Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I Survived Cancer, Now I Want a Family!

Gaffney is a proud childhood cancer survivor, and a contributor to the
Focus On Cancer blog. Today she is cancer-free, but lives with the
after effects of her cancer treatments.

Before I ever pictured myself in the
“what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up” role, being a mom always
foreshadowed any career or profession. I had a vivid concept/vision in
my head about motherhood: the mother I would try to be, the hugs and
kisses I would smother a child with, life lessons I would teach, even
the sex --  I always envisioned boy and girl twins.

This was even after I was told that a baby, especially “babies,” might
not be possible. I had come to terms with knowing that I might not be
able to conceive, carry or deliver because of my cancer treatments and
health limitations. I knew if I couldn’t conceive, I would adopt. I
realized this about the age of 13. I know it sounds young, but I think
when forced to battle for your life at a young age, your outlook and
decisions about life tend to mature quickly.

During my treatments I received radiation
directly to my pelvic area and my left ovary was in the direct line of
radiation. It could not be protected, but someone, even back in 1982
during the early stages of this research, had the foresight to shield my
right ovary.

Now I have my dream: a 5-year-old boy and 1-year-old little girl.
Pregnancy was hard on my body and I was under constant supervision from
my multidisciplinary, high-risk pregnancy team at Penn. But I have
bounced back. I wouldn’t change a thing. I thank the incredible medical
team I have and I thank myself, the sheer will to achieve and fight for
what you want can be surprisingly strong.

I am a Cancer Survivor and I got more than I ever thought I would, my family!

Advances in childhood cancer treatment have significantly improved a
patient’s chance of survival, which results in a large number of adult
childhood cancer survivors who are hoping for the same life they would
have if they had never had cancer. 

One big concern is about the effects of treatment on reproductive
possibilities. For myself and many other women, there are indications
that both radiation and chemotherapy
may affect how well the ovaries function (if you are left with just
one) and the health of the uterus. All of these can lead to infertility,
negative pregnancy outcomes and entering menopause at an earlier age.

We are very thankful for surviving and the chance to live our lives, but
we also want to experience life, not just survive it. Having children
plays an incredibly important role in the lives of many people.  Along
with advances in cancer treatments over the years, the advancement of
preserving fertility has grown as well.

The Cancer Survivorship Program at CHOP’s Cancer Center is working with Fertile Hope,
an organization dedicated to addressing fertility concerns for cancer
survivors, and they have developed ways to help preserve a woman’s

Penn Fertility Care at
Penn Medicine is a leader in helping adult survivors of childhood
cancer realize their dreams of parenthood. The physicians are working
with patients who were not able to take advantage of the fertility
services during that small window, before their cancer treatment begins.
These physicians are doing what they can to help these women realize
their dreams of a family.

Learn more about Penn Fertility Care at Penn Medicine.

Learn more about the Living Well After Childhood Cancer Survivorship Program at the Abramson Cancer Center.

In addition to being a mom and a wife, Melanie operates a small marketing and graphic design boutique called Melanie Gaffney. Read more about Melanie here.