I have been thinking about this profound encounter for a couple weeks but haven’t been prepared to share it until now.
One of the concerns and questions Jonathan and I had after receiving my diagnosis was “how does this impact our desire for a family?” We had been discussing it for a while but since we are so far away from family it was always a bigger discussion about dreams and plans for the future. So, we hadn’t reached a moment where we were ready yet…we thought we had time…not an endless amount of time…but a few years. Enter breast cancer. All of a sudden our few years evaporates as I am looking at potentially up to 5 years of chemo/hormone suppressants with no guarantee that everything “down there” will go back to normal when it’s all over. We decided to pursue 1 IVF round to freeze some embryos before I begin chemo to hopefully preserve the option to have a family in the future.
We had our first consultation with an IVF doctor 1 week after my surgery and before we received any of the pathology results from my tumor. At this moment we still only knew I had a reasonably large tumor that had spread to at least 1 lymph node….but it was still possible that it has spread further. We sat down in the doctor’s office and began to have the discussion about all our options. (She was gracious and had the conversation in English…which we always very much appreciate) The specific option we choose will depend on whether my tumor is hormone dependant or not and she needs more information from my oncologist. Fair enough. But she followed that with a statement that stopped me cold — “Plus, I need to find out what your chances of survival are to see whether this procedure makes sense. You know, the laws in the Netherlands are such that the embryos are destroyed if one partner dies.”
I’m sorry…what did you just say? That there is a certain prognosis level where you might not waste your time with this procedure? Mentally, for the last 3 weeks I had been convincing myself that death from this was not an option for me…I am young, strong and stubborn…cancer is not going to beat me…statistics do not apply to me. This doctor’s statement initially made me furious but after some time it made me pause and reflect. It made me connect death with my life in a concrete way. It made me sit face to face with the fact that someday I will die…we all will. Of course I know in my head that everybody dies but it never seems real for me. When you’re young you feel invincible and that somehow life owes you a certain amount of time. It doesn’t. We are all one unforeseen accident or diagnosis away from things taking a dramatic turn. Now, do I think that this battle with cancer is it for me? No…definitely not (And my Dr. doesn’t either 🙂 ). But it has made me take a long look at my life and choices. What kind of a wife, daughter, sister and friend would I be if I am grateful for every day and recognize that tomorrow is a gift? What choices would I make differently? How can I live life more abundantly than I do now? It reminds me of the Tim McGraw song “Live like you were dying” that I always thought was cheesy (and it is)…but it fits.