The time has come to address the baby issue.
Or rather, I am making myself find the time in amongst all the organising for Victorious Festival, the yarnbombing of the tank, the lengthy and over complicated procedure of applying for full charity status for FYC, the requirement to sort out a year’s worth of charity accounts and the fact the hall and landing STILL need decorating.
So why is my baby an issue?
Because some people think I shouldn’t be having her.
Over the past 18 months I’ve heard a variety of explanations for this, ranging from the ‘Are you mad’ type of comments to the more complex but no less offensive ‘But you might get cancer again’ theories. I’ve heard how my life is different now, how it is irresponsible of me to bring another child into this world when I could die and leave it without a mother, how I already have children so it shouldn’t matter to me, how I should just do the chemo and give up on the baby idea – like having a child with Nate was just an idea we cooked up on a drunken Saturday evening as a dare, and we should probably just grow up and accept that it’s not really practical now, in the big adult post-cancer world.
I would just take a moment here to acknowledge that the vast majority of people I know have been very supportive, are very excited, and respect my ability to make decisions for myself. I don’t think I need to bother listing my academic achievements here to demonstrate that I have a brain and have proved to a measurable standard that I can use it. Anyone who was near me – or anyone who was reading this blog – at the time I had to make the decision between Nate and I having a child or me having chemo will know I didn’t just toss a coin in a drunken stupor and then go ‘Sod the chemo, I’ll take the baby instead, let’s do this shit!’
It was a long and painful decision; I researched thoroughly, I spoke to specialists, I spoke to other cancer patients, I considered the children I already have, I considered Nate, and I considered me. It wasn’t just the fact that chemo would have almost certainly meant that I could never have another child that made me decide not to do it. It didn’t feel right for many other reasons, most of them related to current research about my tumour type and future prognosis. From what I can gather, the baby naysayers have very little understanding – or personal experience – of any of this.
I might die. The cancer might still be lurking inside me. It might spread to elsewhere in my body and give me the death sentence every single cancer patient dreads: a stage four diagnosis. I might get a recurrence of the original cancer. I might get an entirely new breast cancer in the other breast.
I might also get hit by a bus. I might fall down the stairs and break my neck. I might impale myself on a barbecue fork.
Of course, all these things can happen to anyone, not just cancer patients. And – newsflash – cancer can happen to anyone too. So if that’s going to be the reason I shouldn’t have another child, then no one should have any children ever.
I might NOT have a recurrence. I might NOT end up with a stage four diagnosis. I might NOT get hit by a bus tomorrow… Despite the insistence of clairvoyants and religious nuts, NO ONE KNOWS WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE. The exact moment in time you existed in when you started reading this sentence has already ended by the time you reach the full stop. I’m not going to launch into a deep philosophical debate about the meaning of life and existence here, but so long as I am alive, so long as there is breath in my body, so long as I have the capacity to think, I will make the decisions that I believe are best for me, my children and my husband. I did not fight cancer so I could live in absolute terror of it coming back. I did not fight it so I could avoid doing what I had wanted to do in life ‘just in case’. And I did not fight it so I could spend a second worrying about the judgemental opinions of others.
This is my daughter at 20 weeks:
She was the last possible chance. I had an oncologist appointment in May and if I wasn’t pregnant, they would have wanted me to start taking the medication I’ll be on for the next ten years – a drug which suppresses the production of female hormones and would have meant the end to Nate and I having the baby we wanted. I will start taking that medication 2 weeks after she’s born and won’t stop til 2 weeks after her tenth birthday. Holly – who is thrilled to finally be getting a sister after 8 years of her brothers – will be 26 by then. Sami and Zaki will be teenage boys, which is something I can’t envisage. Like every parent, I hope to see all these things. Like any parent, I may not. And while living with the chance of a possible recurrence or spread might be greater for me than the woman who hasn’t had breast cancer, it’s NOT a certainty. In fact, there is more chance I will be fine than not where cancer is concerned, but I can’t make any guesses about buses and stairs and neither can anyone else…