What Chemotherapy Taught Me About Motherhood

In case you missed my second Cosmo post, here it is!

I am extremely proud to be a woman. Who wouldn’t be? We can do so many remarkable things that are unique to only us. The most fundamental characteristic is the ability to have children. We can make HUMANS, ya’ll! This is incredible! A mom friend of mine once told me that after the birth of her son she felt almost superhuman in her strength. I never forgot that. I knew women described some amazing feelings after giving birth, but superpowers?! I was listening!

I had always just assumed I would have children and have them young. My mom had all her kids by age 23 so it just felt natural to follow that path. In my mind, the minimal age difference between my mother and I was a main factor in us being so close. We are great friends and I could easily confide in her without too much generational translation. It was an ideal situation and one that made sense to emulate.

My plan was simple: fall in love, marry young, have kids, and then relax knowing I had fulfilled what I had assumed was my “womanly destiny.”

None of this happened. At least not in the way I’d imagined.

I did fall in love at a young age … with theater. At age 5, I saw a production of Annie and never looked back. I was intoxicated by every aspect of performing and couldn’t believe my luck that I locked down exactly what I wanted to do in life so early. Then, at age 17, I got into a passionate and committed relationship … with New York City. I set lofty goals and achieved them one by one. And while I focused on living this wild and unpredictable life, I sort of just assumed the baby desire would conveniently announce itself. Surely I would wake up one day with an actual man next to me and all of a sudden it would be baby time! But this revelation never came, and as I moved into upper-20s, I sometimes wondered why that feeling wasn’t nagging at me.

“You’re so young! You have plenty of time for kids! Your career is important!” I heard this from everyone, and I didn’t disagree. Sure, this wasn’t how my mom had done it, but I was part of a new generation! I could choose when I wanted to start a family. There was no reason in my mind to not believe this would be my path.

Again, my plan was thwarted.

As I listened to my oncologist explain how the chemotherapy that would be imperative to ridding my body of breast cancer could make it impossible to have children, I suddenly felt like every choice I ever made was a mistake. Why didn’t I make this a priority?! These words screeched through my brain on a loop. Being “so young” had turned into “time’s up!” in an instant.

My tumor was feeding on my estrogen so we had to starve that sucker out with a monthly shot that would put me into a medically induced state of menopause. The shot was also going to potentially protect my ovaries from the “poison” I would be introducing into my body through chemo. In the course of one day, my estrogen would hit rock bottom and my ovaries would be put to sleep for five years, rendering it not only virtually impossible to have a child but incredibly harmful to my body. A surge of estrogen from a pregnancy could kill me. Oh boy, this was doing wonders for my already complicated maternal instinct!


Thankfully, I had doctors who were very sensitive to this issue and a tumor that was happy to stay put for a while, which gave me a small but necessary window to freeze my eggs. I felt comfortable with this plan, as they would remain a desirable 30 years old even as I continued to age. Plus, a uterus never expires. My fertility doctor was confident that because of my age and general good health I could get up to 15 eggs saved in the one cycle I was allotted before I had to start treatment. I was going to be given a rare opportunity to push the reset button on my biological clock. For the first time since my diagnosis, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Unfortunately, a standard blood test found that even without cancer, my fertility was very low. By the time I’m 35, when we wake up my ovaries, I will have a slim chance of conceiving naturally. Hearing this news, I had finally had enough. The “positivity goggles” I had been wearing flew off. For the first time I allowed myself to dip my toe in the “WHY ME?!” pool. I had listened to my heart, and my body had betrayed me. It never spoke up! How could it give up on me without even letting me know? I threw myself a proper pity party but in cancer land there is very little room for this sort of behavior. And to be honest, it didn’t make me feel any better. I went forward with the fertility treatments, giving myself up to three shots in the abdomen every day for 10 days. Each time I prepared the syringe, my inner monologue vacillated between “My future kids better LOVE ME after all this crap I’m doing for them” and “Am I even sure I want to be a mother?” I was taking drastic measures to ensure a future that I couldn’t even envision as the right one for me.

The procedure itself was easy peasy. They put me under, and the whole thing was done in 15 minutes. My doctor was able to retrieve four eggs — certainly not 15, but better than nothing. Afterward, the fact that I had these frozen little potential futures made something click in me. I realized that I don’t have to regret anything. I had made the right choices for me with all information I had, just as I had my entire life. I wouldn’t have traded my career experiences for anything. They offered me joy, confidence, perseverance, financial autonomy, and chapters upon chapters of stories. Stories that one day I may tell to my children, though for now that particular future is just chilling, literally, while I fight to have any future at all.

One thing I learned in my quest for motherhood is this: A woman is not defined by her fertility. The ability to carry and birth a child is a miracle. But so is adoption. So is deciding motherhood is not your bag and instead you will nurture the hell out of your partner, your best friends, or your shoe collection. Maybe one day I will simply say, “My body doesn’t do that. Can I interest you in the millions of OTHER things it does?”

