Damon and I are chatting and catching up in the kitchen as Damon puts the final touches on dinner—he’s been awesome about picking up more of the cooking duties since my “morning” sickness and fatigue kicked in. Oscar is literally dangling from the hem of my skirt, laughing as he swings and twirls from side to side, hanging on to the fabric. I’m wrinkling my nose up at the eggplant Damon just brought in from the grill—I normally love it, but my pregnant belly isn’t so keen. I’ll try some anyway because it was made with love. I sit on the floor to tickle Oscar before dinner hits the table, and he shines. He just shines.
We have so much for which to be grateful. Of that, there is no doubt.
The fall before my husband and I met, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Shortly thereafter, I had what’s called a cold knife conization to remove the cancerous tissue.
As I woke up in recovery (thankfully lucid enough to push away the proffered saltines, pointing to my allergy bracelet), my fabulous doctor came in to see me. With characteristic frankness, she told me that the lab tests on the excised tissue would give us confirmation in another week or so, but that the surgery itself went great and I would be able to have children in the future, no problem.
I burst into tears of relief.
Which is weird because I didn’t want children. Or I thought I didn’t. Or I had accepted the fact that I never would.
But my body’s reaction, those tears, told a different story. They changed my life. The weeks that followed brought tumultuous change—some good, some less-than-pleasant, all necessary. I knew my life needed to change. I didn’t know if I would ever have children, but I knew that I didn’t want to be living a life in which I knew having a family would not be an option.
Subsequent lab results and follow-up tests showed that I continued to be cancer free, and I found that I didn’t want to “date” anymore or try to shoe-horn myself into someone else’s life. Antoine de St. Exupery once said, “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward in the same direction.” That’s what I wanted. I signed up for an online dating service on a whim, and I met Damon. Less than a year later, we were engaged.
That next winter, a follow-up test showed positive for cervical cancer again. I’m so glad Damon was there with me. We once again did the biopsy and confirmed the diagnosis. And once again, I had surgery to remove the affected tissue.
And once again, it was successful. I’ve been cancer-free ever since, about two years now. Our oncologist told us when the second diagnosis came that if we wanted to have children, we might want to “prioritize it,” not put it off. There’s a chance the cancer could return, and a third bout might require different handling, to put it gently.
Damon and I agreed on two things. First, we both very much wanted a family. Second, we did not want to have fear rule our decisions, and neither did we want to postpone something we both wanted so much. We talked, a lot. We planned for our wedding. We celebrated our good fortune and good health with breathless gratitude.
Within a month of returning from our honeymoon, we discovered we were pregnant with Oscar. I often marvel that if I had never been diagnosed with cervical cancer, I might never have met Damon, for whom there are not enough superlatives in the world (superlatives, Damon, not expletives 🙂 ). If I hadn’t been diagnosed a second time, Oscar might not be here today. And suffice to say, we would probably not be expecting baby number two.
I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I am so glad that I had cancer. I’m not ever one to dally with regret, but to think of so much goodness coming from something so frightening, my head just reels.
Now dinner is ready. Oscar wears his enthusiasm for food all over his face (literally). I try the eggplant, compliment the flavor, then predictably focus on the salad instead (sorry, Damon!). Damon laughs, his face split into a huge shining grin, and tells me about the beer he’s drinking. I realize he shines just like Oscar, and vice versa. All that glow, illuminating our meal.