Baldies' Blog began originally in the UK by a 26 year old journalist with a blood cancer on a mission to inform the world about bone marrow donation.
He has since died, and I took on the cause of making cancer care more transparent for everybody.
Cancer is a disease that will touch everybody through diagnosis or affiliation: 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed and 1 in 3 woman will hear those words, "You Have Cancer."
I invite you to read how I feel along my journey and
how I am continuing to live a full life alongside my Hodgkin's lymphoma, with me controlling my cancer, not my cancer controlling me.
I hope that "Baldies' Blog" will prepare you to handle whatever life sends you, but especially if it's the message, "You Have Cancer."
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Isn't Life Ironic?
Isn’t life ironic?
I certainly can’t get over this fact, and here is my case and point:
When I was 20 or 21 years old, in college after having Xander, I was unhappy with the amount of money we had in our bank account (Isn’t everybody during college?)
In 2003 or 2004, new fertility treatments were just starting to boom and living within the direct vicinity of New York I was at the epicenter of this burgeoning science.
One day while reading the paper I saw an advertisement looking for young woman to donate their eggs to infertile couples.
The compensation was $10,000 for expenses !
That would have been like hitting the lottery for me, renting my 9X12 room with no heat, one small window, and a door that had to be duct taped in the winter and covered with a tapestry because the heat escaped so badly.
I was certainly young, cold, and looking for a way to improve the living situation for Jon, Xander and I (They were living in NH. I was commuting to New York for school during the week).
I certainly knew I could ovulate and create a healthy (dare I say gorgeous?) off-spring).
I looked into the donation process and saw that centers were located in a close vicinity to me, all over Westchester and Manhattan, a short ten-minute drive away.
I signed myself up. I filled out the ten page questionnaire about my entire life history and the histories of my parents and their parents until I could go back no more.
I was honest about myself and any possible genetic issues: I am diagnosed dyslexic, but clearly, severely overcompensated.
I am myopic, but only in sight, not in mindset. This is a very important differentiation.
I have been treated for depression. The depression was situational, and really, if you are not depressed looking around the world, you’re just not paying attention.
I, of course, also put on my best brag show regarding all the accomplishments a 21 year old could have attained, mostly focusing on athletic achievements and the basic stats: 5’5”, brown eyes, slender/athletic frame, 110 lbs.
Of course, I made sure they understood I was smart. I was in college on scholarship. I tutored part time for The School of Nursing and worked as a Residential Assistant (I hated that job, but the free room and board stipend helps, a lot). I was top of my class, slated to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree summa cum laude in three years.
My five year plan included beginning my career as a registered nurse in emergency and critical care before attending a Master’s Program to become a Family Practice Nurse Practitioner.
I blabbed out all my hopes and dreams and goals for the future. I told the truth about the good and the bad. I put my whole family history out on the line so I could be genetically scrutized by couples looking to create their perfect babies only dreamed for before in science fiction movies like “Gatica.”
Then, I never heard anything.
I was pissed!
I had been snubbed.
My entire genetic profile was just not good enough!
What were they saying, exactly? Were they saying 5’5” with brown eyes is not good enough? Was it because I wasn’t perfect? Did the near sightedness, the dyslexia, and the depression do it?
I really thought I had some damn good genes, but apparently not.
Was it something I said?
I didn’t hear back. I really took their silence personally. Who wouldn’t want to breed with me?
That is, I didn’t hear back until two days ago.
This is where the irony comes into play.
Apparently, I had signed up for a fertility bank, very similar to the marrow donor registration a person signs on for.
You only get a phone call if you are a match to a person, in my case, a person who would like to have my child!
All these years my application has been handed around to potential couples seeking the perfect candidate in a manner similar to how perspective adoptive parents must first make a “show Book” with references to prove they are truly the fabulous people they say they are, prior to receiving a child from any pregnant mother.
There was a long standing application process and I was accepted.
Someone picked me to make mini-me’s with them!
How exciting! How flattering! Even my young self sounded intelligent and accomplished enough to warrant being paid to breed.
This is really, oddly flattering, but maybe a little creepy.
It’s hard to imagine that I could have a biological offspring somewhere in the world, hand picked to have similar looks, personality traits, and accomplishments as mine.
I, actually, rank this as one of the largest compliments I have ever received.
I recently had a Doctor quiz me regarding my family life and how I became the person I am. He wanted to know how my sense of duty, purpose, and contributing to society was instilled.
He was questioning me to try to replicate what my parents did with me so they could do it with their children to possibly, hopefully, have them grow up to be like. . . . . drumrolll. . . . .me.
