A couple embraces one another on a giant IV bag

"Just Us": Moving Forward After Infertility

Just 2 weeks prior, I was watching picturesque sunsets, imagining my ideal future with my potential husband – and even children, too. The juxtaposition between then and this moment felt like a slap in the face.

I soon met with the surgeon to discuss removing the mass and left ovary. While he confirmed that my fertility could be impacted, I never fully considered the fact that I might not be able to biologically carry a child. I remained hopeful and chose to let fate take its course with what would be my remaining right ovary.

Considering the unknown

While reviewing the pre-op paperwork, I saw a long list of possible procedures that could take place during the surgery - one of which involved a total hysterectomy. Although the surgeon assured me there was only a 2 percent chance of this being necessary, I decided to tell him while on the operating table that I may want to reconsider possibly freezing my eggs.

After waking from the anesthesia, it was confirmed – this was cancer, and I would need a hysterectomy. I was eventually taken into what would be my hospital room for the next 3 days, where my parents and Nick were anxiously waiting for me.

Not satisfied with "just us"

Once my parents left for the evening, I was able to "let it all out" and be authentic with Nick. I cried over the diagnosis, but more than anything, I cried over the fact that I might not be able to be a mother one day. Nick sat on a chair beside the bed and scooted closer to me, putting one hand on my leg and the other in my hand as he smiled and said, "Everything's going to be okay. It’s gonna be just us." I knew he just wanted to reassure me that he didn’t care about children or the possibility of my fertility being impacted and that life was perfect as it was – just the 2 of us.

But this wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time. I was frustrated that we didn’t want the same thing or that perhaps we had pictured completely different futures together.

I tried my best not to let his comment interfere with what I wanted. I had already lost so much, and I refused to compromise any further. So at this point, my focus re-shifted to save my fertility however possible.

Overwhelmed by fertility decisions

Since Nick and I had already been together for several years, I was given the option to try and get pregnant as quickly as possible and have a baby before the hysterectomy, which seemed extremely unappealing (and even dangerous) at the time.

We were also given the option to freeze embryos if we so wanted. But I knew that even if I did decide to freeze my eggs, I wouldn’t be able to carry the child myself, and a surrogate would be the only way.

I wanted to go forward with this decision, but the odds were stacking up against me. I was overwhelmed by all of the extremely important decisions I needed to make in such a short timeframe – some of them permanent, and I was deterred by the unreasonable costs associated with fertility preservation. I couldn't begin to process that I even had cancer because my fertility was the main focus. My indecision had completely consumed me, and Nick could tell.

Open and honest communication

One weekday afternoon, he somewhat abruptly asked if we could talk. We sat across from each other on our bed as he looked me in the eyes and explained that he understood how much I was struggling to make up my mind. I started nervously smoothing out the creases in the bed sheets, trying my best not to react negatively.

I knew what he was going to say before he even said it. And while he didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear, he was completely transparent and let me know that he wasn’t entirely sure if he would ever want kids. I held back my tears as I nodded and told him that it was okay, and thanked him for being honest with me.

I reached across the bed and held him, reassuring him that I was happy with it being "just us," and I sincerely meant it. I think we both knew that this was a high-stakes conversation that could have resulted in a breakup. I was uncertain about the egg-freezing process; the high costs and low success rates of IVF surrogacy; and then there was the cancer diagnosis, too. But one thing I was sure of was that Nick would always be here for me and be honest with me.

Shifting priorities in our relationship

The next day, I received a call from my surgeon with the staging results. He told me it was "stage 3C low-grade serous carcinoma," and everything went quiet. My priorities immediately shifted as survival became my main goal. Children were no longer the focus. I thought to myself, "What's the point of kids, if you aren't alive to raise them?"

All of my time and energy became focused on getting better as I proceeded with my second surgery, followed by 6 rounds of chemotherapy over the course of 18 weeks. It was an oddly comforting cycle that helped me feel like I was somewhat in control of something that was simultaneously completely out of my control. While I was somewhat frustrated that Nick and I didn’t share the same sentiments regarding children or egg freezing, I later learned that my type of cancer is driven by estrogen, and freezing my eggs could have accelerated the cancer.

Because Nick had that very difficult conversation with me, which ultimately significantly influenced my decision-making process, I truly feel that he may have saved my life. I realize now that while I was initially putting my fertility and potential future with children first, he was always putting me first. I’ve since learned to appreciate "the little things in life" more, and I've become grateful for what I have rather than what I’ve lost. Before I started chemo, we decided to rescue a dog. Now it's just us, plus one! Our "fur child," Piper, with her silly, smiling underbite, has transformed my idea of what a happy family looks like.

Now I'm more than okay with the prospect of "just us," as we're living the dream in our beautiful home, building our future together.

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