I have been long overdue for a medical update. Part of my delay is that I don’t enjoy thinking about my health much anymore now that the “actively fighting disease” part is behind me. I like to leave the medical drama of my life in the past- solidly where it belongs. The other factor, I think, is that I was kind of in limbo. I’m not sick anymore, but I certainly haven’t felt like myself. I’ve started to understand that full recovery will be slower and take longer than I originally planned.
At my three month check-up, my local oncology team suggested that I try a new drug, neratinib. It can improve my survival rate by 3%, and yes, that’s enough for me to give it a go in spite of its reputable unpleasant side effects. I only had to take it for a year and given everything else I have survived, what’s another year, right? But around the same time my reproductive health team discovered that I had pre-pre-pre-pre- cancerous cells in my uterus. That, coupled with the damaged sustained by months of chemo that basically threw me into menopause, and we came quite easily to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be having any more children. It basically wasn’t possible and we weren’t willing to undergo the grueling hormonal regime we had endured in the past to get pregnant with both girls for slim-to-none odds. With that in mind, we set a hysterectomy date for 6 weeks in the future- the earliest date they had available.
Getting used to the idea that we were definitively done having children was heart breaking. I worked hard to set my mind on gratitude for the amazing children we already have and for their health and wellness which is such a gift. While that third baby we had always pictured in our family wasn’t going to be there, and a big part of me felt incomplete, I tried to focus on the convenience, cost savings, and man-to-man benefits of two kids. To be clear, wanting a third didn’t make the ones we have any less special. It was just the way we had planned our lives and once again cancer was there to interrupt our dream.
I don’t know how to describe what happened next except to say that while setbacks can be pretty rough, goodness and grace is stronger.
Even though we thought it would be next to impossible, and even though it was a complete surprise to both of us, Tom and I discovered in late August that we were expecting our third baby. That final piece of the puzzle was settling in, and by early May this family of four will become a fabulous five.
As far as we know, both the baby and I are doing really well. My wonderful local doc got a team out in Seattle together to help us navigate the (somewhat) uncharted territory of pregnancy so close to treatment. We have three trips planned total, and will go out for our second evaluation in a few weeks. The cancer treatment (read: poisoning) to my body will likely have no effect on baby Mazurek. Wild, right? I’ve been tested and retested and scanned and worked up and the most anyone has found is some lingering lung damage from radiation and low iron levels. While I am absurdly out of shape and seriously out of breath when I exercise (see oxygen crisis supra), beyond that and some fatigue I’m feeling pretty good. If anything, even though I’ve never been that glowing pregnant lady, my frame of reference is pretty robust at this point. This makes a little pregnancy illness/fatigue nothing compared to, say, chemo.
The neatest part about this process is that because of all the testing, we already know that we will be the parents of a baby boy. My heart swells and my eyes mist as I write that. We waited until delivery to know the sex of both girls- we enjoyed the anticipation and surprise much to the chagrin of our families. However, I felt like we have had enough excitement for a while so we went ahead and let the genetic counselor tell us the news.
Upon hearing her say “boy” I smiled until my cheeks hurt. And then I smiled some more.
All this reminds me of the greatest lesson I’ve learned from trauma- you never know, until you know. There is no use in fretting over what is uncertain. Plan, prepare, and then let go. It’s all we can do and most of the time it is the best we can do. Besides, I don’t really believe in bad outcomes anymore- just temporary discomfort.
Give ‘Em Hell