“If I choose to have a child, I am taking a greater risk of potentially subjecting my child to deep grief.”
Until the winter of my 27th year, I was positive that my future would include being a parent.
As a young child, I loved playing with dolls and would take care in naming them. It felt important, a practice in recognizing the identity and agency of something I was in charge of. I would dress them cautiously, my hand cupped behind their heads as I snapped the buttons on their onesies, just as I had seen my mom do with my two younger brothers.
As I grew older, my interest in dolls ended; however, my passion for children did not. I babysat kids in my neighborhood during my early teens, nannied consistently for families in college, and after graduating, began pursuing a career in behavioral health, focusing on developmental trauma and foster care. I wanted to help children cope with the hardships of life, especially those who had experienced early abuse and neglect. I believe in the powerful resilience of children and place a high value on the importance of raising children in a way that makes our world better.
While working in pediatric mental health, I continued to quietly dream of my own someday-family. The specific way my family would look was still up in the air — I had mixed feelings about whether I wanted to have children biologically, adopt or foster; however, I had little doubt I would be a mother in some way when I was ready.
I was certain it was what I wanted, my intention set, my decision firm.
Then, in January of 2019, at the age of 27, I was diagnosed with brain cancer. The diagnosis followed a six-hour brain surgery and four-day ICU stay. I had previously been assured the tumor that they removed from my right parietal lobe was most likely a low-grade glioma and that after the surgery, I’d be able to return to my life.
Instead, a few days after leaving the hospital, I returned to a sterile exam room where a kind, somber doctor told me how the pathology report indicated that the tumor was cancerous: an anaplastic astrocytoma, grade 3 out of 4, one step before a terminal glioblastoma. This new doctor was to be my neuro-oncologist, part of a care team I’d need for the rest of my life. My cancer, while treatable, is considered incurable.
My cancer tends to return, and when and where within the brain it returns is unpredictable. Many people with my diagnosis are able to live long and fulfilling lives. The treatments are improving, statistics are outdated and changing, and the specific beneficial factors in my situation — my youth, the success of the surgery, and the particular makeup of my tumor — mean I have a high chance of surviving for years.
And yet, cancer does not always play by the rules or follow our hopeful guesses as to what will happen. My cancer is chronic and recurrent, and at any time, the microscopic cancerous cells could wake and spread and become terminal without warning. ..................