Cancer Forced Me To Take An Unlikely Path To Parenthood

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The following is a guest post by Alice K. Crisci

When I met my son for the first time his eyes were wide
open. His little eyes locked onto mine with such love and intensity, I knew
then the concept of “my life would never be the same” was now a reality. My
heart exploded with love, gratitude and joy, permanently captured by this 7
pound squishy baby with such long hair it could cover those soulful eyes of
his. 

Everyone said its indescribable love and they were right. No
words can do justice for how he penetrated every cell in my body with love in a
single instant. 

I knew then he knew me. He knew my heart beating just as he
knew his own. He knew my voice. He knew we belonged to each other. He was at
peace naked against my reconstructed chest, so calm, which I learned quickly,
is innate to his personality. 

It wasn’t the first time in my 30’s that I had the thought “my
life will never be the same,” but it was the first time I was ecstatic and
peaceful about the sentiment. 

The first time was almost six years prior when I learned in
a three minute phone call that I had breast cancer. 31 years old and life as I knew
it paused indefinitely. Three weeks later, my breast surgeon encouraged me to
freeze my eggs. 

It was then I wept. I wept not for fear cancer would kill
me. I wept for fear cancer would take the future I always wanted . . . as a
mother. 

My mama bear instinct kicked in immediately and I scheduled
the first available consultation to discuss my fertility preservation options.
Turned out freezing embryos was a much safer bet at the time and I wasn’t
willing to put money, literally, on a 2-3% chance that unfertilized eggs would
produce the child I knew I was destined to have. 

And a bet it was. I am not a gambler. I don’t even play
slots when I visit Vegas. Yet, I was placing a $20,000 bet for a future as a
mom on my American Express card. Insurance refused to cover the procedure even
though infertility was a likely side effect of the cancer treatment I was
facing.  

After processing my payment, the business manager handed me
a catalog of sperm donors. To freeze embryos, you need to fertilize your eggs
with sperm and my boyfriend, at the time, made the painful, but brave
acknowledgement that we didn’t have a future together.  

All I could see as I flipped through a printed catalog from
the California Cryobank were stats like I was recruiting a college basketball team: 

  • 6’1”, Italian, Athletic, Full Profile, Economics.
  • 5’10” Dutch, Musical, Partial Profile, Medical School.
  • 5’9” Jewish, High SAT scores, Full Profile, Law School. 

Over 300 donors at the time. 

My friend Jen encouraged me to have fun with it. All I
knew was I had a mere five days to pick 50% of my future child’s genetic
makeup, a decision that felt more weighty than anything I ever considered in my
life. 

In the end, a 5’8” donor with his Spanish, Mexican and
French heritage, a heartfelt written essay that matched my outlook in life,
book smarts, athleticism, two very, musically talented siblings, tall uncles
and a spotless medical history for three generations captured me so fully, I
could picture my children. I pictured the olive skin, the dark, curly hair. I
could practically hear the giggles emitting from this future. And with 14
frozen embryos, I felt sure my vision would come true.

That vision pulled me through such darkness, it was the only
thing giving me the will to live through chemo, medical menopause and the
ensuing chemical depression I tale spun into with my ovaries shut off, poison
cursing through my veins and my central nervous system obliterated by
post-traumatic stress. 

That vision also gave me the will to build a charity called
Fertile Action to help others touched by cancer become moms. Joel Barker is quoted as saying,
“Vision and action can change the world.” For young adults with cancer a vision
as a mother or father can give them the fighting action they need to change
their world of cancer from victim to survivor. 

As the now infamous Stupid Cancer charity says, “We Get Busy Living,” and Fertile Action makes sure that survivors get busy living
as moms and dads. 

I named my son Dante because it means enduring in Italian –
he and I endured so much to get to become mother and son. He was conceived a
few weeks into my cancer diagnosis, frozen for five years as a day two embryo
and I heard his heartbeat on my five year cancerversary. This time weeping in
joy and gratitude for life – his life . . .  the very idea of that life
gave birth to Fertile Action while his development was suspended in time. 

Today, he is almost 8-months-old – A smiling, calm, happy,
healthy bundle of joy who loves to laugh and has an incredible vocabulary of
sounds. He loves his books and is far more excited about walking than crawling.
I thank him each night before bed for picking me to be his mom and for being
the catalyst behind the vision of my life unfolding.  

On June 7, 2014, we honor another mom whose visionary
ways are helping women worldwide be empowered through her words, deeds and
songs. We are presenting Ms. Alecia “P!nk” Moore with our highest honor at an
intimate luncheon also featuring Christina Applegate, Kate Beckinsale and
Brooke Burke, who was kind enough to let me write this guest blog for ModernMom. 

For tax-deductible tickets, RSVP info@fertileaction.org or
visit www.fertileaction.org/pink for
more details. And if those fabulous celebrities aren’t encouragement enough,
Dante will also be in attendance :)

Alice Crisci is the Government Affairs Liaison and Patient
Advocate for the California Cryobank and the founder of Fertile Action. She is
the author of “Too Young for This,” and a regular columnist for HyperVocal.com and the
Huffington Post. 

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