My doctors were optimistic. They said I would get through cancer and its brutal treatments first. Then I could eventually try to conceive a child. My oncologist told me that my particular chemotherapy regimen rarely caused infertility -- in fact only one percent of women taking the same chemical cocktail became infertile.
So despite all the sorrow of a cancer diagnosis, my dreams of bearing children remained intact.
Until I discovered I was in that one percent of women whose cancer treatment rendered them infertile. To make matters worse, my marriage ended.
Cancer didn't kill me, but being launched into early onset menopause killed my dreams of birthing and nursing a child. I'm not a jealous person by nature, but I admit envying other women's maternal milestones. While they were sick from pregnancy, I reminded myself, I had been sick from cancer treatment. While they experienced birth pangs, I felt the deep pangs of loss and grief. And while they nursed their babies, I was nursing my breast wounds.
Cancer had stolen motherhood from me, I reflected.
My hopes for a baby were gone. Yet, I was gracious at all those never-ending baby showers. Putting my jealousy aside, I did wish the best for the expectant mothers. I knew how lucky I was to be alive. And I was grateful and calm, and peaceful, coming to accept that being childless was not the end of the world.
There were worse things in life. Like having cancer.
Then, one day, an acquaintance told me about how she adopted a baby as a single person.
And I knew this, too, was my destiny. At the time, China was allowing single women to adopt its children. It was supposed to take only a year to get a baby from application to adoption. I applied instantly and was accepted. I was euphoric. I would only have to wait a year.
But the one-year wait turned into a four-year wait.
Some couples withdrew from the China adoption process, but I refused to withdraw. I had faced cancer, so waiting longer for a child didn't faze me. But halfway through my wait, I got scary news: an MRI detected something in the same breast that had had cancer years before.
Although it turned out to be scar tissue, I was taking no chances. I wanted to live and be healthy for my future daughter. So my first act of love toward the child who hadn't even been born yet was to get a preventive double mastectomy with reconstruction.
In July 2009, along with my travel group, I went to China and held my daughter in my arms. We were strangers to each other, but we slowly adjusted to our lives as mother and daughter.
Now my three-year-old and I have a joyous relationship. She is everything to me. And I adore her wicked sense of humor, her kindness, her eagerness to learn, and her smile -- which lights up any room and lightens my heart.
It's amazing that it took cancer and a trip to China to realize -- and appreciate -- my becoming a mom. Often I hear parents whining about the difficulty of parenthood and their lives. While I also find parenthood difficult and life to be less than stellar at times, I don't whine about my life.
Instead, I revel in it.
|My miracle child|