The Fertility Question

I wrote this post in January but things were too fresh and emotional then to share it. I’m finally sharing it now, 5.5 months later.

Fertility. It isn’t something I really worried about, except in the ‘how do we prevent this’ stage. Our one and only pregnancy was completely planned and went off without a hitch. We were blessed with a happy, healthy, sassy baby boy. Ryan has always wanted several kids, and I’ve been on the fence about how many. I joked that if we’d had twins the first time, we’d be ‘one and done’. But I know we have at least one more waiting for us, and this year we planned on getting pregnant and welcoming another baby.

The reality is that a cancer diagnosis changes a lot of things when it comes to fertility. One, it makes us incredibly grateful that we are not already pregnant and have to make a decision about pregnancy & treatment at the same time. I can’t imagine how awful that scenario would be. Two, it changes our future possibilities for growing a family.

Straight up, the doctors said that I would have about a 50/50 chance of being able to have more children after Chemotherapy. Two of the breast cancer treatment drugs both have infertility, ovarian failure, pre-menopause as side effects. Most women’s periods stop during treatment. Sometimes once chemotherapy has stopped, their periods can come back, but sometimes the ovaries have been too damaged, and they do not.

With that, I was set up on a phone call with a reproductive endocrinologist to go over the basics of what options there were for fertility preservation – egg harvesting and embryo freezing.

I knew almost right away I wasn’t interested but wanted to make sure I had enough information that I wasn’t making a knee jerk decision. There are a lot of factors that go into this decision, and its really not fair to have to make it quickly (and sucks for anyone who has to make it at all). This was one of the decisions we had to make while home for Christmas.

Some of the factors:

Delayed treatment for cancer due to the cycle for eggs harvesting.

Up front cost of nearly $10,000 that is not covered by insurance, plus an additional $3,500 (about) for the procedure when we’re ready to have a baby. (And I’m hearing this is on the LOW END)

The ethical question of freezing embryos and not using them all.

We only get one chance at harvesting eggs and from the eggs harvested, typically a max of 2-3 embryos, so probably end up with only one viable pregnancy, if at all.

Take home baby rate is about 47% For this method. 63% at University of Utah.

The emotional, mental, and physical toll the fertility treatments take on an individual and a marriage.

Adoption costs an average of $37,000 in the United States.

Is fertility treatment a step we would take in a few years if we were unable to get pregnant, cancer aside?

Did I want to go through the possible heartbreak of failed attempts?

Its pretty sucky to hear this and think about all of this. I mean as much as I would LOVE to never have another menstrual cycle, early menopause is not exactly a friend either. And now that I’ve gone 11 weeks without a menstrual cycle (which really is pretty awesome in some ways) I essentially have the body of a 70 year old (my doctor said so) and I have ridiculous hot flashes and night sweats, irritability, zero sex-drive, and other uncomfortable intimate side effects đŸ˜¦ . Not only all this, but we’ll have to wait at least a year after chemotherapy and probably several months after my cycle comes back – if it does – to try for another baby. I’m realizing Emmett could possibly very well be 4, or 5, or 6 or ‘who knows how old’ when he gets another sibling.

And this is where I remembered I can only worry about what I can control right now.

I decided that egg preservation wasn’t something I wanted to do, and am grateful that Ryan felt the same. This is an incredibly difficult decision and one that comes with grief in varying stages. I know that after cancer, if it turns out we can’t have more kids, there will be additional grieving then also.

I’m learning that sometimes I don’t need to know the big picture, because I can’t handle it all RIGHT NOW. I don’t know if we’ll decide to adopt later, I don’t know of we’ll have a problem trying to have another child years down the road, I don’t know the feelings that are going to come when we hit that fork in the road. All I know is that right now, this is the right decision, and it is OUR decision.

Its difficult realizing that the day I started chemotherapy, I could’ve essential said goodbye to our future babies. There have been countless tears shed, even though I know its the decision we’re supposed to make. And it makes me even more grateful for the little boy I get to call son.


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