The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

I am a Mother, Despite Cancer

by Jen RachmanSurvivor, Ovarian CancerAugust 20, 2021View more posts from Jen Rachman

No one expects cancer to come into their life, especially at 26 years old. No one imagines that at their routine gynecological examination the doctor’s revelation would have one of the most significant impacts on their life. No one can be prepared for the whirlwind that occurs after they are diagnosed. No one can have awareness of how one moment can reshape their life. No one can anticipate the long-term implications when they are told they have cancer.   

This was me, 26 years old, entering my routine gynecological exam. I will not forget the punch to the gut when my doctor “felt something unusual.” This led to a series of events – testing, assessments, second opinions, and some missteps before a diagnosis was given a few months later, stage III ovarian cancer.  

Ovarian cancer?! How can that be? Where did that come from? There was no time to digest any of my thoughts. The time from diagnosis to course of action, involving surgery and chemotherapy, went quickly. Obviously, my first fears were about preserving my well-being, quality of life and facing whether there was concern that I could die. Secondly, was about whether I would be infertile and if I could still have children. Thankfully my prognosis was good, but it was certain that I would not have a biological child because my ovaries needed to be removed. I had no time to process what this would mean for my future as I dove headfirst into surgery (I had never had surgery before), recovery and treatment. It was a whirlwind of a year from my first appointment to my last surgery.

I spent the remainder of my twenties and early thirties trying to refocus on my work, my relationships and reset my expectations. I was working to process my feelings about my fertility being taken from me. It was a strange idea that one day it was there and then suddenly… it was gone. I was angry, resentful, sad and disappointed. It was strange to be devastated about losing something that I had not thought much about prior to that point. As a woman, I believe that we all have an unspoken expectation that we will all easily be able to have children if we want to. I truly didn’t appreciate that, until it was something that I had lost the ability to do.

Accepting being infertile was much more challenging than coming to terms with having cancer. What did this mean for me? For my partner? For our future together? Would I still become a parent, and if so, how would that look? Would we adopt or consider egg donation and surrogacy? Would we choose to not have a family? How did I feel about having a child that wasn’t genetically mine? These were the questions I needed to find answers to. This took time, therapy, and support from loved ones before answers could be found and I could begin to heal mentally and emotionally.

Seven years after I was diagnosed and deemed a cancer survivor, I began to feel ready to take back what was stolen from me. Even though I had lost my fertility, I was not prepared to give up on becoming a parent. I began exploring surrogacy versus adoption so that my partner and I could figure out what would be the best path for us. We began speaking with people who had become parents in a non-traditional manner and learned from their experiences. We opened ourselves up to a new world of possibilities and made the decision to pursue parenthood through egg donation and surrogacy.  

In making these decisions, I felt empowered. I made the decision to not let being a cancer survivor prevent me from becoming a parent on my own terms.  In 2012, our son was born.  It took a lot of time, energy, support, and resources to have him. Every thought and decision made throughout our surrogacy was made with consideration and with love. His birth filled me with such pride. Cancer deviated my course, but the destination was still the same. I was thankful for good health, I had accepted my “new normal” as a survivor, and I had not let cancer prevent me from becoming a mother.

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