So what about babies? Cancer and Fertility

When Dr Petersen, our GP, shared the cancer diagnosis with us, we spent some time processing the information with him. He asked us both, “What is your worse fear right now?” For Waylon, it was that he would lose me…and Dr Petersen assured him that that was not going to happen. For me, it was that we would not be able to have children. So when my oncologist explained that the chemotherapy may result in ovarian failure (my cancer is receptive to oestrogen and that hormone needs to be suppressed) and asked whether I wanted to have children, I knew what my answer was.

And so began our journey with fertility and cancer.

We decided to investigate the option of egg freezing, so we visited Cape Fertility Clinic. I saw the lovely Dr Le Roux who explained our options and chances of success. 10% success is the international statistic when using eggs of a woman over 40. Shoo! Would the cost be worth the odds? Nicole, who was with me, asked me what my gut was saying. “That my mother had a healthy baby at 44, so maybe the quality of my eggs won’t be that bad,” was my reply. I guess something greater than logic and practicality was at work in me.

The doctor said we could let him know later the day, as I still had loads of tests to do that day. I was so conflicted. I called Waylon but had to go get the marker placed in my breast (a procedure, much like a biopsy, where they place a marker so that they know where the tumour was after chemo because the tumour shrinks) so it was too short a call for lengthy discussions.

Waiting for the doctor, I called out to God in frustration. “Really! What more?!” Lying there I got the sense that God was saying,”Am I not the God of the impossible?” and that old chorus “Trust and Obey ‘cause there’s no other way” came to mind. Forever a sceptic, I honestly don’t know if it was God or the Word of God, that is written on my heart, that I accessed at that point because of the desire of my heart. But trust it I did.

I called Waylon again and we discussed, taking money out of the equation and realised we want to give ourselves a fighting chance, regardless of the statistics. Have we not always defied the stats and gone with our heart. So with the help of some generous friends, we were able to give the doctor the go-ahead.

The process is quite interesting. Waylon had to inject me everyday at the same time for 11 days to stimulate the growth of the eggs. The injections are not hectic, they’re really tiny needles. I went for check-ups regularly where the doctor checks the progress of the growth through an ultrasound examination. After the 12th day, my stomach was just feeling bloated and heavy because I suppose, of the multiple egg production. On Day 13 they extracted the eggs through a vaginal procedure. I was asleep so can’t tell you anything. I woke up to some pain but Aunty Flo, the nurse helping me brought a hot water bottle which really helped. It’s taken me about 3 days to start feeling like myself again, with great help from my friend who has gone through this procedure before.

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Our box of Medication administered at 6am every morning

The results? They extracted 13 eggs (not bad for a 43 year old) from my ovaries. After testing them to see which ones were mature enough and of good quality, they froze the 5 who stand a good chance for later and we’re happy.

We’re happy that we have the opportunity for hope beyond this diagnosis. We have no idea how all this will play out but we have hope and hope does not disappoint.

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Love. Marriage. Cancer

Today is our two month anniversary. Our wedding on the 27 August was beautiful, the start of something magical because I married the most amazing man (yes, I’m bragging). We were trying for a baby when a month later, I felt a lump in my breast. I even thought, “Maybe a sign of pregnancy?” but I think I somehow  didn’t quite believe that. After a mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy and a weekend of excruciating waiting, my doctor told us that I have been diagnosed with  breast cancer.

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Our Wedding Day.

Honestly, the fact that you now have the  cancer is a tad bit overwhelming and the decision to try and document some of this is mainly for myself and maybe it will be of use to someone else. There’s so much information we’ve had to ingest and process, decisions that had to be made in the last 2 and a half  weeks…one has no idea. I’ll share some of that at a later stage.

For now…I want everyone to know that I don’t see this as a death sentence. It’s cancer. I don’t wish it to be hushed and feared and have the status of “He who cannot be named”(Potter fan much?). I call it by its name. Breast Cancer. I call it out. And I intend to destroy it with the support of my awesome husband, family and friends by my side, my army of prayer warriors, my amazing team of doctors and the great God I serve!

I will try to get those who want to know up to speed in the next few days as chemo will soon be rearing it’s head. Thank you for the all the love and support I’ve already received. Know that I will fight like a girl, losing is not an option and although cancer sucks, it will not win. Of that I’m sure.891283d92c8500cc8ac3d0f238c85af2.jpg

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Do go gentle into this good night

In 1988, I came face to face with the poem, “Do not go gentle into this good night”. The poet Dylan Thomas’ Welsh accent brought the poem alive in the way that only the poet could. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” was the line that captured my imagination. The idea of not giving in to death, of fighting it kicking and screaming resonated with me. Somewhere tucked into my understanding this line also spoke to the situation of our country at the time. “Rage, rage…”

The raging had resulted in a new life for our country. Six years later I voted for the first time as my country embraced democracy, led by Nelson Mandela who would become our President. Madiba. A man who has accomplished so much but who is still also, just a man.

A man who at this moment is critically ill, probably in pain and suffering.

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Tonight there is no raging. Tonight there is waiting. A dreaded knot in my stomach that I will hear the news that I know will sadden my soul.  News that our Tata has found eternal peace.  I say our, because that’s what it feels like. This man so respected by the world is ours. And I feel a stubbornness and possessiveness about it. This man of the people and for the people belongs to this land he served so well.  As a child of this land, I feel connected to this man, who has taught me to proud of my identity as a South African. I realise that what I want for him is peace even though I can’t really picture this world without him. I realise I don’t want Tata to be fighting death I want him embracing it, falling into it. And why not? There is no need to be fighting death because he’s done his fighting here, for you and for me.  Death should hold no fear if you’ve lived a life where you’ve “raged against the dying of the light”.

How do I honour Tata Madiba? By “raging against the dying of the light”. There is a “dying of the light” everywhere. The “dying of thelight” when children are abused, neglected, raped…when women are treated as lesser humans and abused in all forms…when someone is murdered every hour of every day…when we disrespect the land…when we care only about ourselves and not others…when people are struggling to survive and the list goes on. Why am I not raging louder ? Silence in actions and words against these things won’t produce change.

Tata my prayers are with you.  Rest well tonight and I want to say,” If it’s time, do go gentle into that good night for you have raged against the dying of the light”.

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