ME? Yes, me. Who would have thought it, that I would be seen as desirable to breed.
Apparently, I’m the type that should proliferate the population of the world, because these first two factoids, that I was hand picked for my eggs and that a doctor wants to replicate parenting practices to stimulate behaviors in his children, are not the only very clear message I have received that people feel I should bless the world with little Hillary’s.
I have joked, in the past, that I can gauge a doctor’s basic level of attraction to me by his reaction to the fact I did not want any biological children.
The subject has come up quite a few times, especially since I began receiving chemotherapy treatments that rendered me infertile at the age of twenty-three.
It is standard procedure to review the egg donation and freezing process. It has to be reviewed at the start of treatment with every new doctor as standard protocol.
I had the option to take fertility treatments and have my eggs prior to any cancer therapy, which would have preserved them for me in the future had I wanted more biological children.
But I didn’t. I was lucky. I had one, beautiful son, and as for more children, there are plenty out their who I would like to love and have love me in return as mom.
They have all ready been made and are probably sitting around in foster homes or orphages just waiting for me to be thier mother.
There are so many of these children, in fact, that I never really considered having my own. I really wanted to raise other peoples children, whether I adopted them or not, a bond is a bond and only love says how strong.
This is still the master plan if I were to have a family in the future: I will adopt, probably older children, you know, the ones that come with a history and known problems.
Before being diagnosed, I had actually had a little boy named David picked out. He was three, a couple months older than Xander, and about the same size. He was as dark a child as they come and his favorite toy was trucks.
He had an unknown gastro-intestinal disease that prevented him from eating and required he be fed through a PEG tube.
I know some of you are gasping and wondering how someone could ever manage a child with a known problem that requires these alternate feelings, but I thought, “Hey, I’m going to save a lot of money on food when he’s a teenager. I won’t have to buy him 20 chicken nuggets and 20 hamburgers like I will Xander. I’ll be able to sit next to him quietly and hook him up to a bag.”
I wouldn’t have to hear him whining about being hungry. I wouldn’t have to worry about dishes. There is an upside to everything.
Then, I was diagnosed with cancer 3 months later. We all know how the story goes from there. The story gets to here, today.
The decision for me to forgo freezing my eggs was easy.
My decision to forego future children at the ripe young age of 23-25 years old with no second thought, however, even to strange men with advanced medical degrees, was shocking.
There is just an innate, primal instinct in all of us that makes us subconsciously decide on introduction whether that person should be bred or not. It is buried deep under the surface and few people even think of it or allow it to pass through their thoughts, but it is there. It is human instinct, still saved from caveman times when those same men may have just drug me by my hair to their caves for considering such silliness.
This human instinct would quickly show its face when I would sit in front of my doctors and say, “No. I won’t be freezing my eggs. I don’t intend on having children of my own.”
They would be charting, or pretending to chart, since many of them are uncomfortable bringing up subjects that involve S-E-X, writing, head down, then they would PAUSE, their pen holds still, but their eyes are still fixed on the paper. Then the curiosity gets the best of them.
Slowly, first out of the corner of their eye, they look up and turn around to face me and say “Can I ask. . . .” or “Just for curiosities’ sake. . . .” “WHY NOT?”
Oh, I wasn’t expecting that reaction. I was taken aback the first couple times this happened.
I didn’t realize I’d been labeled as a breeder, and by breeder I mean, these men, the doctor’s, the super specialists with all their IVY league education and world class careers they had, at some point in our short conversation, determined that I was worth replicating.
Their shock and horror just screamed at me “You need to breed. Make more of you, many, many more.”
This is incredibly flattering, especially coming from this very special sect of men who, I think in general, think about the world biologically and have a tendency to want to determine who can and can not reproduce for the good of the human race.
Lucky me, I’m on the good side. I’ve been deemed “breedable” on more than one occasion, on quite a few actually, and by some very handsome doctors.
I hear “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.”
What could be more flattering than a person wanting to use your DNA to create the perfect child they always wanted?
Unfortunately, the irony in all this is that I did not freeze my eggs and I stopped ovulating, to the best of my knowledge, in Dec. 2006.
I’m pretty sure I chemotherapied and radiated any hopes of producing any viable ova over the past several years.
There will never, ever, be another offspring from me. . . . . .
Unless it comes from Heather, and then technically, genetically, I will be having another child.
Baby Preston is scheduled to arrive about Oct. 20, 2009. He’ll join brother Pierce, also my sister’s son, but genetically identical to my birth DNA.
How interesting. How flattering, and yet, oddly creepy and fascinating at the same time.
Anyway, it’s ironic since it will never happen, not from me.
I still really could have used that $10,000 though.