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? TC mark

image – euthman

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  • macgyver51

    Funny and touching at once. Self oriented but not self absorbed. Please keep writing and keep doing it here. There is a guy out there that will be beyond lucky to have you around one day.

  • https://twitter.com/iamthepuddles Jordana Bevan

    Damn you’re funny. Love the way you wrote this, especially because its bubbliness is either a) a mask for your terror at the idea of egg harvesting/having cancer (nbd, right?) or b) totally indicative of what a vivacious and lively person you are and of how you’re going to not be single in no time at all! have you tried that thing from 50/50 where you walk up to strangers at a bar and tell them you have cancer? would probably be pretty effective.
    in all seriousness though, pretty awesome piece. also i’ve never encountered someone who’s had their eggs harvested; i’m alive because a stranger woman donated her eggs to my mom – so even though your reasons for egg reaping are different, still inneresting to hear about. good luck good luck as you continue chemo. please keep writing, because both this and the chubby piece are hilarious and that whole “just-because-someone-is-ill/disabled/etc-doesn’t-mean-they-can’t-be-happy/funny/upset about things unrelated to their health/a ‘normal’ person” thing needs to keep happening

  • http://twitter.com/ValerieGalerie Valerie Rausch

    That’s a lot to take on at 23! Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you the speediest of recoveries (and hope that one day you’ll be a straight up baby-making machine).

  • http://twitter.com/ValerieGalerie Valerie Rausch

    That’s a lot to take on at 23! Thank you for sharing your story. I wish
    you the speediest of recoveries (and hope that one day you’ll be a
    straight up baby-making machine).

  • Lindsey

    Being diagnosed is terrible, but there’s definitely a silver lining – you were able to harvest your eggs. I’m a survivor of pediatric cancer and never had that opportunity. Treasure your future, even if it’s in the freezer :)

  • http://dirtyyoungmen.wordpress.com Maxwell Chance

    I heard about you from the mother hens. You have quite a reputation. I want to germinate your eggs. All 22 of them.

    • macgyver51

      Classy.

    • Katie

      Call me

  • http://twitter.com/snuggiebunnies Olivia Moore

    I couldn’t imagine going through such a hard time at this age. Kudos to you being so brave and continuing on your path in life rather than just wallowing over in misery because of the unfortunate events that have happened. We all need to learn how to move on even when our lives aren’t necessarily going where we had planned.

  • Le Dude

    absolutely loved this. please keep writing and kicking ass.

  • Kaitlynclement

    this is crazy, I too have cancer- just had a thyroidectomy at the ripe age of 21. I went to the doctor today and when I heard the words radiation and infertility I blacked out. The second I came home I came to this website to read articles that would cheer me up, and hear you are. 

    How weird has my life been lately? Apparently weird enough. 

    Thanks for the words, they give me hope and inspiration <3

    • Katie

      Life is pretty weird. I’m so sorry to hear you had to go through that TODAY. Wow. Best of luck girlfriend, you’ll get through it!!!

  • Mary

    IF ONLY THAT LAST SENTENCE WEREN’T SO ACCURATE! Hahahah GOOD LUCK!

  • Alice

    My roommate, a 24 year old guy, just relapsed with lymphoma. As a cancer survivor myself, I know how crazy it can be. Hope you are well :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/nattusmith Natt Smith

    You have such a positive outlook on life.  It makes me feel really bad for being in a foul mood when I drove off from Starbucks with the wrong coffee order.  Perspective.  Thanks!  

  • Lily Kynns

    Life has been pretty weird lately.

    I just found out if I don’t have open heart surgery, I’ll die childless and alone.  Granted, I always figured I would die childless and alone, I just didn’t bank on it being in 5-10 years.

    So, off to surgery for the chance at 60+ years being childless and alone, save for 10 cats.  Such is life.  Onwards and upwards!

    Best of luck in your fight.

    • Katie

      So sorry to hear that, BEST of luck on your surgery. You can have one of my eggs!!

  • Waicool

    on your worst day remember you are loved, on your best day remember to write again!  your story is an inspiration.

  • ariel

     “While I’m sure none of them were judging me, I’m pretty sure they were judging me.”

    This made me laugh so hard. Great, uplifting article to read this morning.

  • Mayim Yael

    I had just turned 21 when I was diagnosed with Hotchkins Lymphoma. I was set up with a fertility doctor who made things as comfortable as could be for a young girl who suddenly had to worry about things like pumping toxic chemicals though her body for extended periods of time, child bearing woes and you know, death. We asked about harvesting eggs, but apparently it isn’t as effective as its thought to be. He suggested if I did it that I had them fertilized before frozen since that would yield better results. I wasn’t in a position though to find someone to give me their life force. Plus, all I could think about was how I was going to ask my guy friends for something like that. “Hey, wanna make a baby with me in 10+ years?” I just went the protecting my reproductive system route involving shots every 6 months or so. I’m in remission almost 2 years later and people around me are having kids and it makes me pretty nervous. (not as nervous as my boyfriend though who consistently watches me fawn over babies.) I’m in a weird position with everything now as well. I’m afraid to get pregnant since I’m still young (almost 23) and not in a position to be raising a child, but I’m afraid that if I do get knocked up I won’t have the courage to abort the pregnancy since I don’t know how that would effect my body’s future plans to have a family. What if it’s my only chance? Luckily I haven’t gotten to this point yet, (I got my period yesterday in the bathroom of the movie theater -TMI?- before the muppets movie, which is a saving grace in itself since I’ve never been a fan and was looking for any excuse to get out of it.) Its rough worrying about something that you have no control over. 

    I hope your eggs work out for you.  If not, good luck to our fallopian tubes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1252920031 Audrey Beardsley

    Being that you’ve encountered two great fears of mine – cancer and infertility – this blog really hit close to home. I literally felt my heart drop in the first paragraph imagining myself in your position. Your positive attitude is very inspiring! May you find yourself in good health on the rest of this journey. <3

  • Anonymous

    phlpn.es/829r8s

  • Lindsay

    your story is so sad but you are so positive and upbeat and strong. you’re an inspiration – best of luck to you! i wish you a speedy recovery and as many healthy little babies in the future as you want :)

  • emily

    katie your such an inspiration . 

  • Katie

     Katie-as the wife of a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor, I cannot even explain how much I can relate to your blog posts (although our experience with fertility included freezing his swimmers, and what an experience that was!)! I loved reading them and am so happy to hear that you are done with treatment and are cancer free! I voted for your video on YouTube and my fingers are crossed that you win!

    • Katie Brennan

      Thank you so much!!! Thank you for reading and I really hope all your work with fertility paid off!

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