Monday 30 August, 2021

Leukaemia and Fertility: Against All Odds

Natali, based in Sweden, an influencer and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia survivor.

Within the first few weeks of being diagnosed with ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukaemia), a doctor told me that I would most likely never be able to get pregnant and become a biological mother. The strong and intense treatment against cancer would destroy my ovarian reserve and my levels of AMH (anti-mullerian hormone). Ironically enough, at that moment, when I was bed-ridden at the hospital fighting cancer, three of my boyfriend’s friends were at the same hospital a few floors below, having their children being born. The desire to have kids became stronger for my boyfriend, since most of his friends were having kids. Yet the only thing that occupied my mind was getting well. I remember thinking that if my fertility were to get affected, at least it meant that I had survived cancer. I focused on what I thought was most important – life.

Coping with cancer and infertility

But, I am a notoriously positive person and my body felt strong and happy. I decided to do everything I could in order to become pregnant. It wasn’t until we seriously started trying that the first heartaches began. We tried our best to do everything right but nothing was working. Everything happened gradually, and little by little, it was getting more and more difficult to keep our hopes high that having children biologically would be possible. In my head, in order to hold on, I consistently re-told myself the following two things:

  1. Life can be beautiful and fulfilling without a child. What would I like to fill my life with if children aren’t an option?
  2. I am not going to give up even if the journey is a long one. On forums, I had read about stories that ended well – couples who had tried and finally managed to get pregnant after seven years. 

Tears streamed down my face when I saw mothers with their daughters at the shopping mall or at our local sushi restaurant. I wasn’t longing for a baby. I was longing for a little girl that I could show the world to and share everything I love about life with.

Setting my mind on conception

So what does it really mean to do everything possible in order to get pregnant? Well, I was reading up on all the information I could get my hands on and tried to apply what I believed made sense and what felt more or less easy to implement. Supplements, healthy food, exercise, and meditation became my guiding stars. Even though I did my best to eat healthily, I also treated myself to fun things and ate food that may not have been the most nutritious but that filled my soul with life and my body with laughter. For me, no matter how healthy or “right” I tried to be and do things, I was convinced that if I felt happy in my body, it would create a good atmosphere where an embryo would feel comfortable. I danced a lot and spent my time doing plenty of things that made me feel good. In the end, that became as vital and important as every other piece of the puzzle.

Trying to get pregnant through IVF

After some fertility testing, we decided that we would try IVF. I was recommended to consider egg donation since my ovarian reserve was damaged and my AMH levels were very low, but I insisted on trying with my own eggs so we did. After several weeks of hormonal treatment, it was finally possible for me to undergo the surgery and have eggs taken out so that we later could inseminate with my boyfriend’s sperm. Unfortunately, only three eggs were taken out and only one survived to implant. I was devastated, but at the same time full of the IVF expression, “one golden egg is all it takes.” I was hopeful and when we did a pregnancy test, it showed positive! It was Christmas eve and the joy was immense. A few weeks went by and two hours after hearing the little heartbeat at the ultrasound, I felt like I was being stabbed in the stomach. The pregnancy ended with a painful miscarriage. 

Miscarriage

I was sad and disappointed. But at the same time, I was grateful that my body took away what wasn’t healthy. My positive spirit helped me find the strength in thinking that my body reacted the right way, even if it wasn’t what I wished for. After the bleeding stopped, I began to calculate when I was going to ovulate again so that we could give it another try. Nothing was going to take away my faith. A new IVF appointment was scheduled in a few months’ time, but we would still try on our own in the meantime. 

Learning to listen to my body

I had read about fertility and how to know when you’re ovulating, so I was very attentive. Suddenly, my body matched the description of what fertile secretion would be like. I said nothing to my boyfriend, so as not to put pressure on him or get his hopes up. My hope was enough for us both! A few weeks later, I was experiencing the familiar fatigue I once had due to cancer so I decided to do a pregnancy test. It showed positive! 

What I learned on the road to getting pregnant

It is now with huge gratitude and humility that I experience one pregnancy week after another. I am so grateful that my body was able to do this for me, and also so grateful that I didn’t give up. I have learned so much on this journey – about myself, what was serving me and what wasn’t. I got to the bottom of things that weren’t making me happy or weren’t good for me. I increased my quality of life and I became kinder towards myself. 

Despite the joy I find in my pregnancy, I feel deeply for those who long to build a family biologically and are still trying. Today, I hope for them. 

You can follow Natali on the War On Cancer app @allthecutethings or on Instagram @natalifikas

Natali, based in Sweden, an influencer and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia survivor.

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