After she measures my blood pressure, the nurse looks down at my chart, then back at me as I sit on the exam table.
“So, when were you last here?” she asks.
“February, I think.”
“And now you want to have a baby?” She asks, and gives me a quizzical look.
I can understand her confusion, but that’s not exactly it. A lot has changed for me since February. I’ve come to my regular gynecologist’s office this time on a referral from my oncologist.
Because I’m 35 and don’t have any children, the cancer doctor wanted me to talk to a fertility specialist before starting chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer.
That specialist just happens to be the same doctor I saw for routine tests in February. He’s the one one who ordered the tests that eventually turned up my breast cancer.
Chemotherapy, I’m learning, can have radical effects on bodies. I’d obviously heard about the hair loss and nausea, the fatigue and low white blood cell count that might expose me to COVID-19 and a whole host of other sickness. But it’s more than that.
The type of chemotherapy I’m taking could send me into premature menopause at 35.
So, I’m here at the fertility doctor’s office not so much on a mission to be pregnant, but to see if that might even be an option for me in the future after cancer treatment.
I admire mothers so much. And I love spending time with my nieces and nephew. But I’m not yet married, and having kids of my own has never been my top priority in life. I’ve never been one of those women whose heart skips a beat when they see a child. Some women see cartoonish red hearts when they look at kids, I mostly see sticky fingers and hear incessant questions. But I’ve been open to the possibility of children. I believe people when they say that it’s different when it’s your child’s sticky fingers and incessant questions.
I’ve always figured I’d decide with my future spouse, if the timing worked out. Now though, because of cancer, my time may be up.
My doctor at first tells me he doesn’t know of any reason I couldn’t have a baby after treatment, as long as I waited long enough. But he ultimately refers me to a fertility clinic in North Carolina that will freeze my eggs and store them, just in case I need them later, if I pay them enough.
I Google the average costs for such a service, check my insurance plan (fertility services are not covered) and then quickly decide to let fate decide whether I’ll ever give birth.
Between that and paying for the impending medical bills for cancer treatment, I couldn’t afford to have children anyway.
Babies or not will become one more decision this disease will make for me. Just like it could ultimately decide if I live or die.
All this happens just days before Mother’s Day, when my social media, like everyone else’s, gets flooded with celebrations of the joys of having children, the praises of selfless mothers who put their family before anything else.
I spend the holiday weekend recovering from treatment with my own mom, who’s been a great example of that kind of love all my life. I’ve been so grateful to have her around to take care for me, even though I’m very much grown, throughout this ordeal.
When I had surgery at the end of March, she dropped me off that morning and waited at my place for me because of the no-visitor policy at the hospital. She busied herself by cleaning the entire apartment from top to bottom and stocking the fridge and pantry with groceries and precooked meals.
She’s always been a great mother, it’s just that times like these make it clear how much I still need her.
Thinking about her and seeing everyone’s social media tributes to their mothers makes me wonder what I might miss out on anything by skipping the parenthood part of life.
At the same time, I know that if I so decide to be, there are many ways to become a mother. There’s foster care and adoption. And in West Virginia, there are plenty of children who need mothers.
I’ll be OK with whatever happens.