Five months before Joe and I were to be married, I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. I had no family history, no risk factors and was 31 years young. I spent the months leading up to my wedding recovering from a single mastectomy and feeling grateful I wouldn’t need chemotherapy at that time. I had so much gratitude I was not going to be a bald bride.
Our wedding was one of the best days of our lives, we had so much to celebrate! We were thrilled to discover we got pregnant on our honeymoon. Our joy however was short-lived as our first pregnancy wound up ending in a miscarriage. We would miscarry two more babies the following year.
We did extensive testing and there was no explanation as to why I had lost so many babies. Not only had we lost so many pregnancies but they were back-to-back losses. Bad luck is all we were told. Around the time we were researching IVF, I was diagnosed with cancer again. This time it had spread beyond my breast tissue and the outlook was not good. Regardless, we refused to give up on the idea of being parents.
We choose to freeze embryos before I began chemotherapy because I was told it would leave me infertile. I had an excellent response to chemo. Halfway through, I was deemed 'No Evidence of Disease' (NED) and have remained that way since. Unfortunately, because of the spread of my disease, I will remain on medication for the remainder of my life to keep it from spreading.
When I had completed chemotherapy, we began the process again of trying to have kids. We jumped through hoop after hoop to adopt through the foster care system. For months, we were told we just had 'one more thing to do' or 'one more paper to sign' before we were certified to have children in our home. Three years later and we were still waiting. Finally, we decided to turn to gestational surrogacy.
We met our unbelievable surrogate in April of 2017. And to our joy she was pregnant with our biological child come October. Think: our bun, her oven. Going through the process of surrogacy and having a stranger carry your child is an exceptional experience in itself. That is a story we will save for another day.
Around the same time, I was feeling awful. I went to the doctor with symptoms of fatigue and nausea. All testing came back fine. My symptoms were associated with my medications so it was assumed I was experiencing side effects. But no one thought to give me a pregnancy test.
Weeks went by and I had little relief. Finally, I was cleaning out a bathroom drawer and found an expired pregnancy test. Without any expectations and without telling my husband, I took it. It was instantly positive. At the time, we assumed I would have another miscarriage so I was devastated. It felt especially cruel.
We made an appointment to visit our our OBGYN that same week. He confirmed a heartbeat - much to our surprise. We were not able to book an MFM specialist (Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist is a doctor who helps women with complicated or high risk pregnancies) until we were 12 weeks along (we heard the heartbeat at 9 weeks) so it wasn’t until then we knew we really had a chance.
My oncologist however did not give us such good news. She told us this was such a unique situation, they had no idea how much of a risk we would be taking and recommended termination. She said because I could not be on my medication during pregnancy, there was a chance cancer could spread so quickly, we could lose me and the baby before the baby even had a chance. She also said, "I've known you for years and know you were born to be a mother, whatever you decide - we are with you." It was never a choice for me, after all we had gone through, we were going to have this baby.
It was not long after we got the news that the transfer to our surrogate took as well. She was pregnant with our child too. We suddenly went from a hopeful childless couple to expecting two boys, six weeks apart.
It was never a choice for me, after all we had gone through, we were going to have this baby.
Both pregnancies went exceptionally well and we welcomed Henry in May 2018 and Ethan, 5 1/2 weeks later in June 2018. I remained No Evidence of Disease through the pregnancy which was unexpected and incredibly fortunate. And as of present day continue to be NED.
Now we the incredible joy and honor of getting to raise our sons. Grateful, shocked, so lucky and so tired.