I’m undergoing cancer treatment but want to have a child

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 40s. I got married two years ago, but subsequently I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m currently undergoing treatment. I know very well that the most important thing is to ensure the cancer doesn’t come back, but part of me can’t give up on my dream of having a child.

Even if I undergo fertility treatment and it’s a success, the cancer might come back. Even if I give birth without incident, I may die before my child becomes independent. My mind is clouded with so many thoughts, and I can’t take action to make my dream come true.

I should tell my doctor how I feel, but the doctor has made a veiled reference to the fact that cancer treatment is a top priority as it’s been less than a year since my surgery. To motivate myself to continue the treatment, I want to find things that I want to do so that I can feel a desire to live.

But is it just wishful thinking to hope to have cancer treatment and fertility treatment at the same time?

When I see pregnant women and hear people announcing the arrival of their babies, I get so jealous that I feel miserable. I can’t even tell my parents how I feel and don’t know how to sort out my feelings. Please give me some advice.

D, Hyogo Prefecture

Dear Ms. D:

You must be going through a difficult time, with a lot of anxiety caused by your cancer treatment.

Yet, I don’t think you’ll have to spend your whole life battling against the illness. Why don’t you adopt the mindset that treatment is your top priority, but there is no need to devote your entire life to treatment?

You should exist not only as a person suffering from illness but also as a working woman and a wife. I also believe it’s only natural that you want to have a child.

I suggest you tell your doctor how you feel while expressing that you will place the highest priority on your cancer treatment. Then you can make a concrete plan based on how long you need to wait before trying to conceive and how to avoid risks in your daily life until then.

If your doctor is reluctant to listen to you, you can seek fertility treatment from an obstetrics and gynecology department while being treated for cancer, or ask another doctor for a second opinion.

I advise you to be honest and tell your doctor about how you feel.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 22, 2022)