“I broke down in his office,” says Nancy. “After all the chemo and the radiation, I thought I was finished, that now I could go and have a baby. Even though I was wondering if I was going to die, I think the hardest part of the ordeal was not being able to have a baby when I wanted one so badly. That was just so tough. When I saw other families with children, it made me sad. I’d wonder if that was ever going to happen to me, because I knew we’d be really great parents. And I felt very guilty because Michael wanted kids, and now he was stuck with me, and I might never be able to give him any.”
None of the doctors could tell the couple what would happen even after the five years of tamoxifen were over, whether a pregnancy would affect the chance of the cancer recurring. “There were never any real answers about this because the research is on 60-65 year-olds, the average age women get breast cancer,” explains Nancy. “There’s no information for a thirty-year-old who hasn’t had babies yet.” She and Michael spent hours on the computer doing research, and went to seminars and lectures trying to learn more. But they could never get a solid answer as to whether it would be detrimental to Nancy’s health for her to become pregnant. “We knew there was a risk the cancer could grow back. Pregnancy causes your estrogen to go up for nine months, so how okay would it be to get pregnant when I had a tumor that feeds off estrogen? It was frightening and frustrating.”
Enter Kathleen Dillman, Nancy’s best friend since ninth grade. “You don’t have to wait to have a baby. I’ll carry it for you,” she offered, as Nancy began the long course of tamoxifen. “It was as casual as that, as if she were giving me a bagel with cream cheese,” marvels Nancy, who replied, “What are you talking about? That’s the most far-fetched thing I’ve ever heard.”
Kathleen, now a 38-year-old policy analyst, but then a stay-at-home mom, was living in Ohio with her husband Brian, and two children: Karrah, now 11, and Connor, 9. The two women had remained close since girlhood, talking on the phone and visiting each other frequently. “Kathleen is just the best person,” says Nancy fondly. “She’s funny, smart, very loyal. She’ll do anything for you. As this proved.”
Kathleen’s feelings about her friendship with Nancy are just as intense. “Offering to have a baby for Nancy was a selfish act,” she says. “It was my way of insuring Nancy's continued health. I wanted to have her around for fifty years. I would feel as though I lost a limb if Nancy was not around for me to speak to every single day. We’re like sisters, and very intertwined in each other's world. When the question of Nancy and Michael having children came along, it was a no-brainer for both Brian and me. To have a small part in giving them the experience we’ve enjoyed as parents made us feel proud.”
Even though Nancy initially thought the idea was far-fetched, the more she thought about it, the more it made sense. She asked Kathleen whether Brian was okay with the idea, and was reassured that he was. But Michael was more anxious. Nancy explains, “When you embark on such an endeavor with your closest friend.... He was a little nervous about what would happen to our friendship, and how it might be changed.”
A Best Friend’s Gift|
Feb 24, 2009
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