How Being a Dog Mom Helps Me Cope With Infertility
There's no question that an advanced ovarian cancer diagnosis and infertility go hand-in-hand. But being only 29 years old at the time of my diagnosis, losing my fertility quickly became my primary concern, at least initially.
I had already been in a long-term relationship for several years, but having children was never a serious point of discussion for us yet.
Dreams of being a mom
While I have always dreamed of being a mother, I just wasn't ready. And honestly, I still don't know whether I am anywhere close to being ready now - nearly 4 years later.
But just because I'm not ready (yet) doesn't mean that it isn't difficult for me to see friends' birth announcements on my social media feed or even my neighbor's kids playing in their front yard. My maternal desire still very much exists, and I don't know if it will ever fade away.
It's simply a part of who I am. I have just learned to cope with the loss, and thankfully adopting a dog has been the most powerful and effective coping mechanism for me thus far.
Taking the plunge
I first suggested that my partner and I adopt a dog within a day or so after receiving my diagnosis. Thankfully, he wholeheartedly agreed with the decision.
I was still in the hospital, recovering from my first debulking surgery. At this point, I knew I needed something to care for, but more than anything, I needed a distraction from what would come next.
Introducing - Piper
A couple of months later, we rescued our dog Piper, a Chihuahua and Terrier mix. And I honestly feel that we adopted her at the perfect time, just about one week before I started my first round of chemotherapy treatment.
Meeting Piper was truly love at first sight for both of us. She was the first dog we met in person while searching for the perfect pup, and we brought her home that same day.
Piper was only 12 weeks old at the time of her adoption. While we were a bit nervous about having a puppy in the house while I was undergoing treatment, it was extremely important that we adopted a puppy so I could spend as many days of their life with them as possible.
And luckily, there were zero regrets to follow. Piper ended up being the best decision we could have made.
Being a dog mom with ovarian cancer
No doubt, she helped keep me smiling and active throughout treatment. We regularly went on neighborhood walks and sometimes even hikes whenever I felt up to the challenge.
During my more difficult, low-energy days, she would just lay on the couch and cuddle with me as much as I needed. We immediately developed a connection that is so incredibly unique. She always seemed very in tune with how I felt and what I needed at the time, which remains true to this day.
Here for the tail wags and kisses
I've witnessed firsthand exactly how eager our furry friends can be to please their humans. In fact, I'll never forget the day my boyfriend and I shaved my head once my chemotherapy-induced hair loss became too overwhelming.
As soon as she got the chance, Piper incessantly started licking my freshly shaven skull, with her tail wagging and all. Almost immediately, my tears turned into laughter. And this quickly became our regular routine over the course of 6 months or so - one of the few things I miss about being bald.
Coping with infertility thanks to Piper
Anyone who has owned a dog can agree that they provide immense healing. In fact, Piper is officially certified as my Emotional Support Animal (ESA), all thanks to the letter written by my therapist a few years back. Believe it or not, this is all required to register your pet as an ESA, as there's no official, government-owned registration database currently in existence.
Caring for a pet has many therapeutic benefits, particularly for a cancer patient. But this is especially true for those dealing with infertility. And I can fully understand and relate to why many people refer to their pets as their "fur babies" because they are, in essence, just like children to many loving pet parents.
The best thing to ever happen to me
Within just a few weeks of adopting her, I realized that being a dog mom is more than enough to fill that maternal void in my heart.
Hands down, Piper is the best thing to ever happen to me. Her unconditional love cannot be matched, and the emotional support she provides is unlike any human connection I've encountered. With the passing of time and the help of our beloved Piper, I eventually learned to let go of the victimization that comes with a cancer diagnosis, in addition to losing my fertility at such a young age.
Instead, I remain focused on living in the moment with my little family, taking things one day at a time. After all, life is too short to focus on the what-ifs.
Did you have a hysterectomy to treat your ovarian cancer?
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