Why I Will Never Have Another Baby
I was two years and three days postpartum when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Just over a month after that, I was put into chemical menopause as a way to minimize the amount of estrogen in my body. Given that my breast cancer was fueled by estrogen, it was a relief to know that such a simple fix could further my treatment response so significantly. But it felt like such a hollow victory. While receiving the shots that put me into menopause, I would be unable to become pregnant or have any further children. This was, and is, a tremendously difficult pill to swallow for my husband and me because we had been trying to get pregnant at the time I was diagnosed.
Options to preserve my fertility
After my diagnosis, I was given a number of options to preserve my fertility. Initially, I was told to contact a particular oncofertility specialist who would be able to harvest my eggs and preserve either those eggs or fertilize them and preserve the embryos. My husband and I dutifully made an appointment with him, only to realize that our insurance would not cover any of those costs, and it would be over $10,000, just for the egg harvesting. The storage fees for the eggs/embryos were another sizeable expense, and the later in-vitro fertilization would cost thousands of dollars as well. My first oncologist recommended that, in my particular circumstance, that I wait at least five years to try to become pregnant, following the end of my treatment. However, once it was determined that I was metastatic, my second (and current) oncologist advised against me ever carrying another child.
I had to start treatment right away
This meant that any eggs or embryos that would be harvested and preserved would have to be carried by a surrogate. My oncologist then dropped a second bombshell on us - that there was no time for us to harvest any eggs, regardless of our choice, as she wanted to start treatment right away, rather than wait for the fertility processing, as well as undergo the hormonal fluctuations that go with it. This meant that, should we ever choose to have another baby, we would have to find a donor egg and then find a surrogate to carry the baby. While this option can be wonderful for some, it was not a financial or emotional reality for our family.
Adoption is not an option for those living with a terminal illness
When this topic comes up in casual conversation, I am often reassured, erroneously, that I can just adopt another child, should we feel the need to grow our family. This too is a difficult misstatement to correct. After contacting a number of adoption agencies, we learned that adoption by a family in which a member has a terminal illness is almost unheard of. Further, it is tremendously expensive and time-consuming, and we were already dealing with one expensive and time-consuming entity in our lives: my cancer treatments. Making this decision was not only immensely personal, and one that took into consideration so many factors, but it has been one of the most challenging decisions to discuss with others. There was no good answer for us, as any attempts to grow our family came with significant risks, significant financial obligations, and significant uncertainty. Ultimately, my husband and I have chosen not to pursue any further avenues to grow our family, as we feel that it would detract from the life we have as a family of three. Our son is our world, and we are fortunate to have him.
Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to share that on Sunday, March 29, 2020, Emily Garnett passed away. We know that Emily's advocacy efforts continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.
Caregivers: Do you practice self-care?