Today’s Fertility Friday post is by a very talented author called Yvonne Hughes, whose book One Piece of Advice is a must-read for people diagnosed with breast cancer, their families and friends. I met Yvonne at a breast cancer forum where she was a guest speaker, and was totally charmed by her honest, funny and heartfelt retelling of how she came to write the book. Yvonne and I kept in touch after the forum, as we have much in common, not least the fact that we are both breast cancer mothers of only boy children. Whilst the sibling ship has sailed for my family, I’m so pleased that Yvonne has agreed to share her story about her family’s wish to bring another child into their lives.
I’m struggling to write this piece, but I’m going to try anyway. I’m not struggling because I’m too emotional, too angry or too anything really. I’m struggling because it’s complicated.
I often say ‘there’s nothing easy about breast cancer’, and this applies to the fall out from breast cancer too. The big ticket item for the younger women with breast cancer is the affect treatment can have on fertility.
There are many ways it can affect your ability to have children – side effects from chemo, long term medication, or the fact that by the time your treatment was finished you’d missed the baby boat. We don’t all get the chance to freeze eggs before we start treatment – and even if we did, well, that’s not a sure thing anyway.
I didn’t freeze any eggs – I was given the choice, but I decided to get on with treatment right away. I have never regretted my decision – my husband and I were unequivocal in our thinking that our child needed a mother more than a sibling.
Do I feel cheated? Absolutely. But not by anyone responsible for my healthcare. I was presented with choices and I made the decision that I would make again. It’s the situation that cheated me. The fact that I had cancer. The fact that I was powerless to direct my future towards the vision I had for it.
I did make peace with the fact that I would not have a second biological child. I looked at my son and imagined what his brother or sister would have looked like. I imagined them, and I said goodbye.
I did not make peace with the notion that I may not have another child, because I didn’t – and still don’t – believe that this will be the case. I very easily switched my thoughts to adoption. I’ve never believed that I needed to have my ‘own’ child to love it. Any child in my care will be loved, I can say that with 100% surety.
But this isn’t an easy path either. Even with a clean bill of health and a spotless police record, we have not been placed with a child. All the boxes are ticked, all approvals are in place, but the wait continues. The hardest bit is hearing stories of abuse and neglect. Of kids coming to harm when there’s a safe and loving home for them here. It’s being powerless again. Powerless and frustrated.
I told you it was complicated. But it’s not without hope. I saw a movie recently, and there was a scene with a foster carer and a 12 year old boy. She said: ‘I’m so glad we found you. Sorry it took so long.’ If you’re reading this and you’re somewhere in your own fertility journey, take heart and keep hoping. Your child may not come to you in the way you expected, but there are other ways of having a special child in your life. You just have to find them.