March 14th is always an easy day for me to remember. It is my late grandfather’s birthday. Also, the birthday of my niece. But it is also one of two important dates in my life, the first of two times I became a father.
I will not speak for other cancer patients or survivors, but for me, I had three concerns once I was diagnosed. The first and most important, I did not want to die. Second, I did not want to lose my hair. And finally, I did not want to lose my ability to have children.
Speaking now as a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor, back as late as the early 1990’s, mustragen was a popular component in a chemotherapy cocktail to give remission to Hodgkin’s patients. Along with it being a deadly poison used by monsters such as Sadaam Hussein to kill his people, it was also very effective against Hodgkin’s. Along with its toxicity, it was known to cause sterility in men. In fact, just as I completed my 8th cycle, a study had been released stating that sterility was likely after the 6th cycle. Dammit. This study came out 3 months too late for me.
Hodgkin’s is a blood cancer, though considered rare, effects two groups of people more often than others, younger ages, and older ages. Middle aged people can develop Hodgkin’s but it is more likely to be diagnosed in the other two groups. And for the younger group, fertility is a real concern. And for many women, the concern is even more dire, as some are often diagnosed when they are pregnant. And just with any other cancer, decisions need to be made in the best interest of not just the patient, but the baby.
As I said, for me, pre-testing before I began my chemo, it was determined that any ability I had to get someone pregnant, was slim, most likely caused by the stress I was under, so I did not take the option of storing sperm before I began treatment. And of course, once treatment was done, so were my chances of having a biological child.
I have written about my decisions since that discovery in past posts, and if you have any questions and do not wish to go through the archives, please feel free to ask or comment. But the truth is, decades later, there are new opportunities to more accurately determine and often reverse sterility.
But in my case, adoption was the best option for me. And as far as adoption was concerned, it was a matter of deciding open or closed, domestic or international. In my case, and with my health history, international, China in particular, actually offered me the best opportunity of becoming a father. China would not discriminate against me, as many agencies in the United States had done.
I completed all the paperwork. I went through all the processes required by both China and the US. And thirteen years ago, on this date, my oldest daughter was placed in my arms. I will celebrate another anniversary for my younger daughter in a couple of months.
There is plenty of help out there to answer and guide cancer patients in all areas of care, during treatment and post treatment. It is the hope of “Paul’s Heart”, that this blog is one of the tools that will inspire and inform that there is not only life after cancer, but a whole lot more. Perhaps not the way we dreamed about, but it is still a good thing.