Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Go Forth and Multiply

I am dedicating this post to the conversation of whether to continue plans for a family once an incurable cancer is introduced into the picture. 

Unfortunately, due to the increasing rate of younger patients being diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, this issue has presented itself one too many times.  MM has the capability of destructing so much in its path, the miracle and ultimate blessing of children is one of the worst atrocities, in my humble opinion. 

So, how do we fight back? 

When Kirk was diagnosed, he had to begin treatment immediately.  We just had our youngest son, Guy, and the thoughts of growing our family were not a high priority. 

Most Multiple Myeloma patients will be treated with Revlimid from the beginning stages, and as we quickly learned, that particular drug causes severe birth defects.  What we did not learn, however, was how long Kirk was going to be on Revlimid.  Or that a stem cell transplant causes most men to become sterile. 

Our doctor told us that there was a small window of time we could "make deposits in a bank."  After Kirk completed his five rounds of chemotherapy, we had an eight week period of time between the chemotherapy and the first stem cell transplant.  Our doctor told us to wait six weeks after chemo and bank before Kirk started giving himself the neupogen shots for stem cell collection.   That gave us a total of five days. 

It was an agonizing decision, but we decided that things were difficult enough between the cancer, the new baby and our two businesses.  However, for a couple that desired children, the five days would have been exactly what was needed to give them some hope that life can overcome MM.

Of course, there is a percentage of men who do not become sterile after transplant.  And I have read that after time, a man can rebound.  Lastly, adoption would be such a beautiful life choice. 

An acquaintance asked me recently if Kirk and I could have more children, and I said probably not, but I would not hesitate to try if ever given the option again.  This person asked me if I thought it was fair to have more children when the possibility existed that Kirk would not be with us.  Fair for whom, I asked.  She said for all of us.  I gave her a short non-committal answer because I was taken back by the question.

A few months later, I watched an interview with Steve Irwin's wife and two children on Oprah.  His wife said that their little boy watches videos of his father everyday, and the little boy was crying during the interview.  I literally felt myself turn inside out in pain.  I could not help but to put Guy's face on that little boy.  I felt like I was witnessing the pain that Guy would experience one day, and it was truly unbearable.  I thought about that woman's question all day. 

And this is what I have decided.  I am not a fan of the word "fair" after all of the recent changes in our life.  I am, however, grateful for the pain and hardship that we all feel as a result of Kirk's illness.  We feel this pain because of the importance of Kirk in our lives.  We feel this pain because we have been blessed with love.  Guy will hurt, and it will take all of my strength to pull him through the hard times, but I am so grateful that Guy has been blessed with a loving, caring, fun, and actively involved father.  Regardless of whether we have Kirk for one more year, ten more years, or even thirty, it is more than "fair" for all of us, plus anyone else that might happen to come along:-)

So, good tidings to all of you who choose to go forth and multiply!


  1. Great post Tiffany...thanks for sharing openly.

  2. Such an important post for those in childbearing years dealing with MM. There is no easy way with big decisions like that but I'm always amazed that people ask or say some of the things they do. Tim's doc never mentioned anything about banking or sterility. I guess they figured that being in our lower 40's, we were done. And we were. Most days, I'm glad I am not trying to keep up with all the activities of multiple kids. Our one keeps us pretty busy. But other days, I think that if her life had to be this hard, I wish she had a sibling for more support and so she didn't feel so alone in her situation. I think the baby ship has pretty much sailed at this point for us but I can see the logic both ways for others. It's hard to bring another child into a hard situation but it's also a blessing for all involved, especially the siblings.

  3. Reading this post makes me want to question your acquaintance. My husband was diagnosed at the ripe old age of 25. We had been married for 1 year and were about to start trying to have a family. One of the first things the doctors told us to do is bank his sperm (which we did). We now have a beautiful 3 year old boy and another on the way. Do I worry about what could happen, sure who doesn't. But I don't live my life based on what could happen. And sometimes life just isn't "fair".

  4. Did you ask this person what guarantees she has in life? Would this person avoid having a family because she or her husband might get a similar medical diagnosis? Does she have some assurance that neither of them would get run over by a bus? You get the idea. Tragedies happen, but how meaningful would your life be if you lived in fear of the what-ifs? I know it's not fair. Just remember, Guy will be better off knowing/having Kirk as a father. Guy will be a thoughtful, caring, wonderful man by watching you and Kirk beat the snot out of MM. Life would be so different for us too if Kevin and Olivia decided not to have kids due to his Churg. Keep fighting the good fight! Stay strong and enjoy the loving life you've built. I hope Kirk is doing well.

  5. Thanks for the comments. timswife: I agree about the sibling thing - the same thought crosses my mind often. I have been reading your blog since my husband's diagnosis, and it has helped me through some difficult times.

    Jennifer - I am so happy to read that you were able to make an informed decision and are blessed with two beautiful children! Those stories make me feel that life is still good.

    Jen - You know me - I never know what to say to people at the time - I think too long and too hard about things. You guys have such a strong family - I am sure Kevin and Olivia really appreciate all the support.

  6. Hi Tiff,
    My name is Liz and I have been following your blog for a few months. I have not seen any new posts, I hope it's because things are going better for you and Kirk. Best of luck and the warmest of wishes to both of you.
    That said, since your blog is a great resource for someone going through cancer I wanted to reach out to you to see if you were interested in a new online social support network (that I am the community manager of!) called I Had Cancer. It is a new and free social support network focused on connecting people based on experiences with cancer so that they can easily communicate with one another and share information. I would love to tell you more if you are interested, so please let me know! Because I was so struck by your writing I would love to send you an early-access pass with extra invites for others you may know going through this journey.

    Either way, thank you so much for your writing. Take care and best regards.
    -Liz@ihadcancer.com-If anyone would like information about I Had Cancer please email me.

  7. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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  8. Hi,

    I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?