I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2012, about 5 days before I received my first and only negative pregnancy test. I had had an IUI the week before, on the anniversary of the day my wife and I decided to become girlfriends. My tumor was stage 1, triple positive, BRCA inconclusive, so I opted for bilateral mastectomies and implants and went through 6 rounds of chemotherapy and a year of Herceptin. I opted not to egg freeze because my tumor was very aggressive and fast growing and I needed to start treatment right away. I had a hunch that I should leave it to chance. I got an awful infection where I had emergency surgery and was put in the hospital for a week: a failed reconstruction and had to start over, which put me in and out of surgeries for about two years. I also permanently lost my hair from chemo. On top of all of that and my fertility loss, Kayla and I were dead set on having a baby no matter what. We were convinced that cancer was not going to take this thing away from us. We had sperm in the bank and planned to just go forward with Kayla carrying and see what my situation ended up being fertility wise.
Fast forward a bit. We had several starts and stops with deciding to get Kayla pregnant. Every time we would think we were ready one of us would crack from the PTSD. My hair loss threw me into a severe depression and I had to grieve the loss of my body as I knew it. I felt like an old woman in every possible way. Eventually Kayla had two IUIs about two years ago. They didn’t take. We were both a bit relieved I think. Kayla was more interested in me carrying a child because I had wanted the bio connection so badly. And she always thought she would rather adopt than be a bio mother. But she had done it for me, and I was secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) agonizing over the fears that I would not connect or I would be jealous. In fact the very thought of her carrying a child and my being in the role that I had always imagined her in ripped me apart. I also worried that I would feel even more alone than I already did. Cancer can be really polarizing, even from the people that you love and that love you the most. Most often I worried that I would die and she would be left with the life that I had dreamed, but without me.
After that second failed IUI with Kayla we decided we would adopt. We found some agencies and went to an info session for one that we really liked. We got a home equity loan to pay for the adoption. We told everyone that we were adopting. We sold our sperm back to the bank. We were ready to go. And then the loan came through. Suddenly we had all of this money in the bank and the freedom to make this move, and we kind of froze. By then I was starting to realize I would always be bald and that it would be okay. I was kind of getting my groove back. Things were looking up. Kayla went on a work trip for a week and I hung out at the house by myself for a week. Before we left each other we agreed to take the time apart to imagine every option from adopting a new born privately to adopting a teenager through the foster system to not parenting at all. During that week I had realized that I had been putting a lot of my parent issues that I have with my own family of origin on the need to create my family. I thought on some level that having a child would repair relationships that I thought were damaged and grant me acceptance that I thought I needed. We were both doing that. At the end of the week we came together and had the come to Jesus talk. We both realized when given the breathing room to think, that we had been so set on having a baby because we needed to prove that we had not lost this dream to cancer. But that we had changed through this process. We had gone through so much trauma and had put our creative dreams on hold and our career dreams on hold because of all this cancer shit, and now that things were kind of calming down, we weren’t ready for the changes and commitments that would come with a baby in our lives. We decided not do the private adoption. We decided we would take it all off the table for now and revisit if one of us ever felt like we needed a baby.
That was one year and a half ago. We used that money to remodel our house. We went to Europe for the first time this April, Cancun this month and Seattle in the fall. My wife is working on her movies and writing and I am working on a book (eeek, that admission comes with some butterfly y feelings). We have our two dogs and two cats and we dote on them like crazy. We are very happy. Over the last year I have been amazed at how much I’ve changed. I was completely broken. Broken. Broken. And now, almost five years to my diagnosis date, I feel like I have been given the opportunity to have a life that I wouldn’t have allowed myself to even imagine before. It is the life I might have imagined when I was a child, telling someone that I didn’t want children of my own. I can honestly say that I’m happy and that I don’t think that we will parent. We were at dinner with friends in CanCun last week and one of them asked where we were on the whole parenting thing. Kayla said “I think that ship has sailed”, and I added that we talk sometimes about in the future taking on a foster situation, especially for queer kids. It felt really liberating to say that out loud, and I felt proud of and a surge of love and respect for my partner that I have been able to navigate such hard shit with. We are loving being the cool aunties too. We have friends with babes. I have been delighted to learn about myself that I actually enjoy being in the Auntie role. There are just so many kiddos to love. I realized recently that I can finally look at a baby in a restaurant and comment about how cute he or she is, and it comes with no pangs of regret or grief. That is a huge milestone for me. Most importantly I can sit in this moment and be grateful for my painful experiences, for trusting the process of grief, for learning to heal my inner child, for dipping in to a realm of existence that feels more authentic than any version of myself that I have presented in my adult life.