I met my now lifelong mate, wife and love in 2006. We were introduced by a mutual friend, lived two hours apart, and first met at a church service where we were both urged to join our friend and her family. We each arrived, sitting across the table, at opposite ends, we had little conversation and a few curious glances in the other’s direction. After the family dinner in the church hall, we all drove back to their home, and finally had time to get acquainted.
She was funny, so funny. She had a smile that could unburden the masses. She was coy, yet blunt, playful but shy. I was drawn in. Over the next forty-eight hours just shopping, hanging out, and talking…talking…talking…. Some embers started to glow about us.
I was going through a painful divorce, and she had suffered a breakup over a year ago. Dial that back- she suffered a breakup after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy.
I had seen movies like this, with women scurrying away to avoid exposure to illness. A woman could not be in love if she could leave her mate in her greatest hour of need. I felt for her. And even though she had completed treatment, looked great, and had a phenomenal sense of humor, this experience had cut some major insecurities deep in her soul. It didn’t even weigh into my immediate attraction. Her history did not phase me, nor spook me. I found that I wanted reassurance that everything that could be done was being done. I knew that first week that I wanted her in my life for years to come.
Now, a diagnosis of breast cancer at age 32 is nothing to sneeze at- and I asked about her family history, were there others with breast cancer? There were 2 women on her mother’s side. Then I looked into Breast Cancer gene testing. $4000 later, we found out she had the breast cancer gene, BRCA1. Up to that point, she had a lumpectomy, node biopsy, radiation and chemo; all before we met. With this new information, she had an 80% likelihood of breast cancer recurrence, either side, and a 30% chance of ovarian cancer. So- to spare her life- we decided together it all had to go.
She had bilateral mastectomies- as I kissed goodbye to her buxom chest- and started reconstruction at the same time. Expanders were put under the muscle to make space for the implants. But the problem was the irradiated skin trauma from years back, and the left side wouldn’t cooperate, until it bust right through the skin, oozing out while we were in Disneyland. Memorable! The plastic surgeon tried to close it up again- 3 times. Nope. So her unhealed wound needed dressing every day, and a month’s worth of hyperbaric treatment. Eventually it closed with a beautiful scar of character. She decided one implant was enough, and no more surgery. I supported her 150%.
In addition to the breast surgeries, she had to have her uterus, tubes, and ovaries removed. A 30% risk of ovarian cancer is a 30% risk of death in many cases. We couldn’t risk that. So, as her plumbing was all removed, so was her chance at being the dutiful Christian Latina daughter. Her mom used to say “I only can be certain it is my grandchild if it comes out of you.” Guilt guilt guilt. Her mom died 2 years ago, and she still feels like she failed her.
But wait! What about my pelvis???? We could use your brother’s sperm, and with In Vitro we could still have “our” baby. And that was the plan. Until this year when they thought I might have ovarian cancer. So, out with my plumbing. Childbirth will happen here no more. I was cancer free, taking our strokes where we can get them.
We have lost hope on having our own; I didn’t get a chance to freeze my eggs because I needed the surgery urgently. So, now we are both healthy, but no children. 2 friends have offered themselves for surrogacy. But then we met a lesbian couple’s family as they invited us for dinner.
Turns out, this couple now in their 60’s, are the VERY FIRST lesbian couple in California to adopt a child. The bar-setters. The rule breakers. The beginning of something so beautiful. At their home, we met most of the children. 10 in total. They are all handicapped or special in some way, even one of their daughters is at home with 24 hour nursing as she is on a ventilator.
That night we realized our dream of a family is far from extinguished, and in one evening with a wonderful family, hope sprung anew.