What is a miracle?

pregnancy_test2

What is a miracle? When I looked it up in the dictionary, I found the following definition:

Miracle

Noun: a wonder; marvel

Well, it certainly is a wonder, a marvel, a miracle, that I am sitting here looking at a pink line appearing in a little square window, confirming what I dared not hope until now.

I put off doing the test for almost a week, as I knew the disappointment had it been negative would have been a crushing one.  And for that week, all the time I didn’t test, I could hold onto a dream, a hope –  even that very hope was a miracle in itself.

The miracle for me lies in the fact that in September 2004, a month before my 35th birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was already approaching the age where my fertility was heading in a downward spiral and my biological clock was ticking loudly, but to be landed with a  diagnosis of breast cancer was a double whammy. It felt like adding insult to injury.

 Having gotten over the inital shock of diagnosis,  I was dealing with it all pretty well– that is until the point where chemotherapy reared its ugly head.

I didn’t worry about losing my hair –  ok, I wasn’t looking forward to it exactly, or the nausea or the tiredness, but the very real fear that I was about to loose my fertility haunted me and as a result I initially fought against having chemotherapy. 

Did I have the chemotherapy which no one could say is definitively needed – and thereby face the very real chance of infertility and early menopause, or decide not to have it and live under the fear that it may come back.   Was I being selfish and irresponsible in wanting to preserve my fertility? Would it be fair to have a child if I might die? Then, what if I had a daughter would I be putting her at risk of breast cancer too?

I trawled the net reading about ovarian tissue freezing, egg retrieval and storage – my oncologist didn’t mention this as an option – why? When I ask him, he pointed out that in order to do this, they would have to hyper-stimulate me with hormones and the risk is that those hormones could cause my cancer to grow.

Understandably the focus from the medical profession is on, “well, let’s get your life saved.” In my case, discussion of fertility was not on the table, so I had to fight to bring it there. While my fears were listened to, it all came to nothing in the end. I was given no real alternative to going straight into chemo, do not pass go, do not collect any eggs along the way.

I decided in the end that it would be wrong to have a child if I have not done everything in my power to prevent the cancer recurring. I chose very reluctantly to have chemotherapy. It was not an easy choice. During treatment  I was haunted by the thoughts of what must be happening to my chances of ever having my own child. I read of those who visualise the chemo attacking their cancer cells but the only attack I can imagine is on my precious nest of eggs.  I sat helplessly by as the chemotherapy did its worst, while also doing its best.

 I searched desperately for the stories of women who went onto have babies after chemotherapy and when I find them, I scrutinised all the details of what drugs they were treated with, for how long, what age they were. I clung onto the hope that their story might be mine. And now, here it is, that pink line appearing in a little square window and proving  the resilience of the human body and the human spirit. After all my body has been through, a new life is growing inside me and that surely is the greatest miracle of all.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Tamoxifen Blues « Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer
  2. Nic McLean
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 20:44:30

    Wow… this piece really hit home for me. My biological clock was a loud gong in my ears when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 39, never married and already getting desperate to start a family. Finding out that I had cancer was a shock. Finding out that the treatment would probably erase any possibilities of having children… depressed me terribly. Like you, my oncology team listened to my fears and concerns about fertility – but pushed on ahead with “saving my life”. I didn’t fret the chemotherapy that much, but now that its over and I’ve started taking tamoxifen… those fears are coming back. I have been thinking about coming off the tamoxifen after 2 years so that I can try to have a baby. But… I am scared. There are no easy answers but I pray all the time. Thanks for sharing this perspective. I’m happy to see that I’m not alone.

    Reply

    • JBBC
      Aug 04, 2009 @ 14:05:46

      Nic, I am so happy you left this comment on my blog. At the time of my treatment, I didn’t know anyone else in the same situation as me, and I felt very isolated. Seeing your words in front of me, even now, nearly five years later, makes me feel less alone.

      Reply

      • Nicole
        Jan 25, 2010 @ 21:39:12

        You are certainly not alone. Even months after I wrote this comment — I am still afraid, nervous and confused. I have a hard time accepting that I won’t have children. But I’m done with chemotherapy, done with my herceptin treatment and my body has not resumed my menstrual cycle. My thoughts are that its over. And somehow I have to find solace in that place. I just don’t know how.

      • JBBC
        Jan 26, 2010 @ 12:28:26

        thanks so much for your comment Nic…don’t give up hope…I haven’t yet *hugs*

  3. LaTanza Jackson
    Apr 28, 2010 @ 22:00:13

    Hello My name is Latanza I really enjoyed reading your story, I have been taking Tamoxifen now for 3 years and I am 27 years old. I was thinking about the same things you noted in your story and I have been searching for weeks on this topic…If you do not mind me asking what precautions did you take after you stop taking the tamoxifen or before?

    Reply

  4. Ana C.
    Jun 11, 2010 @ 06:20:33

    Wow !! A great woman you are !!

    While I was reading your experience is as if I was looking at myself in the mirror. I am 35 and was also diagnosed with breast cancer. I just finished chimo and radiation and are on my 3rd infusion of Herceptin, and my doctor wants to start me on Temoxafine, which I am not happy about.
    Just like you discribed the feeling ” I sat helplessly by as the chemotherapy did its worst, while also doing its best… ” that is how I still feel. Not sure if I will ever have my miracle !!!!

    Thank you so much for shering your life with us !!
    Ana C.

    Reply

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