Cancer, and pregnancy/birth/child rearing process, either of which must be a big challenge in life. If combined, far more tougher. But in fact there are not small number of people who face that.
Gina M. Shaw, author of the book “Having Children After Cancer – How to Make Informed Choices Before and After Treatment and Build the Family of Your Dreams,” was diagnosed as having breast cancer in 2004, took treatment, adopted a son in 2006 when she’s 37 years old, and then gave birth to her another son in 2008 and a daughter in 2010. The book describes how cancer patients treat it, and to get pregnancy and have children with a plenty of scientific evidence, practical information, and various individual episodes of her own and cancer survivor interviewees and families.
When I found it and read through, I was so impressed and convinced this is exactly what I wanted to do. One of my interests is how to bridge general knowledge and individual’s life in a way which is actually useful and applicable, based on each one’s value, thought, feeling, resource and daily life. The book realized it combining her wide and deep knowledge on cancer and pregnancy, and her and other mothers’ own experiences, with compassion and imagination to readers with various situation.
There are various types of cancer and treatment for and risks of them. Chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, hormonal treatments etc., I don’t focus on details of treatment itself here though. With regard to pregnancy and birth, there are two concerns people may have: 1) Would becoming pregnant and giving birth to children after cancer treatment cause cancer recurrence? and 2) Would cancer treatment itself restrict or deprive fertility? For the first question, though there are limitations by research designs, “to date, most studies have shown that there’s no increased risk of cancer recurrence for women who get pregnant”(p.2). For the second question, influence of cancer treatment on fertility varies depending on place of cancer treatment on body, quantity and intensity of chemotherapy, hormone, and radiation, and the time of treatment and pregnancy. The book describes evidences of risks that are convinced so far for each treatment.
It is fortunate if you can naturally get pregnant and give birth after cancer treatment by yourself, but in case there are ways to preserve fertility. Each of these methods also has merit and demerit, benefit and risk. For men, it is simple: banking sperm. It is less invasive and doesn’t take so long time. On the other hand, for women it is more complex and difficult. Firstly, embryo freezing is a way with “the longest and best track record of success”(p.37) to preserve fertility. But if you don’t have a partner or can’t use banking sperm at the time before cancer treatment, or don’t admit the way because of your ethical or religious value, you can’t take this option. Second option is egg freezing, which is less complex and difficult than embryo freezing. Though it is still experimental, there is a new method of ovarian tissue freezing and transplants before treatment. This is considered when you don’t have enough time to wait for your fertility cycle because the cancer you have spreads early and needs immediate treatment. There are some successful cases of this method, but still uncertain risks remain to be investigated. If you can’t or may not have children by two of you and your partner, there are ways to get support from others such as embryo/egg/sperm donation, surrogate, and adoption.
“So, what should I choose?” Various factors interact. Time and physical factors: how emergent your cancer and treatment for, your age, your possible plan or time of pregnancy and birth. Economic factors such as your budget. Social factors such as understanding and support from your partner, family and friends. Also, ethical and religious factors may prevent some choice( for example, some one may not choose embryo freezing thinking that it would kill the possibility of life if she would never use it after treatment). Depending on combination of these factors, feasible and desirable choices each cancer patient actually can take vary. The biggest one I think is time factor. Some cancer rapids so early.
You’re making decisions about treatment with cisions of a window that’s rapidly closing, fearing that every day you delay allows the cancer to spread.(p.11)
Thus, you need to find which is desirable method of treatment and fertility preservation for you as quick as possible. However, without basic knowledge, framework to consider choices, and prepared mind it is difficult. For many of us, notice of cancer is an emotionally stressful and horrible news, isn’t it? Also it is a possible case that your doctor, specialist of cancer treatment, do not care about fertility and pregnancy issue so much, and do not show appropriate knowledge and options for you at diagnosis. Reading a book like this and prepare for uncertain future must be helpful.
Not only this one, there are many books that describe personal experience of cancer, or pregnancy and childcare. Many of them are moving ones but if it’s only one individual’s case, it may not relieve concerns of readers enough, such as “Well the author succeeded in treatment. But how about me? Wasn’t it just a rare, lucky case?” To estimate risk and benefit and applicability for ME, it is important to show recent scientific evidences and compare pros and cons with other options. However, medical textbooks or specialized books are too difficult or boring for lay people. Also, as I mentioned, cancer patients need to find necessary information within limited time. On that point, this books best-balanced both evidences and personal episodes of each case and reference information.
Of course, there is no 100% safe treatment, nor 100% successful pregnancy and birth (not only for cancer case). You only can do for uncertain darkness is just pray and throw a die, after estimating options and risks of each as much as possible. But this book will give you a courage. The author, and interviewee families tell you in what situation they were placed, how they communicated with doctors, partners, families and friends, and why they decided and chose one option at last. Even though it’s different life from yours, well-described episodes with evidences on this book must be helpful to make YOUR choice. I think this is how wisdom and love support lives.
|Having Children After Cancer: How to Make Informed Choices Before and After Treatment and Build the Family of Your Dreams|
|Gina M. Shaw Hope S. Rugo
Celestial Arts 2011-02-22