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The Most Difficult Question I'm Asked as a Chronically Ill Woman

Lara Hooker
a woman is cuddling her dog

When are you going to have children? This is probably one of the hardest questions anyone could ask of a woman in her 20s, 30s, or 40s. It is such an uncomfortable and personal question, yet we get asked regularly from family, friends, even strangers driving us somewhere.

As a teenager, I was hoping to be married by 25 and have children before my 30s. Instead, I found myself divorced and being diagnosed with Churg-Strauss syndrome, a version of Vasculitis. As a lot of autoimmune diseases are, mine has been treated with prednisone, chemotherapy and a cocktail of other medications. The prednisone has made me gain over 50 pounds, while the chemotherapy put me at risk of ovarian failure each time I receive an infusion.

When my doctor first approached me with the idea of risking my ability to have children, I cried hysterically. He did find a biologic treatment that we could try first to see if it would work. It did for awhile. I got out of my first flare and felt like a normal person. I was thrilled…until my second flare less than a year later. We tried the biologic again, but unfortunately my second flare just got worse. There was not a choice… I had to go on the chemotherapy that would make my dreams of having children fade. I was absolutely devastated.

Related:When the ‘Mental Scars’ of Chronic Illness Run Deeper than the Actual Scars

While there are services for harvesting eggs, they are expensive and not typically covered by insurance since it is not a necessary procedure. The stress that my body would go through if I did opt to have a child through in vitro fertilization would put me at risk for yet another flare. The maintenance medications for chemotherapy can also impact the child’s development.

So when I find myself in these situations of people inquiring on if I have children, and asking when I plan on having some, rather than creating an excuse or getting angry that they asked, I put on my bravest face and take it as an opportunity to educate them on my illness. While I may not have children, I have to stop feeling like I failed myself, like I failed my goals and dreams. Instead, I empower myself by bringing more awareness to my disease.

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