This Father’s Day is a particularly special one for my husband, Adam. His first Father’s Day was two years ago when our son, Theo, was nine months old. We celebrated with cards and balloons, blissfully unaware that our lives were about to be turned upside down. Just two weeks later, Adam was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer. We were shocked and devastated.
The first course of action was surgery, after which Adam was considered a “TBI” (traumatic brain injury) patient and was transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation facility. Because of the location of his tumor resection (the cerebellum, which affects coordination), Adam had to relearn almost all gross and fine motor functions, from walking to lifting a fork to his mouth, and everything in between.
While life had changed in an instant, one thing remained constant (and more important than ever): Adam’s love for Theo. It was a huge part of his motivation to recover. During his hospitalization, Adam would watch videos of Theo on repeat. He told his physical and occupational therapists that he had an infant son at home and they designed specific rehab activities just for him, like simulating the act of lifting Theo into a crib, so that Adam could work towards being able to care for him again.
When Adam returned home, he and Theo had a new special facet of their bond — they were now hitting developmental milestones around the same time. We joked that it was a race who would learn to walk first, throw a ball first, hold a crayon first, etc. Their parallels were taken to the next level after Adam started cancer treatment and they were also twinning with bald heads (he embraced their look and dressed up as Dr. Evil and Mini Me for Halloween :)).
But before Adam’s cancer treatment began, his care team warned us that due to the large amount of radiation and chemo Adam would receive, he may be infertile afterward. We loved being parents to Theo and had always wanted two children, but Adam’s diagnosis complicated that decision. Either way, we knew we at least wanted the option, so we went ahead and banked his sperm.
Throughout the next year, while Adam was undergoing treatment, the topic of family planning came up often. We imagined having baby #2 under different scenarios — best case, worst case, somewhere in between. In each case, we thought about how it would impact me, Adam, Theo, our finances, our happiness, etc. We talked about it with family, friends, Adam’s care team and others. I cannot count the hours spent and various thoughts we had. The irony of the situation is that as soon as Adam finished treatment, the decision became clear in an instant. In fact, it didn’t even feel like a decision — there was only one option: we were going to go for it. We felt like we had been given another chance at life and we weren’t about to waste it. We wanted to live it as fully as possible, with our dreams leading the way rather than being paralyzed in fear.
One of Adam’s nurses had told us about the Livestrong Fertility program, so we applied for their post-treatment IVF service (by the way, we could’ve applied for sperm banking services but we didn’t know about it at the time). I had such a positive experience with Livestrong — they were so proactive (reaching out to me as soon as I began the application process) and efficient (the turnaround time / approval process was almost instantaneous). The money we saved on services through Livestrong was important, especially since our income was down (Adam was on medical leave from work) and expenses were up (hello medical bills!), plus fertility treatments are pricey in the first place. But even more than the discount, what I really appreciate is that Livestrong has recognized a unique situation that young adult cancer patients face and has developed a supportive program in response.
So, fast forward to April of this year and we welcomed our perfect daughter, Halle. Like I said, Father’s Day 2020 is a special one for Adam. Not only is it his first with both Theo AND Halle, but June marks two years since his diagnosis and one year since he finished treatment, so there is A LOT to celebrate! We are so grateful we had the chance to complete our family and we thank Livestrong for playing a part in that. We look forward to Adam making many more memories with our kids and to celebrating Father’s Day for years to come!
-Claire Schoen, caregiver
Making More Father’s Days Possible Through Livestrong Fertility was originally published in Livestrong Voices on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.