March 30, 2021
Sarcoma survivor: Reclaiming hope led to my first pregnancy
BY Nicole Body
It wasn’t until I attended a relative’s socially distanced birthday party last spring that I really let myself consider the possibility of becoming a mom. My adorable nephew, Easton, was turning a year old. And about halfway through the celebration, my husband, Wes, caught my eye, and mouthed, “I want one.”
My heart clenched, because secretly, I did, too. The problem was, I didn’t know if I could give that to him.
Two years earlier, I’d finished treatment for stage III undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma at MD Anderson. And while it had left me blessedly cancer-free, tests done immediately afterward showed I’d also lost about 75% of my follicles — or most of my ability to conceive a child naturally.
My sarcoma diagnosis led to a change in family plans
Wes and I had always said we’d discuss having kids about 3 to 5 years into our marriage. That plan got derailed initially by my sarcoma diagnosis. At the time, I was only 27, and we’d just celebrated our third anniversary. So, we really hadn’t had a chance to talk it over.
Honestly, babies weren’t even on our radar yet, back then. But my medical oncologist, Dr. Anthony Conley, suggested we meet with oncofertility specialist Dr. Terri Woodard to discuss fertility preservation before I started treatment.
Dr. Woodard was so gracious. She laid out the options available to us and explained what each one entailed. The only one we were interested in, though — harvesting and freezing my eggs — wasn’t really doable. My cancer was already so advanced by then, I needed to start chemotherapy right away. There simply wasn’t enough time for anything else.
Husband’s gentle encouragement helped me reclaim a dream
I knew going in that chemotherapy might cause infertility, either temporarily or permanently. So, when tests confirmed that natural conception was no longer likely, I tried to make my peace with that. Instead of dwelling on what Wes and I didn’t have, I focused on what we did have: a wonderful marriage and a beautiful life together. I developed a new appreciation for simple pleasures, started celebrating more milestones, and stopped sweating the small stuff. For a while, that was enough.
Then, at my nephew’s birthday party, I realized I really did want children. I’d just been suppressing that desire to protect myself from further heartache. I also didn’t want to appear greedy or ungrateful — as if surviving cancer wasn’t enough.
Fortunately, my sweet husband was very encouraging. “Let’s go get tested again,” he said, noting we’d already waited the recommended two years after finishing treatment before looking into it. “I’m with you. We’ll get the results, check out our options and go from there.”
I was almost afraid to hope. But his words reminded me that that I could be grateful for what I already had and still have other dreams. And that it’s OK to risk disappointment in reaching for them.
The good news that left us speechless after I overcame sarcoma
We called Dr. Woodard and made plans to get retested. When we heard back from her a couple of weeks later, she had some surprising news.
“Your follicles have ‘woken up,’” she said. “You have triple the number you had two years ago. And though your anti-Mülleirian hormone (AMH) level is still low, there’s at least a chance that you could become pregnant naturally.”
Wes and I were stunned. True, we had already learned that anything was possible. Overcoming cancer after a stage III sarcoma diagnosis in 2018 had taught us that. I also knew that the body could heal itself, because I’d watched my own recover from both chemotherapy and surgery. But this development left us truly speechless.
The best kind of surprise
We met with my oncologist, my primary care provider, and my local Ob/Gyn. Everyone gave us the green light to try for a baby.
After the first month, I excitedly took a pregnancy test. It showed only one pink line, indicating I wasn’t pregnant. That was disappointing, but OK. After all, it had only been a month, and I was grateful for even the chance to conceive. I set it down and went to tell Wes. I loved my life with him, no matter what happened next.
About five minutes later, I realized I’d left the pregnancy test sitting in the bathroom. So, I got up to throw it away. But when I looked at it again, there were two pink lines, indicating a positive result.
“Wes!” I shouted from upstairs. “Is this real? Are there two lines? Is this really happening?”
Additional testing confirmed the results. Today, I’m nearly eight months pregnant with our first child: our little miracle baby, Aurora Elizabeth. She’s due in early May.
Never give up hope
We chose our daughter’s name because it evokes the dawning of a new day, and heralds a brand new chapter in our lives as a family.
That seems particularly appropriate since Wes urged me not to give up on my dreams. I’m so glad he did — and that I took his advice. Because I've learned just as much from the things that fell through as I have from the things that worked out. And I think taking chances based on love is what life is all about.
We’ve only got one shot at this life. One. That’s it. So, I’m glad I took a chance by getting back in the game. If I hadn’t gone to MD Anderson, I might not have even had it to begin with. And if I hadn’t gotten retested, I might not have been able to experience this.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
It’s OK to risk disappointment.