After my let’s-talk-about-chemo-appointment with my oncologist, I had one final task before I am set to begin chemo (besides getting my port put in, but I refuse to remotely acknowledge that that is even happening, so that degree of denial is working thus far). My final task was to speak with a fertility specialist. But first, a brief Chemo 101 session: Chemo attacks rapidly dividing cells, those that are cancerous and unfortunately those that are not. Chemo does not discriminate, it just attacks. The areas of attack include the ovaries and other such areas that we really do not want the chemo to mess with at all. I needed to speak with a fertility doctor in order to discuss what chemo was going to do to the possibility of me having a family of my own one day.
So I sat down with a fertility doctor to discuss options. One of the first questions out of his mouth was, “Are you married?” “No,” I had the privilege to say to yet another medical professional, “I am not married.” The entire medical community seems to be overly preoccupied with my marital status if you ask me. This is not eHarmony, people. I cannot count the number of times my single-hood has come up in conversation with my medical team. He explained that the task of fertilizing an egg after it was initially frozen is difficult. Generally you need to fertilize the egg, THEN freeze. Bummer, I thought. I was really hoping I could walk in, my doctor could do a few tricks, harvest some eggs, put them safely away somewhere, and then when I am ready to have some little ones I could just head back to my vault-o-eggs and get the party started. But of course, I am not married. I have no one to fertilize my eggs. I think to myself—yet another outright discrimination against all the single ladies. Unbelievable. So, my mind wandered to the possibility of obtaining a sperm donor. Perhaps Ryan Gosling is available? If only I had his cell phone number…
What are my other options if, for some strange reason, I can’t get Ryan Gosling on the phone? My fertility doctor proceeded to inform me of this miraculous shot that they can give me to put my ovaries “on pause.” Basically, the chemo won’t attack the ovaries if they are on pause. We are totally going to pull a fast one on the chemo! Awesome, I think, sign me up! My ovaries aren’t really doing me any favors at the moment anyway, so let’s pause them, shall we? He mentions that I will not have any periods while I am on the shot. EVEN BETTER, I think. Oh, he says, a minor detail he failed to mention… “You will go through menopause…TEMPORARILY.”
I just looked back at the doctor blankly and smiled. OF COURSE I WILL!!!!!!!!!!!! Why wouldn’t I go through menopause? At this point, he could have told me that my skin was going to turn bright purple and my head was going to explode and I really wouldn’t have been surprised. So much has happened to me, and my poor body in the last few months, that the sky is really the limit. So, I opted to go into menopause, voluntarily (if you can really call it that). The doctor warned me of the hot flashes, moodiness, weight gain, and fatigue associated with menopause. Whatever, doc. Just give me the shot. Who are we kidding? Obviously, if I have the ability to protect my ovaries in order to have a child in the future, I will do what I need to do. How to make menopause chic will be a hefty task but I am up to the challenge!
A few days later I showed up to my oncologist’s office where I was supposed to be getting this shot that will send me into menopause at the age of 28. I am doing this for the possibility of having a family someday, I told myself, and I walked in confidently. Until, of course, the oncology nurse led me back to the chemo room and told me to sit and wait in there. NOT THE CHEMO ROOM! I had glanced at it a few times, always quickly turning away. It always seemed so sad in there, cold, and depressing. I looked around and saw about ten people getting their chemo administered. One lady was on her cell phone. She looked as though she was wheeling and dealing. She had no plans on letting her cancer slow her down. I immediately loved her. Another woman was there with her husband and he was holding her hand. How sweet. Another woman was sitting with a friend and they were eating some trail mix and playing cards. Just a little girl time in the chemo room. I continued to scan the crowd and I saw a few people who looked like they were at least half dead, possibly worse.
I panicked, I started to cry, I looked at my mom and told her that surely there was some mistake. “Why am I in here? Why am I in here? WHY AM I IN HERE??!!?” I kept repeating this. Are they about to give me chemo? What is happening? I was losing it at this point. My mom asked one of the nurses and they explained that the chemo room is where they administer the shots as well. I quickly determined that this is obviously a terrible plan. After that initial moment of thinking I was going to get chemo on accident I got the menopause shot and headed home. I sat there waiting for my first hot flash, I kept looking in the mirror expecting my backside to grow exponentially in front of my very eyes, or I thought at least a severe onset of the menopause mood swings was about to take over my body. Nothing happened. I continued to wait. In the following days the one symptom I noticed was fatigue. I got extremely tired. I am determined not to gain menopause weight and keep my backside in check, so I walk every morning (I still can’t run after the surgery) and try and be as active as possible.
Other than the menopause, I am doing just fine! Yes, chemo is quickly approaching. My first treatment session will be next Tuesday. So, if you think of me next Tuesday, send up a prayer or transmit some positive vibes my way because I sure am going to need it. And if you aren’t partial to prayer or positive vibes find someone that is and have them send out a few.
Since it is Thanksgiving and all, I feel it only appropriate to express a few things that I am most thankful for this year. I am thankful for my family. First, I am thankful for my mother who has stuck by my side, not only through this experience, but also through every moment, both good and bad, in my life. She has been my rock and I would not have made it through any of this without her. I am thankful that whenever I am next to her I know I will always be safe and that is the most precious feeling in the world to me. I am thankful for my father who taught me that I can do whatever I want to in this world. He taught me to do everything I do with everything I’ve got, and the passion I carry for what I believe in and the people I love is a direct reflection of that. He also taught me how to make people laugh, and how to laugh at myself, which I do frequently and gladly. I am thankful for my sister who prayed for me to come into this world when she was a little girl every night before she went to sleep. I am also thankful that she didn’t take me out of this world when I did arrive and became a pesky (and perhaps annoying at times) little sister. I am thankful for my brother-in-law, because I always tell my sister that I want to marry someone just like him. Not in a creepy way, people, but because he is one of the best men I know. I am thankful for my nephew, because he has taught me the power and beauty of unconditional love. He has also taught me everything I need to know about super heros. And I am thankful for my niece, because she has taught me the power and beauty of unconditional cuteness, which she is highly aware that she possesses.
I am thankful for the survivors I have spoken with (family members, friends, and people I do not even know have reached out to me), and those who have called and left me voicemails and emails, those who have shared their story and provided me with hope. Linda, a survivor and a good friend of my mother, has been an inspiration to me. The day I was diagnosed I went to Linda’s house, when my whole world was spinning out of control. When I didn’t know if I was going to be able to fight my cancer and beat it. When I knew I had a massive cancerous tumor in my body. Linda walked me through everything I needed to expect, and she was where I got that initial spark of hope—that first inkling that I clung to when I realized that everything was going to be ok. It wasn’t going to be fun, but I was going to live, and anything else just is not an option.
I am thankful for my friends who have provided me with such an overwhelming amount of support. It is simply impossible to express how touched I have been by all of them during this difficult time. I am thankful for the old and cherished memories I have been able to share with them and the hope I have for the ability to share in making new ones. I am thankful for the laughter that my friends have provided for me, which I will always consider to be the best medicine of all.
And finally, I am thankful for these final days before chemo begins where I still feel excellent, I still have my energy, I still have my hair, and I still appreciate the magnificence of simple carbohydrates which I plan on indulging myself in over the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for.