The possibility of cancer… that sucks even more than a Miscarriage.
Let me explain…
Sunday we woke up bright and early in Baltimore, ready to escape to my parents’ house in San Francisco for a week with Julia. We felt ready to put the whole miscarriage experience behind us and enjoy a week of vacation. I’m still experiencing the physical aspects of the miscarriage–still bleeding and having occasional cramping–but we both felt ready to get the physical part done with so we could move on emotionally, put the whole bad experience behind us and start trying again to get pregnant and grow our family.
Julia did great on the airplane and we arrived safe and sound in California. Then Monday morning I woke up to my phone buzzing… I saw a phone number pop up from the doctor’s office but since I wasn’t quite awake, I didn’t answer it and let it to go to voicemail. I figured they were just calling to confirm an appointment or something. They left a voicemail. I listened… it was the doctor who performed my D&C, asking me to call her back ASAP because she had something she wanted to discuss with me. Uh oh… it’s never good when a doctor wants to discuss something with you.
So I called back…
“So we got the pathology report back following your D&C and it turns out you had something called a Partial Molar Pregnancy…”
A what…? I had heard of this before because a friend of mine had one… it means that two sperm fertilized one egg simultaneously and the placenta and everything else develops abnormally. The baby would not have survived past 10 weeks’ gestation at the most and certainly would not have been compatible with life outside the womb. This explained the oddly shaped gestational sac that my OB found on ultrasound but unfortunately for me, it means I have a 5-11% chance of developing choriocarcinoma over the next several months, a somewhat rare cancer caused by this abnormal placental tissue. The doctor would like to start collecting weekly HCG draws starting on Monday morning and will track my HCG until it goes back down to 0. Once it gets to 0, she would like to see it stay at 0 for 3-6 months before we are allowed to start trying to get pregnant again. If my HCG levels do not get back to 0 quickly enough or if they rise again after going back down, that would be a sign that some of the placental tissue has become cancerous and would require treatment with chemotherapy. The reason it would not be safe to get pregnant is because a pregnancy could potentially mask the hormonal changes from the cancer so it’s very important that I not get pregnant until my HCG level has been down to 0 long enough.
This news definitely put a damper on our weeklong vacation. Just as we were feeling ready to move on and enjoy ourselves for a week, we get the news that we can’t move on for several more months. It could take 3-9 months for my HCG level to get back down to 0 and then we have to wait another 3-6 months before we’re allowed to start trying. All told, that could be a year before we’re allowed to try again.
Our reaction? Well, that sucks.
What else could we say? We were all out of tears from the news two weeks earlier about the miscarriage. It just sucks. It’s scary to think that I could get cancer and it’s frustrating that this whole thing sets us back a year in our family planning. We had always talked about having kids 3.5-4 years apart and now we won’t even be able to start trying until Julia is close to 4 or even a little after she turns 4. Assuming it will take a few months to get pregnant (it took 5 months this time around), Julia could be close to 5 by the time we have another baby. She’ll be close to starting kindergarten. She’ll have her own life in preschool, her own friends, her own activities. We will be so far removed from the baby stage that we will feel like we’re starting all over again. Ken and his brothers are 4 years and 4 months apart and for a long time it was like they were in separate generations because they were at such different stages in life. When Jon was starting college, Ken was still going through his angsty teenage years and Adam was still a little boy. We will have to think about what is more important: having another baby so Julia has a sibling, or having kids close in age so that they grow up close and can really play together? Will we want to go through the baby stage all over again after we have a kid who is potty trained, independent, can play by herself, read, sit still at nice restaurants, and travel?
Luckily for now those decisions don’t have to be made… for now we have to get through the next 6-9 months hopefully without getting cancer! Just like so many things in life, we have to try to look at the bright side, we have to try and find the silver lining and hopefully we will come to the conclusion that this was somehow a blessing in disguise. Here are a few good things that will come out of this whole situation…
- We are going to Disneyworld!!! We decided to book a trip to Disney at the end of July. Julia will be almost 4 and this will be her first trip to Disney. Ken’s older brother and his whole family might come join us as well, which would be so much fun for Julia! She’s at the perfect age for a trip to Disney and she’ll be old enough to really enjoy it. I won’t be pregnant so I’ll be able to go on all the rides with her! We are going to go all out on our Disney trip… we are staying on property, we’ll do the character breakfasts we’ll do the wake-up-at-the-crack-of-dawn thing to get into the park super early and we’ll stay late to watch the parades, we’ll book our fast passes and meals 180 and 90 days out to make sure we have the best experience at the parks that we can.
- I won’t be pregnant and we won’t have a newborn when we’re moving, which means I can do all the heavy lifting I want/need to do, and I won’t have a big belly getting in the way of packing or unpacking boxes.
- We can take the next 6-9 months to focus on our health… on eating healthy, getting into good shape through diet and exercise. Maybe I’ll find a 5K or 10K to train for to have an end goal that I can work toward.
- Julia and her younger sibling (if there is one) won’t be in college at the same time, which means we won’t have to pay college tuition for two at once, and we may even have a one-year break in between paying for college!
- If we do have a second one, Julia will be old enough that she will have her own friends, her own preschool class, her own activities that will keep her occupied and she might not notice that the new baby is replacing her as much as she would realize it now. She will also be old enough to help out a little bit and she may be old enough that she can babysit when she’s 12 or 13, for her 7 or 8-year old younger sibling (at least long enough for us to run to the grocery store or run an errand or two).
So for now, this sucks. I’m sad and scared and frustrated all at once but I have hope that I’ll be in the 95% of women who get Partial Molar Pregnancies and don’t get cancer. I’m optimistic and I have hope that the statistics will work in my favor in this case. I’m excited to spend the next 6-9 months focusing on our little family of 3 and showering Julia and Ken with love and attention. I’m also looking forward to spending some time over the next few months to work on me: to knit, to read, to exercise and cook healthy dishes. I’m glad I’ll have time to devote to our upcoming move and more time to focus on my professional development at work. Maybe I’ll find a good conference to attend, maybe I’ll get more involved with my sorority. And when this whole experience is behind us, we can decide what’s next for our family.
For now, I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year!