I’m not a fan of pregnancy websites.
I haven’t bought a single book about pregnancy or parenting.
I have little interest in receiving well-intentioned advice from my friends who are moms. Likewise, I'm not one for rejoicing or commiserating much with my friends who are pregnant.
With only three months left to my pregnancy, I only just started a registry.
People who don't realize how much experience I have with infant and child care misperceive my actions – or lack thereof – as denial or uncertainty. I don’t think it’s either.
I’m pregnant after cancer.
More accurately, I’m pregnant:
- Two years after finishing treatment for breast cancer;
- Less than one year after a double mastectomy; and
- Five weeks before I turn 40.
I’m charting my own unique path yet again. In doing so, I’m trying to navigate the joys and fears of expecting a baby after cancer.
The joys are numerous, and I recognize what a blessing and miracle this is! My body defied the odds to conceive naturally at my age following chemotherapy-induced menopause. And, I’ve thankfully had a great pregnancy thus far. The doctors couldn’t be happier with how she’s developing and how my health is faring. For the first time in my life, I'm hearing words like, "perfect" and "better than normal," in reference to my health!
I also find myself far less stressed than the overwhelming majority of my pregnant friends. I’m used to changes with my health, my weight, my activity level, and my sleep. Doctors’ appointments were already a part of my weekly routine, and I’m actually taking fewer vitamins now than before I was pregnant. Listening to my body, heeding my doctors’ advice, and restricting my schedule as needed have been my default modes.
The concerns that accompany being pregnant after cancer also seem more pronounced. A cancer patient’s risk of recurrence drops noticeably after five years in remission, and I’m not even halfway to that milestone. I’ve had health issues since I was a baby, and three of my conditions have a genetic component. The doctors also believe that my mom and I carried a genetic predisposition for breast cancer with a gene that has yet to be discovered.
To add another layer to the mix, I am an only child. My daughter will be an only child. I lost my mom to cancer when I was 24 years old. I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 37. (I could have easily titled this post, “Pregnant After Losing Your Mom To Cancer and Then Having Cancer.”)
I know that I will raise my daughter to be aware and proactive about her health. But, I pray that she doesn’t have my genes, as I simultaneously hope that medicine continues to advance with each passing year.
Those concerns exist, but they’re on my mind far less than the larger fear:
That my cancer will return and I won’t be around to watch my daughter grow up.
There, I said it. It doesn’t make the fear any less scary. It doesn’t mean that I have any more control over the situation. But, it’s one explanation for why I’m going to view pregnancy differently from most.
Yes, I’m grateful to be in remission. But, 30% of breast cancers return in a metastatic form. The women who must face a Stage IV recurrence have just as much fight and faith (if not more!) as those whose cancer doesn’t return.
After reading a post from Lisa Adams in which she describes talking to her teenage daughter about her metastatic breast cancer, I sat in front of my laptop and sobbed. I have the same reaction when I read Facebook posts from my friend with a Stage IV recurrence. She just wants to be with her children as much as she can for as long as she can.
I feel my fear when it hits me. I cry for a few minutes. I say a prayer and trust in God's plan. And then, I move on. There’s only so much emotional energy I can devote to the unknown…or a registry…or a pregnancy side effect. I don’t know any other way to be.