Life after cancer can be full and joyous. If your ambition is to have a family after cancer, we’ve compiled some useful information and inspiration.
If you’ve had cancer, you’ll have likely spent a lot of time hearing facts, figures and treatment procedures. We don’t want to overload you with more medical facts and jargon, but sometimes, information is power.
In this blog post, you’ll find factual information about routes to motherhood after cancer and a gorgeously encouraging story from Sophie Beresiger of The Motherhood Project.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer at 30, Sophie Beresiner had to adjust to the huge redirection her life was going to take. As friends were starting families and progressing in their careers, she notes she had to take a sabbatical to tackle the cancer, before she could get back to her chosen path.
Cancer to motherhood in Sophie’s words
Finding out about the diagnosis:
“I would take a detour from my planned route through this decade, while my friends were defining their careers and starting their families, and I’d get right back to that as soon as cancer let me. As soon as chemo let me. And, oh, I have to have radiotherapy? OK, that too. And a mastectomy. I’ll need to rethink my underwear drawer then. And my relationship with my body, and how both of those things together actually quite affect my relationship with my relatively new boyfriend. But, OK, it is my only viable option.”
Struggling to get pregnant after cancer:
“If cancer for a 30-year-old is a bump, infertility following cancer is a mountain in the motorway. We saw a doctor to ascertain our best plans, and I left that shattering diagnostic appointment and went straight back to work.”
“I had two pregnancies and two early miscarriages — one on my birthday, one on Christmas Eve. At least those key drinking dates were suddenly freed up, eh?”
“Surrogacy in America was the (expensive, morally and emotionally complex) last resort that took the pressure off me and my stupid body and allowed us to put our faith and future in the hands of a whole other team.”
“And then? Then is when the universe decided to grant me my single allocated wish, and now, finally, 2020 will be the year we become parents.”
“My immediate future fills me with a fizziness that makes it hard to concentrate, because I’m not used to it. It looks like our perpetual bad luck has lifted, and — after a period of adjusting to that as much as to the idea of having a baby — we now spend our weekends building nursery furniture and gazing at it with the thought that a whole new person will be occupying it soon.”
Sophie has documented her journey to motherhood on her Instagram @motherhoodprojectofficial - and we can’t get enough of her realness. Congratulations Sophie, on the new chapter of your life.
Routes to motherhood after cervical cancer
Okay, here comes the wash of information. We’ve scoured the medical sites and compiled the information we thought to be most helpful. However, we’re not doctors, just the army of women who have your back and want good things for you. So, if any of these options are interesting/feasible for you, please speak with your doctor to get a better understanding of them.
Though many cancer treatments can cause infertility or make it very difficult to conceive, everyone’s situation and body is unique. Here are some methods of preserving fertility as much as possible during cervical cancer treatment:
Early treatment: removing a small section of cells
If you are being treated for precancerous cells, it may be possible for your doctor to remove a small section of tissue, leaving the rest of your cervix intact, thus reducing the risk of infertility.
Discuss different chemotherapy/radiotherapy options
Some chemotherapy regimes are less likely to cause fertility problems, so discuss with your doctor whether these courses are suitable for you. If you are receiving radiotherapy, discuss the use of shields with your doctor, as you may be able to limit the area receiving radiation.
A trachelectomy: preserving your uterus
Even in advanced cases, you could ask your doctor if they are able to perform a trachelectomy. This procedure removes the cervix, but leaves the uterus intact, so you may still be able to carry a child with the help of reproductive technologies.
Save an ovary
If you require a hysterectomy, ask your doctor if you can save one or both of your ovaries, to preserve your eggs. This gives you the option of harvesting your eggs for an embryo transfer into a surrogate.
Routes to motherhood after breast cancer
Breast cancer doesn’t always affect your fertility, but different treatments can affect your hormone levels. Here are some things to bear in mind when planning for a family.
Talk about fertility early on
Speak to your doctor about your fertility options before having treatment. You may be able to remove some of your eggs before treatment starts, in order to create embryos later on.
It is recommended to have hormone therapy for at least two years before trying for a baby, and then stopping it before trying to get pregnant (and starting it again once the baby is born).
As Sophie experienced, it may be necessary to explore multiple routes to having children. If you explore your options and are not able to carry a child yourself, surrogacy and adoption are amazing routes to motherhood. There’s no one size fits all option for having a family, especially after cancer. Having read Sophie’s journey, we think the best advice is to explore all the options you feel are right for you.
Wishing you much love,