When Life Hands You Cancer, Make Eggs

As if women don’t have enough self- induced panic attacks in their 20s, try getting diagnosed with lymphoma and told you might not be able to have kids in the same day. Then try emerging from your blackout only to remember you are still single. Almost too single. Allow yourself to black out for a second time.

This very scenario happened to yours truly on a warm, sunny June day in my 23rd year of life. I’m sure that somewhere off in the distance, wedding bells were ringing through the air as some lucky 20-something gal married the man of her dreams (June at the Plaza!!). The only bells that this 20-something girl was hearing, however, were those bells John Donne was talking about when he wrote, “ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Yep, I was the “thee,” and those were my bells. Because, you know, I was dying and all.

Once I realized that I was in fact not dying, and that my chances of beating cancer were very high, I was able to go back to the doctors and listen to them without fainting. That’s when I learned that chemotherapy has the potential to — sorry to get all scientific — mess up your ovaries. And, as it turns out, having ovaries that function is critical to the whole procreating process—hence the not being able to have kids thing. The doctors weren’t telling me this to emphasize the fact that I was going to die a lonely, lonely girl like I had previously thought. They were telling me this because they wanted me to get my eggs “harvested” before chemo so that, when the time came, I would be able to have babies. They called it “baby insurance.” Since I wasn’t even paying for my own car insurance at the time, I thought that “baby insurance” sounded like a logical next step. “Sign me up!!!” I shouted. Not really though.

Apparently sarcasm doesn’t go over too well in a doctor’s office, because the next thing I knew I was signed up. The next two weeks consisted primarily of my mother helping me inject hormone/egg-making shots into my body 3 times a day. (Don’t worry, the nurses taught us how to inject the shots and dispose of the shots in a manner that ensured our house would not look like a hot bed for heroin). In addition to the shots, I also went in for daily check-ups with the fertility doctor. It should be noted that I was the only cancer patient at this baby-making clinic at the time, which I think made the doctors kind of feel bad for me—I could be wrong, but I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the other patients weren’t getting lollipops.

On the other hand, the downside to being the only cancer patient was that I was always the only non-couple sitting in the waiting room amid a sea of healthy, eager couples trying to conceive. While I’m sure none of them were judging me, I’m pretty sure they were judging me. I wanted to wear a t-shirt that said “I have cancer. They are making me do this. That’s why I’m not in a couple.” Of course, there was that one time my dad came to a check-up with me. That time I’m positive the eager couples were judging me. I was judging me. My life was transforming into bad material for a sitcom before my very eyes. It took about 30 seconds of cringing self-awareness in the waiting room before I leaned over and whispered to my dad, “You’re never coming with me again.” He gave me a half nod. “Now I ain’t sayin’ she a gold digger… I’m sayin she my daughter!” was something my dad could have said if he were anything like Phil Dunphy, which he is not.

Besides that, the overall experience wasn’t so bad. Like I said, the doctors and nurses were amazingly nice. My doctor and I developed a special little friendship, one not unlike a grandfather-granddaughter bond. He was just like a grandpa in that he was sweet, pretty old, liked to give me hugs, and called me “dear.” He was unlike a grandpa in that his job was to thoroughly examine my lady parts. Nevertheless, our relationship blossomed along with my eggs. Oh, also, it turns out he’s Natalie Portman’s dad… so, how weird has your life been lately?

Although I’m still single, and I’m still going through chemotherapy, this story has a happy ending. I didn’t get to meet Natalie, but her fertility doctor father, who as you may know is now an actual grandpa, delivered me 22 beautiful baby eggs. Apparently the average is about 10, so I guess you could say my performance significantly upped my street cred with mother hens. My eggs are now off somewhere in a nuclear freezer of sorts, and I don’t really plan on using them until I’m successfully in a couple and most likely 30. Despite my eggs being frozen and far off, however, I love them dearly and truly appreciate what they symbolize. They are the emblem of my post-cancer life, a life that I am very much looking forward to. Plus, since I have to pay a pretty steep charge for each year they remain frozen, my post-cancer dating life will have an invigorating urgency that it’s never had before. My wedding bells will be ringing in no time. After all, there’s nothing more attractive to a guy than an urgent girl with 22 eggs in the freezer… right? Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – euthman

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