Motherhood After Breast Cancer: Pregnancy

Tonight as we were chowing down on burgers and shakes at the Choo Choo (our favorite birthday restaurant), Lily asked me to tell the story about the day that she was born.

My due date was November 20th, although when I first had gotten pregnant, I calculated my due date to be Nov. 10th. When I woke up on Nov. 5 (I always say my due date was more accurate than the one my doctor gave me) I started to feel cramps. I called my mom, Ed at work, and my doctor’s office in that order. Since I already had a doctor’s appointment at 11:00, the nurse told me I could wait until then to come in. I had told Ed to come home from work so he could drive me to the doctor’s office. It was a beautiful fall morning, and Ed spent the time waiting to rake the leaves into the street for the leaf truck. I usually went to doctor’s appointments by myself, but this time, I didn’t go home after my appointment. The doctor told me I was going to have a baby that day!

I’ve always thought of both of my daughters as little miracles from God. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get pregnant and have children after undergoing chemotherapy and taking Tamoxifen at such a young age. Many young women are pushed into menopause or become infertile due to cancer treatments. Before Ed and I got married, we talked about the possibility of adoption if we weren’t able to have children.

So it was unbelievable to me when it took only about three or four months for me to become pregnant with both Lily and Emmy. I was also quite fortunate to have healthy and happy pregnancies. Being pregnant was a wonderful experience for me, and the morning sickness I felt was nothing compared to the sickness of chemotherapy. My hair grew thicker instead of falling out and I was gaining weight due to a healthy baby growing inside of me. Ed and I felt truly blessed.

As we watch both our girls growing before our eyes, and celebrated Lily’s 11th birthday today, we still feel extremely blessed to be the parents of our miracle babies. Because as you know, our girls will always be our babies even as we celebrate birthdays and watch our little girls grow up.

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Discovered in a Drawer

wig

I really don’t know why I keep this thing; this mop of hair that insurance paid for and that I hated from the moment I put it on my head. I wanted a fun blond wig, but the hairdresser thought I should match my natural, mousy color. I thought it would be fun to have a shoulder length bob, but my mom thought I should match my current short hairstyle. So I ended up with a wig that wasn’t really my choice. When I started running my fingers through my hair and it drifted through my fingers, falling to the ground, I began to wear hats. My favorite was a baseball cap I bought at Princeton when I visited my sister there.

Princeton hat
After my first chemo treatment, summer of ’96

[Tweet “I hated that mousy brown wig the moment I put it on my head. #breastcancer #youngsurvivor”]

While I was teaching, I wore dressier hats. But I never wore my wig, and I never took my hat off while I was teaching second grade. My students knew why I was wearing hats, and as 7 and 8 year olds, they accepted it easily and without many questions. To them, my hat was a part of me. I, however, dreamed of a time when hair would once again brush my cheeks as I leaned forward; to a time when I could run my fingers through my hair again.

breast cancer hat
A picture drawn by a student

The chemo nurses told me about wig burning parties some of their patients had had when their hair started to grow again. I really didn’t feel like burning a wig I never wore. It would have been a useless gesture. (I was also never going to burn my beloved Princeton cap!) And so the wig was thrown up on a closet shelf, moved around a few times, and came with me to a couple of apartments before my husband and I bought a house. In the back of my mind, I kept the wig in case I needed it again. But if I hadn’t worn it the first time, would I really wear it a second time? My wig finally ended up in my top dresser drawer among spare shoelaces and fuzzy sock-slippers, buried away and forgotten.

straw hat
On a field trip with my students

Forgotten, that is, until Emmy rediscovered my wig. As any eight year old would do, Emmy tried it on for size and then kept it on. She began walking around the house saying in a deep voice, “I’m Mommy!” She even wore it outside when she was playing with the neighbors.

My expensive wig, reduced to a plaything. Am I okay with that? Yes, I am. After 19 years, I’m pretty sure I won’t need it again. If I ever do lose my hair to chemo, I’m getting a wig that I choose. Maybe it’ll even be pink.

Maybe it'll even be pink.
Maybe it’ll even be pink.

I started this post last week for the prompt “discovery,” but I didn’t finish it in time. Since October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’m using this as my fall post. Link up your Fall post below, and be sure to visit our other Spinners!



Spin Cycle at Second Blooming
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