The further away from my treatment I get, the less I acknowledge, or even remember, so many dates that were so significant once upon a time. Like the day I learned I was in remission for the first time (December 22, 1998), or the day I went to a sperm bank with my mom to attempt to save some swimmers (February 15, 1999), or the day I woke from my coma after three-and-a-half weeks under (August 23, 1999).
The further out I get, it seems the major ones stay with me while the others require me to search my brain, as I just had to do to come up with the milestones and corresponding dates.
April 13, 1999 has stayed with me. That day a dozen years ago was the day of my first transplant. A transplant that I debated having for a month because I didn’t want to willingly choose a treatment option that would negate my fertility as there was a 99 per cent chance it would.
Ultimately, I decided to have the transplant to increase my chances of survival. One doc said I had a 70 per cent chance to get to five years with the transplant, 20 per cent to get to five without. It might seem like an easy call for some, but as the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family, I loved having little kids around, and certainly envisioned fathering my own branch of the family tree some day. This vision wasn’t something I was acutely aware of until the possibility of realizing it was in jeopardy.
My vision for a family made the transplant decision excruciating. I chose the transplant, but it came with baggage that burned inside: sterility for seven years.
The burning was subtle during many of those seven years; the absence of a life partner kept it from being top of mind. However when that changed, so did the burning.
Throughout this period of sterility my presence within the health system was consistent for various treatments, tests, and check-ups. I also continued my exploration into Eastern medicine. To use a line from Shali, a survivor buddy of mine, I always wanted East to meet West.
Through this exploration I had three specific encounters with different Eastern medicine practitioners. The issue of my fertility (or lack thereof) arose during these meetings and I explored it with them. As if they had conspired beforehand, they all instantly and identically said, “Oh, that will come back when you heal.”
First of all, the concept of “healing” is one that could use a few extra bucks. Secondly, this message of possibility—of hope—was one I didn’t get anywhere else. Thirdly, less than a year after I joined the gym and truly committed to rebuilding physically, my fertility began its return—just sayin’!
I don’t do much to celebrate most of these once-upon-a-time major milestones—a tweet and a few minutes to remember the day is about it. As Karen and I prepare for the birth of Baby #3 next week (C-section scheduled for Monday), I wanted to thank those three ladies representing the East for also representing possibility, and to again remind everyone that “1 per cent is not 0 per cent.”
Here’s to another dozen anniversaries!
Live life. Love life.