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The Road to Parenthood After Cancer

Young adult cancer survivors face an uncertain path to parenthood-here is one story.

For years we endured costly, unsuccessful fertility treatments in our attempt to fight against biology. We watched as family and close friends had their first, second, and then third children. In early 2010 we opted for one last-ditch effort before we were to move across the country for graduate school. Painful treatments, daily invasive ultrasounds, signs of hope, devastating losses, and “educated guesses” became routine for us. We had tried everything we could afford, and we were unsuccessful, and broke.


We would need a small nest egg to even think of starting the adoption process. Getting the required home study cost more than we had on hand, so we figured we’d finish school, work for a while until the money was saved, and then start the process of adoption. Then, in late 2011, we felt like we needed to try—that we needed to open the door, fully expecting that we would wait years before a child came to us. With a leap of faith, we submitted a grant request to The Samfund, a foundation that provides financial assistance to young adult cancer survivors, to cover the cost of an adoption home study. In late 2011 we were notified that our application had been approved. Receiving a Samfund grant forever changed our lives.


Throughout 2012 we worked with an adoption agency to complete the home study and application process. We knew that the process was complicated but we couldn’t anticipate how invasive it would feel. It was like having every nook and cranny of our entire lives laid out before us, and then inviting a panel of strangers to come in and judge us, based on some arbitrary guidelines. There were times we felt like giving up, moments where Julie questioned how this could be worse than chemo, hours of utter despair, thinking it was a fool’s errand and we should grieve the loss and try to move on.


In early 2013 we joined the list of other potential parents waiting to be selected by a birth parent. The agency we used had a sliding scale for fees—the only way we could afford an adoption. The average wait for a placement is more than 3 years, so we settled in for the long haul, but in under a year, our adoption caseworker informed us a birth mother wanted to meet us.


Just 18 days after meeting the birth mother, our son was born. There are not adequate names for the emotions we felt that day. We were sure this beautiful child was meant to be ours. Every day since has been a range of unnamable emotions. One thing is certain, it has always felt right.

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