Monday, July 26, 2010

Card Carrying Club Member

Now I'm a member of 2 elite clubs: of course, the cancer/chemo club as well as the struggle-with-fertility club (I loathe the word infertility). It's difficult to be in both at the same time because many people think that one trumps the other.

Having cancer doesn't make it any less difficult to not be pregnant or to have had all the babies I've dreamed of. This doesn't mean I am not happy for people who are celebrating births around me, and I certainly don't want to make any of my expectant friends uncomfortable by writing this. But it's bittersweet for me. It does make it hard to see pregnant stranger after pregnant stranger (don't forget all of the pregnant doctors and nurses who have treated me in the past 2 months). It makes it hard to hear stories of friends of friends who are pregnant with their second and third children. It seems like I have been a magnet for other people's success stories. Even my mother has witnessed it, after telling me I was imagining it because it was on my mind so much, a man in Panera came up to us to tell me he had a child the same age as Judah and guess what? His wife just had twins, too! Isn't that wonderful? Oh yes, just dreamy. The only other people who can identify with this kind of hurt are those who have already suffered through it, much like cancer.

Believe it or not, there are even cancer survivors who tell inappropriate tales ("You have NHL? My friend had NHL as a teenager and then, can you believe she was later diagnosed with breast cancer?"). I'm not really interested in hearing any of these types of stories. The stories I want to hear are short and sweet. They are about women who are exactly like me, surviving chemo and cancer (with toddler in tow also avoiding lifelong scarring) and retaining their fertility, going on to have more healthy children and living long, healthy lives. I want to know that lots of them are out there and that I am going to soon be a member of that club.

It's especially difficult to deal with my fertility issues when I am in my 3rd week of treatment. I feel better - no itching or breathing problems, I'm driving again and socializing even. I'm just bald and my neck hurts when in different positions due to the port catheter that meets up with a major vein on my collar bone. My point is, I don't always feel like I'm in the cancer club, which can (in my case) be a major emotional setback. My first priority, obviously, is to heal from this lymphoma before even thinking about conceiving again. However, it's not that simple. I spent a year and a half trying to get pregnant already. Many a tear did fall long before my doctor informed me there was a mass in my chest. My (our) longing for another child did not disappear just because I was diagnosed with cancer. And now, I've found it returns with a vengeance when I'm feeling well enough to feel like myself.

I never used support groups (although I did see a therapist, don't worry) because I never wanted to hear stories that were worse than mine (this is the primary reason to stay away from google when dealing with medical ailments - diagnosed or unexplained). You can never un-hear them or un-read them. These horror stories stick with you forever and tend to overshadow (for me, at least) all of the hopeful ones.

My point is, especially for all of you lucky people who are members of none of these clubs, be careful what stories you share with us card carriers. I know (most) people mean well, but you know what they say about the road to hell and good intentions...

Someone asked me a while back to write about how I feel blogging has added to my healing process. I would have to say it's been a major creative and emotional outlet for me. It started out as a way for me to update people and keep everyone in the medical loop and I did not foresee people other than my close friends and family tuning in. I'm thrilled that so many people passed it on and are sharing it with others. I've reconnected with so many incredible people from my past who I had lost touch with because of it (and facebook, of course). And I am so grateful for the constant flow of concern and support. My blog has become an easy way for me to both guide others as well as to personally vent (albeit, quite publicly) and let go of many of the issues that clog up my positive attitude.



  1. Gary and I were card-carrying members of the secondary infertility club and were working with specialists for years - so I sure do understand how the world looks when everyone else seems to be pregnant. But, that was a long time ago before they had all the special techniques and technologies available. I'm sure that when you and Dan are ready to pick up that quest again, the technological help will be there, if needed. Hopefully it won't even be needed. And, don't worry about the size of the gaps in ages - your mom and I are more than 5 years apart and it feels just right to us.

  2. Writing is a wonderful way to simultaneously creatively vent and share. And yes, people DO have the oddest sense of what's appropriate. I'll never forget the gruff cameraman who one day started stroking and patting my pregnant belly with no advance warning. Miss Manners wouldn't suggest that you say, "Please Remove Your Very Inappropriate Hand. NOW." After that my policy was Duck and Cover.

  3. Mia is there some exotic Chinese fertility drug I can pick you up from China? Undoubtedly they have something to try. Let me know and I'm happy to get it for you - to make up for the jacket I brought back for Judah. Alternatively, I could try to pick you up a Chinese infant. Each time I go I consider arranging to bring one back with me!

  4. Only your uncle would suggest picking up a Chinese infant for you:) Again don't worry about the age gap. Amber and Tyler are 7 yrs apart and it's nobody's business (my family knows the reason) but mine why there is such an age gap. Focus on getting rid of the Cancer first and then focus on getting pregnant. It must be hard right now, becuase it does seem like EVERYONE is pregnant right now and very much showing it off.

  5. I am writing again because I just cannot keep quiet. (I am a friend of your Aunt Marcy and Uncle Gary) I so look forward to reading your blog because you are so amazingly open. Your writing makes us feel like we have a window into your life when each day brings new challenges. Sharing opens a lot of doors and good things will come as you have already seen. Keep the writing going, it is a life line to the people who care about you.

  6. We had a hard time getting and staying pregnant and people - even relatives- often say things that don't need to be said. There are a lot of lame people out there! My hopes for you are that you will smoothly take care of one problem and then the other. Take care of yourself . I find sometimes just telling someone "that is really rude" or "why would you tell me that?" can be enough.

  7. Mia, I can't possibly know what it's like to be fighting cancer, but I do know the feeling of struggling to conceive. Truthfully, it sounds like you're a better person than me, because when we were trying to get pregnant I had a really hard time being around and being happy for my friends who were pregnant or who had just given birth. I knew that deep down it was just about me feeling frustrated and sad that it wasn't working for us, but I still needed the space to avoid folks who had succeeded in doing what we couldn't at that time. Afterwards, I found the energy and love in me to care for and express my happiness for those people. While we were going through this, though, I needed to take care of myself, which is what you're doing so splendidly right now. Anyway, if you ever want to talk, you got my number.

    I do agree that it's pretty likely that this tumor was the reason it wasn't working for you to get pregnant, though, and you're doing an awesome job fighting the little bugger.

    Love ya, and I'm thinking of you as you cope with all your yuckiness this week. I'm going to talk with either you or your mom sometime this weekend to check in about what kind of meal you'll want to eat come Monday, when I get to bring something over for you :)


  8. Mia,

    Have you come across the book "Spontaneous Healing" by Andrew Weil? It's full of really amazing POSITIVE stories about people who heal and live beautiful long lives after cancer and other illnesses. It's incredibly inspiring and hopeful. Just thought I'd put it out there in case you are looking for more good news to help keep you fighting strong through this. I'm pretty sure I have a copy - if you haven't read it and are interested, I'd be more than happy to send it to you...