*Warning-the following post contains information about all things reproductive. If you are squeamish or embarrassed about things such as that you might want to skip this blog. You have been warned :) I have been thinking about this post for awhile-how/if I wanted to write it-how much I should disclose and what I should say. Pregnancy and everything that goes along with it is a really personal thing. I have shared in that past that Joel and I struggled with infertility and had been trying to conceive for 4 years when Joel was diagnosed with cancer. In fact, we were actually in the beginning stages of starting IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) but when he was diagnosed all things pregnancy obviously went on the back burner. I realize that in the spirit of how open we have been in our journey that people might have a curiosity about how we went from cancer to baby so quickly. I also realize that there are people who follow this blog who are either going through cancer or know someone who is. If this part of our journey can be helpful in some way to others then it's worth it to me to share. So here goes...
Getting cancer as a young person is devastating. Something that cancer can have a major affect on but yet I rarely hear talked about-is fertility. Something to think about-if you are diagnosed with cancer , are set to have radiation or chemotherapy , and are not done with starting your family-you really need to do your research on fertility after cancer. Both chemo and radiation can damage sperm as well as eggs. If you have the time before your treatments to do so I would highly recommend that you think about freezing your sperm/eggs for future use. We were told before Joel underwent chemo that there was a 50/50 chance that after chemo he would be sterile. We still don't know if that happened or not because we haven't gotten him tested yet (we plan to do that later this year) but what we did know is that we were not going to take any chances. There was a 2 week period of time after Joel's surgery before his chemo where we went and had several different rounds of sperm frozen. That is a decision that we never once regretted. It gave us great peace of mind that no matter what treatments Joel needed he could get without us having to worry that our future family might be completely in doubt.
After you finish your chemo/radiation the doctor will make you wait AT LEAST a year before they will allow you to try to get pregnant naturally. That is because all of the toxic medicine can cause severe birth defects in the baby so they want you to let your sperm/eggs cool off for awhile.
A big decision that we had to make after chemo was when was a good time for us to try again to start our family? For each cancer survivor this is a very personal choice and you will get many opinions to a) start right away or b) hold off for awhile. If you were to choose to adopt most agencies want you to be in remission for 5 years before they will allow you to adopt with them and some countries will not even allow cancer survivors to adopt (China for instance). Some people feel more comfortable waiting for a longer period of time to make sure that the cancer stays in remission before they try to conceive. After much thought and prayer Joel and I decided to try to start our family immediately. We had been through a lot and our lives had been put on hold for a year and a half. We decided that we didn't want to look back but move forward to the things that we really wanted for our lives-the things that we thought cancer might take from us forever. Thank God that it didn't.
So I mentioned earlier that Joel and I were told to not try to conceive naturally for at least a year post chemo (June of 2012) but even then we still didn't know the status of how the chemo had affected things in his body. Where did this put us? Back at IVF using his frozen sperm. We started the IVF process as soon as we got back from our trip to Puerto Rico in September. Thankfully we got pregnant on our very first try. What are my thoughts on IVF? It is the most difficult way to get pregnant in the world. I had an incredibly grueling experience with it including bad reactions to meds and numerous hospitalizations. You will have surgeries, endless doctor's appointments and have hundreds of shots. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. But I know the results will be worth it-so I would never tell someone to not do it. What I would say is prepare yourself for a very hard process on your body your mind and your spirit. I could not even imagine going through the process that we went through and not ending up pregnant. It would've been devastating. I had many friends holding me up in prayer during the process that were incredible. It makes a huge difference to have a support system around you cheering you on and checking in on you. Even still with all of that it is a difficult journey for you and your spouse to take. Looking back it might have been good for us to take a little bit longer to debrief after chemo, maybe wait 6 months instead of 2. But I don't regret our decision to start immediately because we were ready.
Hopefully this blog was able to give you some insight on how the process was for us. If you have any more questions feel free to ask and I will share what I know. Ultimately it's up to you to do your research and figure out what is better for you and your spouse. Decide what it is you want, go after it, and don't let anyone talk you out of whatever decision you make. We are living proof that there can be life after cancer and let me tell you-life has never been so sweet.