The Alliance Blog

I’m Not Grateful for All of it, but I am Grateful for What I Learned

I’m Not Grateful for All of it, but I am Grateful for What I Learned - blog post image

Jeannine Canino Bieda – My name is Jeannine and I live in the Chicago area with my husband of 9 years. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36 with no family history, which changed the course of my life. I decided to share my story via social media to not only help me heal, but to hopefully save a life or two. I have been working in the financial industry for the last 18 years. In my spare time I love to watch trashy reality shows and judge everyone who participates when secretly I’m just jealous.

Breast cancer and IVF. Two things I never thought I would have to deal with in my life, let alone at the same time. When you are diagnosed with cancer, and you haven’t had kids yet, the question arises, “Do you ever plan on having kids?” This is due to the treatment that comes with a cancer diagnosis. Whether it’s chemo, radiation, or cancer medication; these can affect having a child in the future. In my case, my cancer fed off estrogen. So, besides radiation, I would require, at the minimum, 10 years of a medicine called tamoxifen. It is strongly recommended to use all methods necessary to avoid getting pregnant while on these meds because of the high probability of birth defects, damage, or death of the fetus.

Now, I can only speak for myself, but hearing the pitter patter of little feet was the furthest thing from my mind after being told less than 72 hours earlier that I had breast cancer. But here I was faced with a question I wasn’t mentally prepared to face: “Do you ever plan on having kids?”

Before I knew it, my husband and I were sitting across from a fertility doctor telling me that it was in my best interest to go through with the IVF process. That is, if I had any eggs to preserve because I was 36, and the way they put it, it felt like I was 80 years old in the fertility world!

I remember sitting in the waiting room for one of my many appointments looking at other couples annoyed that they were there for a “joyous” reason unlike me who was clearly there under distress. I’m embarrassed to say that’s what I thought, but it’s true. Selfishness and anger were the only feelings I could feel, because cancer was running the show. At the time, I thought they were “choosing” to be there because they wanted a baby. A far cry from me, the cancer patient, who had to be there. They should be grateful, I thought, at least they don’t have cancer.

The only way I can explain any of this is pure ignorance. It took me going through the whole IVF process to realize that just like me, they too were dealing with some life-changing decisions. Who in their right mind would say, “Hey, shoot me up with a ton of hormones (which makes a woman very pleasant by the way), and let’s have a bunch of vaginal ultrasounds and blood draws because I want to! Yaaay!” Nobody, that’s who! Cancer or not, nobody signs up for this voluntarily. Just like the “cancer club,” the “fertility club” is one that nobody wants to be part of, but unfortunately, it falls under the things we have no control over.

At the time, I didn’t think I had anything in common with anyone in the waiting room. These “clubs” come with a lot of hidden clauses; one in particular was pretty hard for me to accept – the lack of control. This was the common denominator for all of us no matter how we ended up there. The reason why we were there was out of our control, but by being there, we were taking back some of that control. No matter the outcome, that’s liberating.

So, if you can believe it, I’m grateful for going through with IVF. While it wasn’t fun, it gave my husband and myself some choices for our future family, but above that, I learned what true empathy was. Empathy is that emotion in theory, you should learn as a child, but life experience is what defines what it means to truly be empathetic. This was that moment for me.

Jeannine and her husband are not 100% of their next steps but they are grateful for options and are fortunate to be godparents and aunt and uncle to some really unbelievable kids.

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