A lifesaving procedure … in exchange for my fertility. Making peace with the cost of my cancer treatment.

My name is Jeff. When I was 18 years old, I should have been partying with my friends and deciding who to bring to the senior prom. Instead, I found myself in and out of the hospital after a shocking diagnosis of testicular cancer. Rather than feeling invincible like most teenagers at that age, I found myself confronting my mortality. Despite my doc’s assurances that testicular cancer has a high survival rate, I have to admit I was pretty freaked out. My cancer was fairly advanced, so I had to have one testicle removed and fairly aggressive chemotherapy. I vaguely remember the doctors mentioning that a potential risk of treatment was infertility, and something about possibly freezing some sperm, but everything was moving really fast and there wasn’t much time to think about the future. And to be honest, having kids was the furthest thing from my mind at the time. I just wanted to get treatment behind me so that I could get on with my life.

I was lucky that the doctors found the cancer and treated it quickly. It was a tough time, but with lots of support from my family I got through it. I’ve now been cancer-free for 10 years! That’s the good news. The other good news is that I recently got married to a fabulous woman and we definitely both want to have kids. However, the bad news is that when my sperm was recently tested at the fertility clinic, we found out that I’m infertile. They said that between the cancer surgery and chemotherapy, my swimmers were cooked. While I/we always knew that this was a possibility, I have to say that it was pretty upsetting to get this news. First cancer, then infertility – talk about a double whammy! Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful to be alive. But I always thought it would be cool to see which traits our kids would inherent from me and from my wife. Not that I need to see little versions of me running around. But I think you get what I mean.

It’s taken some time and a lot of talking with my wife, and a counselor, to sort through our feelings about my infertility and what we’re going to do about having a family. In counseling I got to hear how my wife feels about my infertility. Although I was always open with her about my cancer diagnosis, I think we were both hopeful that we’d still be able to have kids together. So after we found out I’m infertile, part of me worried that my wife would see me as less of a man. She said that like me, she was sad and disappointed that our kids wouldn’t look like me, but that she still believes I’ll make a great dad and that we’ll make be great parents. I have to admit I was relieved to hear that she still wants to have kids as much as I do, no matter what route we take to get there. So now that we’ve had time to let the results settle in, we’ve started looking at potential sperm donors. At first I was pretty uncomfortable with the idea of my wife carrying the child of a stranger, but between the counselor and my wife, I’m getting more comfortable with the fact that being a dad is about raising a kid, not just contributing the genetic material.  We’re trying to find a donor who looks somewhat like me, and is into music, like I am. But I also know that I can pass on my love of music to my child.

So I’ve gotten through feeling angry and disappointed about being infertile. I’ve come to realize that without the cancer treatment that made me infertile – I likely wouldn’t be here – much less have the chance to become a dad.

Share your thoughts on Jeff’s story in the comments section below, or submit your own fertility story here.

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