Tanya Rubin explores the options of cancer survivors using a donor or surrogate to start or add to their family.
Most people grow up believing that having children is a simple, easy part of life. But then enters a cancer diagnosis and infertility. Both are traumas and both raise questions that go to the very core of who we are: identity, roles, choices and life.
Sadness, loss, anger, regret, fear, guilt, anxiety and uncertainty are just some of the feelings you will face when dealing with cancer and infertility simultaneously.
Not all infertility journeys are the same. Each journey is a unique personal story, based on what options may work with your individual diagnosis and financial situation.
Exploring options, such as using a donor, whether it’s donor sperm, -egg, or -embryo, may not have been how you thought you’d start your family. However, this option gives you (a patient whose fertility has been affected by oncology treatment) renewed hope of creating a family.
Adjusting your mind-set and mourning the losses
This means adjusting your mind-set and slightly altering your expectations of what you had defined your future family to be.
Infertility due to cancer is just one of the many losses experienced. Not only are you experiencing the loss of the ability to have your own genetic children, but also the loss of the potential family you dreamed about. These losses, although intangible, may feel like the death of a loved one. They take time to be mourned.
For most patients, this rollercoaster of despair and hope eventually reaches a point of acceptance. You finally understand that if your only option of having a family is to use a donor or surrogate, despite it being a huge step to take, it allows you to fulfil your dream.
When you are ready
Ask the following questions when you are ready to take the next step:
- Identify your own personal wounds and journey.
- Take the necessary risks.
- Mourn the losses.
- Figure out what makes each person unique.
- Define what it means to be a parent.
- Understand what it is that makes up a child. Children are not only about their genetic makeup.
- Ask for help; seek counselling.
- Get in touch with a fertility clinic.
- Research donor agencies. In SA, unless an egg donation has been arranged with someone you know personally (e.g. a sister), the entire process remains strictly anonymous.
- Trust your gut.
How to choose a donor
Register online with a reputable egg donor agency in SA. You can then view the various donor profiles which are broken down into: physical characteristics; family history of the above characteristics; education background; basic medical history; and info about the donor’s likes, dislikes and personality. Since it is anonymous, you will only see a baby photo of the donor.
Each donor profile is about 15 pages. Some agencies will provide further info if requested, such as previous donation history and additional baby photos if needed.
You can take as long as you need to choose the donor you like the most. Note, you will never find the “perfect” donor but you will find someone who you are 99% comfortable with. That is the right donor.
Once you have chosen a donor, payment is made to the agency. This can cost anything between R13 000 and R15 000. An additional R7 000 is paid to the donor at your cost.
The donor is then sent to the patient’s fertility clinic for a full medical and psychological screening before her ovaries are stimulated for egg collection. The entire process can take up to three months before the fertilised embryo is transferred into your uterus.
While the donor is being stimulated, your uterus is being prepared for the acceptance of the embryo.
Choosing a surrogate
This is a far more complicated process as there is not an abundance of surrogates available.
There are many lawyers and a few surrogate finders that can assist patients in finding an appropriate surrogate.
Surrogacy needs to be medically motivated in South Africa and couples need to be South African citizens to qualify for using a surrogate.
A surrogacy process can’t move forward at any fertility clinic without a High Court order in place.
The procedure at most fertility clinics is a streamlined process and patients are guided through it by the doctors, social workers, psychologists and lawyers.
MEET OUR EXPERT – Tanya Rubin
Tanya Rubin is a registered social worker, perinatal bereavement counsellor and logotherapist, who has more than 10 years’ infertility counselling experience. She is passionate about providing emotional support to those going through the process.
This article is sponsored by Ferring Pharmaceuticals in collaboration with SASREG. The content and opinions expressed are entirely the medical expert’s own work and not influenced by Ferring in any way. 2019/039