The F Word
There are a lot of things I thought I might do by age 35.
I didn't expect menopause to be one of them.
Turns out, if you blast your girl parts with as much radiation as the human body will tolerate, your ovaries don't fare too well.
My oncology team discussed the risks and effects of chemo and radiation. When you have a 7.5 cm tumor chilling on your cervix, mortality seems more pressing than fertility. The boy and I discussed it. He's younger than me. We already knew it may be an uphill fight, given that I was 34 and we weren't even engaged, so we hadn't gotten that far, and we decided that was okay in theory. There are plenty of kids who need good homes.
When the option is completely off the table, though, it gets real. Suddenly, that option you weren't even sure you wanted isn't even a choice you can make, and that dream you had when you were 9 is gone.
A well-meaning loved one mentioned that I should freeze my eggs.
I want to emphasize this to everyone reading. If you are not contributing DNA to this frozen egg, you don't get to voice your opinion, unless your input is requested. You have no idea about others' finances, fertility, or desire to procreate, and making assumptions not only is rude, but it also hurts those of us who no longer have a choice in the matter.
First, let's talk about freezing eggs. The estimates I found were anywhere from $10-20k simply to harvest the eggs, and then you pay rent to store those eggs, around $1,000 per month. That would mean 36 months = $36,000. We haven't even gotten to the in vitro fertilization yet. Oh, and since my uterus has also been exposed to radiation, I wouldn't be able to carry a baby, let alone push it through my scar-tissue-covered cervix. So, I'd have to pay for a surrogate. That's another $100,000.
I'm not working and I have hospital bills racked up already. Even if my insurance covered some of the cost, there is no way I could afford that. Fertility treatment is a wealthy person's game. I've never wanted to end up with in vitro or any other treatments. If I couldn't do it the old fashioned way, I'd adopt or foster.
Cost aside, I read the time to get the hormone treatment before harvesting the eggs can take weeks, so even if I found a (VERY) generous benefactor, I'd be delaying my treatment. Considering I had a huge tumor pressing against my rectum and bladder, and the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, I was a ticking time bomb with an aggressive form of cancer. Another few weeks could mean the difference between stage 2B and stage 4, which have vastly different survival rates. What's the point in bankrupting myself, only to leave these eggs motherless?
If you take away one thing from reading this blog, I want it to be this: Please respect a woman's privacy regarding her uterus.
That means withholding opinions about egg freezing.
It means not asking if someone is pregnant, especially if you haven't discussed whether or not they even want kids, of if they're trying. One of the cruel ironies of having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is that you often gain weight in your belly, and some people look pregnant, while you have a harder time conceiving. I've twice been congratulated by people I didn't know well (or at all, really), and it's the most awkward and humiliating thing. I was more uncomfortable trying to be gracious while correcting them than I was the whole time I had people assembling furniture in my vagina. Just don't.
Don't ask people when they're going to have kids. Some couples don't want them. Some couples can't have them. Some were lucky to have one, and the last thing they need is to be asked when they're going to make another brother or sister. Miscarriages are quite common, and they are heartbreaking, especially if they happen on the later side. Also, do you realize how weird that is? Would you ask someone if they were planning to have unprotected sex while you were eating My Little Pony birthday cake at a kid's party? No? That would be super awkward, huh? Somehow, it becomes socially acceptable if you ask if they're "trying." Same thing. Still awkward.
Don't assume having a vagina also means having a desire to procreate. Respect that decision, and don't say "you'll change your mind," and for the love of all things holy, do NOT say "you'll change your mind once you have one." Why would you want an unwanted child brought into this world? It's not a sweater. You can't return it if you change your mind.
It's not that hard to be considerate. Don't know what to say? Nothing. Nothing is the right thing to say. If your opinion is requested, you can say what you feel, respectfully, of course, but keep unsolicited advice to yourself.
Please don't take this as an angry rant. It's more of a plea. For some reason, society as a whole has taken an interest in the happenings of vaginas everywhere, and a lot of people see it as perfectly normal to congratulate random strangers. You never know who is going to go home and cry because you reminded them of something they hate to face.
Unexpectedly, we did welcome an addition to our family after treatment was done. His name is Felix, and he was 2.3 lbs when we got him. He's black and white and absolutely precious. He likes stealing bites of chicken from my plate and playing with string and he has big green eyes with a perpetual surprised look on his face.