When Cancer Treatment Leaves You Infertile

Congratulations!! You’re in remission/no evidence of disease/cured (whatever terminology your oncologist uses)! Maybe you’re older and those side effects they told you about and you read about aren’t a problem for you. Or… if you’re like I was… you’re in your 20’s or maybe even younger. You’ve dreamed of starting a family or growing the one that you have. After your chemo or radiation, though, that isn’t going to be as simple as it should be. Suddenly, you’re facing the side effect of infertility. You remember it being talked about, but it was a pretty low priority. Afterall… who cares how fertile you are if you’re dead. While that thought may be some comfort, it still doesn’t fix the problem you’re facing right now. So, what do you do?

For some, you’ve had the opportunity to bank sperm but decided against it due to the costs. Maybe you’ve been able to regain your fertility but now it’s years later than you expected. “There’s always adoption!” is a line that you’ve heard or thought to yourself but dang… have you seen how expensive it is?! Or you can always use donor sperm but… I mean… that’s just weird and good luck finding very much information about that.

For my wife and I, banking wasn’t an option due to the timeline of starting treatment so that was off the table right away. As far as fertility returning, if it’s going to, it’s generally back within the first year of stopping treatment but not so for me. Now I’m fighting through the realization that I’ll (likely) not have another biological child as our remaining options are adoption or donor sperm. It took me a while to come to terms with all the changes that cancer and amputation meant for my life going forward… now this? Thanks chemo…

In thinking about it, I was dead set on adoption. (I know how terrible this next sentence is going to sound by the way.) For me, using donor sperm was off the table. If the child can’t biologically be mine but would still be biologically my wife’s… I couldn’t wrap my head around that.

‘It’s not MY child.’

‘Will they look at me differently than my daughter does?’

‘Will I love them the same as I would a child we adopted or our first child?’

Those were just some of the questions that I had floating around my head that told me it wouldn’t be ‘right’ for us. Well… as it turns out… my wife had her mind set on using donor sperm. She wanted to be pregnant again! No matter how hard I searched for experiences or tried to find information, it seemed like such a taboo and quiet thing that nobody talked about. Either that, or I was alone in my thinking, but I refuse to believe that.

What ultimately lead to my acceptance, and later excitement, was being able to talk to someone with personal experience. Being able to talk to someone who was born through this process and even their dad changed everything. We had honest conversations about the questions that I had and my fears, and while everyone and every situation is different, they were never an issue for them. She was his daughter and he was her father. The saying ‘Blood doesn’t make you a father’ and it’s usually applied to stepdads, but it also fits this.

We still get to go through the joys (and pains) of pregnancy. The miracle of seeing your child born. Those precious first hours and days watching your wife bond with the child and getting that time yourself. The only difference is that it’s not my DNA. That’s it. That’s all there is to it… really.

So here we are, just a couple of months from our due date, and I am just as excited (and nervous) as I was before our first daughter was born. Soon we’ll get to welcome our son into the world. As usual, my wife was right, and I was wrong, and I have no doubt that this was exactly the right choice and exactly the plan that God set up and I can’t wait.


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