I never stopped having options. It just took cancer to open my eyes to how many I really have.

See original post at Cosmopolitan.com


16 thoughts on “What Chemotherapy Taught Me About Motherhood

  1. Wrong tense, my dear. You never stop having options. You will evolve from this phase of your life to the next and more options will blossom before your very eyes. Because of this phase and the insights it has sowed deep into your psyche, you will have a clearer view of the opportunities at hand and thus a better chance to pick the best and most enthralling options.

    Indeed, the best is yet to come…

  2. You continue to inspire and dazzle me with each new blog. You are a true woman of strength and once again I can’t find the right words to tell you what am impact you have had on me. Keep fighting….

  3. Though our paths have only crossed once (when you did the Happy Birthday video greeting for Stephen Schwartz outside Joe’s Pub), I am incredibly glad we “met.” For if it was not for that meeting, I probably would not have been following you on Twitter, and not be following your blog.

    Beyond the brilliance of your writing (about which I could go on and on for far too long), there is something magical in your message. Even to a 48-year old guy who never wanted kids, your insight into yourself and the human condition is remarkable and inspiring.

    I thank you for continuing to make the best “lemonade” ever, and for continuing to radiate your inner beauty to those of us lucky enough to be exposed to it. I look forward to our paths crossing again when I get back to NYC and giving you the most heartfelt hug. In the meantime, hopefully my words can envelope you for a brief moment.

  4. That is a difficult realization to come to and many women have to at some point. You are so right. There are many options. <3

  5. Thank you for this post!!! I am 29yrs old living with stage IV breast cancer and I appreciated your honesty around fertility. The moment I heard I had mets, the loss of my fertility was by far the hardest concept to comprehend. I honestly didn’t fear my own mortality, but cried over the inability to have the one thing in life I was most certain about; a family. I felt the same way as you because I went to school, and put my career first, and then I was left wondering why I had done that. I really wished I would have had children instead! I will never lose hope, but I have also accepted that I just may have a much different path in life then I had envisioned, but i’ll embrace it and make the most of it:). Thanks for your honesty in this post!

  6. Never look back sweet girl…you have done everything “according to plan”. You have brought joy to broadway and tv audiences and now you inspire us with your fearless journey and beautiful writings…you touch my heart with every new installment. Know that even strangers like me are in your corner, cheering you on. Andrea xox

  7. I can see by this post, that you are not only brave & strong, but also highly intelligent. Whatever you choose or is chosen for you will surely be alright because your attitude will make it ok. pulling for you as always, Susan (JJ’s Nana)

  8. I am currently fighting breast cancer too. I just finished chemo and started radiation. I love reading your blog, I can relate in so many ways. Your blog brings a smile to my face while reading it! Keep fighting like a Girl! You got this

  9. Love your blogs!! You inspire me with your strength and positive attitude and you and your family are always in my thoughts and prayers. Love you!

  10. I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated this post and your blog. I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer earlier this month and just started chemo this past week. My husband and I have one daughter but were in the process of trying for a second child when this bombshell hit us, so this post really resonated with me. I’m also doing the injections in the hopes that my ovaries might wake back up when this is all finished. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  11. Krysta you are so inspiring and I’m sending you tons of positive energy. I cried reading this post because I have always been on the fence about motherhood and reading this made me realize that it’s okay for me not to know if that is an option I want to explore. I’m 25 and way more focused on trying to establish a career right now. After reading this I finally feel ok with not feeling terribly guilty when people think there is something “wrong ” with me when I say I’m not sure if I want to have kids. Thanks for the boost of strength and eloquently beautiful words. 🙂

  12. I think I found you.You look absaloutely stuning.Short hair long hair it works for you either way.You look happy,healthy and doing well.When is your book coming out,Idefinately want to buy one.Your writing to me,is poetry.Your words are very strong,and exspressive.So strong you really feel it in your heart.I’m sorry I always go on about me and tell you good things about you,but never talk about the real reason of why this/the stories your telling the whole world in your sights.I have been reading more stuff on cancer illnesses to learn more know these things.But I honestly feel myself, being a part of the yellow diaries,late comer but i’m here to stay.You have moved forward so we should to.It is good to give advise about the stories,and give reactions to the articles.But it should be about healing.I feel along with the illness topics you should put articles on your sight about events that are going on in the world,up-coming events on you if you want to.Don’t dwell on the past,as my grand-mother used to tell me.This is why I always complent you,and say wonderfuls things about you,sincere from my heart.You take a step,I take a step.I walk beside you along this journey.And through the ups and downs I know you will keep going.You are very willful,and want to be in the world.Your everything blows me away,and as I tell my friends about you I always refer to you as a goddess of india.Some have read up on you,and again another person speechless,and crying,but felt warm at the same time.Nobody is perfect,but in my eye what i’ve seen and read,your pretty close.Your a phanominal woman.well I think this one is long anuff,because honestly I could write all night.All my love and prayers

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