Follow Us Here:

Cancer Knowledge Network

Cancer Knowledge Network and Current Oncology are proudly published by Multimed Inc.
0
Menu
The Oncologist, the Patient and CKN — Sharing Knowledge

The Baby Battle: The Fight With Fertility

by Timothy W. Buckland and Savanna Buckland

Diagnosis

One of the most universal rights of any person is the ability to have children. A week before my 18th birthday, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer and lost this ability as did my future wife. After being diagnosed and told about the decrease in fertility that may occur from a necessary surgery, I was persuaded to bank my sperm. I was only given a couple of days between this initial consult and my surgery so things had to move quickly. In fact, I would not receive the results of the sperm test until after my surgery. At the time, that was fine; who really cared about banking sperm when my life was on the line?

The surgery went well, the mass was removed and there was no indication of the disease spreading. When I went to see the urological surgeon, he had a solemn look on his face and I was thinking that the disease had spread. His first words were “the surgery went well but…”; my heart stopped on that but, in fact the whole world stopped;  “… your sperm were unviable.” Both my Mom and I exhaled at the same time, well that’s not so bad. Everything was moving so fast that this was the least of my concerns at the time. In fact, this was the last time it was ever brought up with anyone on my healthcare team and that was just fine with me.

Relationship

A year after this diagnosis, I met a wonderful woman who many years later ended up becoming my wife. Cancer itself was an incredibly difficult subject to bring up let alone my infertility. It took a number of months to bring up my diagnosis and a number of years to bring up my infertility. Unfortunately for us, I was diagnosed a second time at 21 and forced to deal with survival all over again. This placed fertility on the back burner for both of us.

“When my boyfriend was diagnosed with cancer, fertility was the furthest thing from my mind. Doctor’s appointments, surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, then more imaging and follow up visits kept us busy and kept my focus on survival. Day by day. Our relationship survived the trials of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, not once having discussed my boyfriend’s infertility.”

Emotionally

As I survived this second bout with the disease and was finally allowed to move on with my life, I soon discovered that I had never really dealt with the emotional burden of infertility. This was not only difficult emotionally but grew to strain our relationship.

“During our engagement we talked very little about fertility. We both wanted kids, we discussed adoption vs. in vitro fertilization but these were very hard topics. My husband felt guilty for not being able to have kids. I felt guilty for wanting kids. We turned our focus to building a life for just the two of us.”

As I have recently finished university and have moved into a stable position, we have begun to focus on having children. This can be a very difficult topic for me and my reactions fluctuate depending on the day. Some days I am fine; I have no problem discussing the future; I realize that these are the cards we are dealt.

“Some days we can sit on the couch and pick out baby names together. On these days I get excited, start researching different adoption agencies and look at the paperwork that needs to be completed.”

Other days, I feel like I have placed this giant burden on us; my cancer has taken so much and left us in this enormous hole.

“Other days he is withdrawn and impatient with my questions about kids. On these days I feel like we are never going to have kids. I understand that couples argue about when the best time to start a family is. However, I feel that I have no right to argue with him about fears surrounding changing a life that he fought so hard for. This is where my guilt returns.”

Financially

Emotions aside, adoptions are incredibly expensive and time consuming. As a recent graduate and home owner; I never really thought that starting a family would take a $10,000 down payment.

“I had no idea that an open adoption was such a huge expense. It seems so unfair that we would have to pay so much up front for a child and then have the expenses of raising the child after. When is the best time to have a stranger take a magnifying glass to your life and scrutinize your finances, beliefs, relationships and home? Why do we have to go through this when other couples can just have a child?”

Looking Back

If I could change one thing about my experience; I would definitely bring up fertility earlier and with my healthcare team. It is important to be honest with them, yourself and the situation.

Going through cancer, losing my ability to have children and dealing with this financial burden has been a struggle. However, this is the hand we have been dealt and at the end of the day; we have been through worse and can make it through this.

 


 

Timothy Buckland is a 26 year old two time testicular cancer survivor.  He recently completed his Master’s degree in Biochemistry where he studied pro-growth signalling in breast cancer.  He has also begun working at the Canadian Cancer Society as a Revenue Development Coordinator.

 


 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Baby Battle: The Fight With Fertility

  1. Catherine says:

    Thank you for this perspective. Many women at our site have discussed their fertility challenges, but we haven’t had a male perspective. It’s quite similar to what the women have expressed – I guess being infertile on either side of a partnership is equally as challenging. Good luck as you navigate this hurdle.

    • Tim says:

      Hi Catherine,

      Thank you for responding to our article. As we move further from my diagnosis and see our friends and family members starting families it has only now begun to hit home. I personally feel through speaking with other survivors, that fertility loss is initially more tragic for females as society dictates a maternal need. I wasn’t concerned with my own fertility until much later, when I was married and financially stable enough to have a family. It is an ongoing struggle for us but as I mentioned in the article something we must be able to live with.

      Thanks again Catherine,

      Tim

  2. Hello Timothy,
    You are a very brave young man. You may be interested in knowing about our CD “The Colour’s Coming Back”. It’s an album of meaningful, original songs for people living with cancer and their families and friends – the first of its kind in Canada and probably worldwide. Most of the songs are based on true stories. Each song conveys a healing message.(I think you would like the one called,”A Taste for Life”.) In addition to inspiring people with our music, our non-profit foundation is supporting cancer prevention, research, treatment and wellness through proceeds from the CD. Please visit our website and contact me if you are interested in our project.
    Best regards,
    Sharon

    • Tim says:

      Hi Sharon,

      Thank you for your reply. I love to hear about Canadian non-profits! Sorry for taking so long to reply, I tried looking up the site and couldn’t get to the right place. Would you be able to send it to me at twb@ualberta.ca? Thanks and I will talk to you later.

      Tim

  3. Jennifer says:

    Hi Tim,
    I had a similar experience with urgency for treatment leaving no time for possible fertilization. I am wondering whether or not there could be a way to make fertilization a faster process? Or possibly the option of providing a pre-treatment that wouldn’t knock fertility right out the park from the beginning.
    My husband and I are also struggling with whether or not to start a family and if so, how to go about doing that. Adoption is so expensive and so is egg donors/IVF. Not only is there a financial burden, but there is also the concerns of whether or not we are going to be around and how much energy we will have to raise a child/children?
    I don’t know about you, but I am not sure where to go to get advice/talk about this particular decision.
    I am glad that I read your article as so far, I have not been able to connect with someone who has gone through cancer without children, but is still wanting to have children after treatment and facing the same struggles. Thank you for writing and sharing.

    • Tim says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for your response, even though it’s been a while since I wrote that not a whole lot has changed. I believe there are a large number of us out there looking for answers and I personally have had issues finding them. One place you can look however (it might be how you found this article) is through the OncoFertility resource here at Cancer Knowledge Network. At the very least it is a great place to start regarding contacting a fertility specialist.

      Thanks again for your comments, I hope thing work out in your favour.

      Tim

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *