Cancer treatments when he was just a teenager left this rock ‘n’ roll husband sterile, but decades later he and his wife found a way to have the baby they wanted by remembering something very important . . .
Mike and I were initially introduced by a mutual friend named Cal. We shook hands, said, “Nice to meet you,” and then both walked in opposite directions. About six months later, I was watching a band at a local bar and kept telling my sister that the bass player looked familiar. When I realized it was Cal’s friend Mike, I reintroduced myself. After a long talk, we swapped phone numbers and began a casual friendship.
One day Mike asked if I’d like to come to his house for dinner and a movie. I was hesitant—he was a rock musician, for goodness’ sakes. Romantically, he was not really my type, and I came close to calling the whole thing off. But when I got to his house I was pleasantly surprised at how old-fashioned he was, trying so hard to make the perfect dinner for me. By the time I drove home that night, I knew this was the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
A few months into the relationship, Mike told me that he had been treated for Hodgkins lymphoma about 15 years before, at the age of 19. Having undergone chemotherapy and radiation, he wasn’t sure that he’d be able to have kids naturally, although he’d never had his sperm tested. I was heartbroken, because I had always wanted to be a mom. But I was in love with him and willing to stand by him, and figured that later down the road we could talk about other options.
After we got engaged, I urged Mike to get tested. When we heard that there was no sperm in his sample, I was disappointed but not surprised. I also figured we had other options—adoption, or a sperm donor—though at that point Mike wasn’t ready to discuss alternatives. He wanted to be able to look into his child’s eyes and see a little bit of himself.
The only hope of that, it seemed, was a testicular biopsy, where a small piece of tissue is removed from the testis and checked for normal sperm that could be used for in vitro fertilization (IVF). The first appointment we could get was six months away.
Mike felt he was letting me down and said he understood if I wanted to marry someone else. I knew that if I was going to have a baby, I wanted it to be with him. A few months later we were married.
During the Christmas holiday that year, we went to visit Mike’s sister Helena in Calgary, about a 12-hour drive from where we live near Vancouver. Mike’s biopsy was scheduled for January, and the poor guy was not looking forward to having a needle in his testicles.
Then his sister reminded him that when he was still a teenager having his cancer treatments, his doctor had suggested he save some sperm since the treatment would likely leave him sterile. I think he literally made the deposit and forgot all about it. He had been so young when he got sick, and having kids was the last thing on his mind.
I tried not to get my hopes up at the news, because I knew it had been such a long time. Neither Mike nor his sister could even remember where he’d made the sperm deposit, but Helena did remember the oncologist’s name. The doctor’s office was closed over Christmas, but on our drive back to Vancouver, we stopped at the clinic where Mike’s cancer treatments had been. The receptionist told us about the Calgary Regional Fertility Clinic.
Mike called the clinic the day it reopened on January 3, but the receptionist had to go back into the paper files to find his records because the sperm deposit was made so long ago that he wasn’t in the computer system. When the receptionist came back she said yes, they still had his sperm . . . and he owed $2,000 in back storage fees!
“You’re not going to believe this,” Mike said, when he called to tell me. We cried because of all the doors that had just opened up to us. Suddenly there was a really good chance that we were going to be able to have a baby.