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Monday, July 12, 2010

What do you do when your backup plan blows up?

This isn't a health related post, not really. But it does have to do with the side effect of chemo and cancer--namely what this means for Matthew and I in terms of my fertility (or lack thereof) and about the different back up plans we had talked about...which may no longer be as viable as we once thought. Anyway, this is a rather personal post. And I know I don't need to share this with all of you. To be honest, I'm not sure why I am compelled to write the things I do write on this blog space. But I think if there is someone I don't know--someone reading this who is going through this like I am, who prefers the anonymity of lurking in a blog to get information, well, maybe I'm writing this for that person because there are things that aren't noted very clearly in any cancer pamphlet or book--things your doctors may not know to tell you about because there are so many ways a cancer diagnosis can take over your life.

So back in April, I had written about a very hard day meeting my oncologist Dr. Carey for the first time (click here to read "The Limits of Theory? My Body." One of the reasons that day was extraordinarily hard was that the door to my fertility pretty much shut closed. I'm currently going through a temporary menopause (I haven't had a period since I started chemo) and once I stop chemo, right before the surgery and during my recovery, my menstrual cycle will resume--but then once I start tomoxifen (hormone therapy) for 5 years, I'll go into early menopause. So that's that.

And while it is sad--I mean, Matthew and I had hoped to try to have a baby this year--the reality of me being a 40 year old woman trying to get pregnant after fibroid surgery...well, 40's no 35 or 30. So Matthew and I always had a back-up plan. We always talked candidly about adoption. And given my ethnic heritage and culture in China--and given the fact that I had been tracking one adoption agency in China over the last twelve years (it's an agency that was founded by a woman whose kids went to school with my cousins in Piedmont--my Uncle knew her) then I felt pretty confident that adopting a baby from China would be a good plan B, with maybe open adoption domestically being something to also explore as a third choice.

But here's the thing. Now that I have cancer, I did wonder if it was going to be like my ability to get life insurance (because I didn't have any before, and yes, I did look into it, but I figured it was something to worry about after Matthew and I were married and after we had a child--I mean, who THOUGHT I was going to get breast cancer???!!). Anyway, when I called my State Farm Rep she said that she'd only be able to create a policy for me in 10 years--meaning once I've been cancer free for 10 years.

Turns out, China has a much harsher taken on your ability to be a parent if you have a cancer diagnosis.

Here are the list of health issues that prevent you from adopting a baby from China:

* Diagnosed with major depression or any other severe mental health concerns;
* Current diagnosis of depression or anxiety or currently on medication for depression or anxiety. Must be treatment and medication free for over 2 years.
* History of alcoholism within the last 10 years;
* Any major surgery or transplant within the last 10 years; contact our office with questions.
* One or both parents use a wheelchair or mobility aid; or missing limbs.
* No history of cancer
* No disease in infectious stage.
* If either parent has a severe disease which requires long-term treatment and which affects life expectancy, like malignant tumors, epilepsy. lupus, nephrosis, etc.
* No blindness. No deafness unless adopting a deaf child.
* BMI over 40. Use this calculator to determine your BMI

[taken from this website, China Adoption Agency]

I should note that they don't have it properly noted on this list--you can't adopt if you have a history of cancer--although the phrasing here makes it seem as if you cannot adopt if you have NO history of cancer--as if for some strange reason they were only placing children into adoptive families who have a cancer diagnosis--and yes, that's the pedantic English professor in me who is feeling very pissy with China right now.

This "no adopting if you have cancer attitude" was reinforced in this website as well, (click here)-- although it does note that every country has different rules and that the U.S. at least DOES let you adopt if you have cancer, unlike the U.K., where if you have the big "C" forget about ever adopting a child (click here).

So this weekend turned out to be another "post-chemo-hard-side-effects-cluster-fuck-in-my-head" kind of weekend. And boy, if I thought that mourning the loss of my hair was hard...this kind of loss really cut me to the quick.

Because it's not just that Matthew and I were set on adopting from China and now that's totally taken off the table and we're devastated. It's more than that. It's the fact that this back up plan--this plan I had allowed myself, FOR YEARS, to think of as not just a back-up plan but a VIABLE plan--because I always only wanted to have one from the womb (that was the motto--two kids but only one from the womb) meant that I always thought adoption was going to be the other route towards making a family. And I always thought that China was on the table--and that for a host of ethnic and heritage and cultural reasons it made sense.

So to have both the biological and the #1 back up plan be taken away...well, it sort've hit me smack in the face--the real loss of not being able to start a family with Matthew the way we had hoped. The way we had planned. It's not that I think it had to go marriage then bio baby and then adopted baby. It's not that I think that because we're now legal and married we need to have this family. It's that we really love each other and we've wanted to make a family together because we have a big space in our hearts ready for this kind of challenge and commitment and love. So the realization of my cancer diagnosis, all the treatments that are going to happen (chemo and surgery) and then the loss of fertility coupled with this new news about not being able to adopt from China? Lets just say I was sobbing non-stop for about 2 hours.

But you know, it's going to be OK. I mean, I don't exactly know how it's going to happen, but I believe that Matthew and I were meant to have a family--we were meant to be parents. And maybe it won't be the way we thought, but at the end of the day, I think however it happens, it will be great. I'm not trying to put a nice shiny spin on this--although it is perhaps my general "glass-half-full" attitude coming out. Or maybe it's the pragmatic side of me. It's not as if we can go and start adoption procedures right now. The first step is for me to get healthy. That's going to take some time. And as heartbreaking as it would be to have to wait 5 years--if an agency wanted a 5 year remission rate before starting paperwork--there's a part of me that understands the logic of that--you want to make sure you are placing a child into a home under the best possible circumstances.

And maybe it's my cockiness. But I can't imagine that at 46 I'll be any less high energy than I am now at 40. So if it's a baby at 46 then so be it. And if anyone has an opinion about this particular adoption agency (click here) I'm all ears.


  1. You say that "it's an agency that was founded by a woman whose kids went to school with my cousins in Piedmont--my Uncle knew her." Possibly you can ask your Uncle to try and hook it up for you. It seems like with your family connection, the agency could be lenient towards your case.

    Feel Better! :)
    Jeff Yamashita

  2. Do both of you have to be free and clear or cancer to adopt?