregnant. I have an IUD in place but weirder things have happened. I'm not going to lie to you, day three to five of my missed period was a bit of a mind-fuck (excuse the language but I have devoted a solid three minutes to coming up with a less abrasive, equally descriptive word to describe my feelings and I couldn't). I kept thinking 'I can't be pregnant, I'm on Tamoxifen, I have an IUD, I only have a 40% chance, there's no way' and the other part of me was cheering, 'I could be PREGNANT.'

On day six, I took a pregnancy test and although I knew better, I had hope (for some twisted, delusional reason). I starred at that test waiting for the second line to appear to signify pregnancy and although the test said results would appear in 90 seconds, I gave that second line at least seven minutes to appear. No second line ever appeared and on day seven, my period showed up. It was late (I'm assuming from the anesthesia and myriad of prescription drugs that I was on after my second mastectomy only weeks before). I know that I can't get pregnant right now (not 'can't' like it's impossible but 'can't' like I'm still in treatment [Tamoxifen]) but that second line would have meant that pregnancy was possible.

I know women who have had babies after chemo and I have met babies who are children of women who have gone through chemo. I know this isn't impossible and although I am not one for statistics, I had a less than 1% chance of getting breast cancer at 26 so a 40% chance of getting pregnant seems pretty high with my track record. But seeing so many friends enjoying the happiness of parenthood while I'm waiting for my next surgery, being the one who has loved kids since I was six years old and being surrounded by so many people who seem to get pregnant by what seems to be just laughing too hard (does that make sense??) is so heartbreaking.

So in true Katie fashion, in heartbreaking times, I like to torture myself with music that really drives the point home. You know when you hear a song and it’s like it was written for you? Look at these lyrics:

It felt like a given, something a woman’s born to do
A natural ambition to see a reflection of me and you
I'd feel so guilty, if that was a gift I couldn’t give
Could you be happy if life wasn’t how we pictured it?
And sometimes I just want to wait it out to prove everybody wrong
And I need your help to move on ‘cause you know it’s so hard, so hard

Yep, lyrically, that about sums it up!

The thing about cancer is that it affects so many lives, regardless of whose body it’s harbouring. Keith has had so many choices made for him without ever being asked (and without ever complaining) but how do I not feel guilty for making him wait, for not knowing if I can give him the gift of life?

A few months ago, Keith and I were lying in bed and I asked him if he could picture his life without kids, what I said was ‘If I can’t give you children, will you still be happy?’ In true Keith fashion he said ‘It’s not a matter of you giving me children, we can either have children or we can’t.'

Keith and I have stuck with the idea of ‘if it’s meant to be then it’s meant to be.’ It’s not easy knowing that we have to wait another three and a half years before we can even start trying but for us, there’s no point in doing all this testing to then hurry up and wait. I will be done Tamoxifen when I'm 32 and although that is not old when it comes to reproduction, chemo accelerates the aging of your ovaries and they could be 'as old as' 44 when I'm only 32.
On March 16th, 2011, my oncology surgeon told me that chemo would significantly lower my chances of having a baby so much that it was more likely that I wouldn't have children. I cried more that day than the five days prior when I found out I had aggressive stage two breast cancer.

I've talked with a few girlfriends about the way we used to see the world. When we were in high school we imagined graduating from university, getting a good job, marrying our prince charming, having a few kids and living the dream. Life was easy, dreams were attainable, the future was definite. Now, some of us have dealt with loss and pain and hurdles that have not only tripped us but have made it hard to get back up. I know that cancer has taught me lessons about life that many adults twice my age still haven't learned but I beg the greater powers at be not to teach me the lesson of being a childless woman.

And sometimes I just want to wait it out to prove everybody wrong
And I need your help to move on ‘cause you know it’s so hard, so hard.

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Member since
May 12, 2011

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2011 @ 26 years old. Breast cancer does not run in my family; further proof that cancer doesn’t discriminate.I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. I want to get my story out there so other young women know that they are not alone. I have been blessed with an incredible support system and I would love to pay that forward.

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