Having cancer is tough. As well as the medical issues, there are also strong emotions to deal with. If what you’ve been through has affected your ability to have children then you may be faced with difficult feelings about this at some point in your life.
Whatever your experience, support is always available to help you come to terms with the situation. For some, learning that reduced fertility has become a factor in their lives can be tough from the outset, while it may not be such an issue for others until they consider becoming a parent. The key is to know who you can turn to for help and advice when you need it.
From a partner, family member or trusted friend, your doctor, a member of your cancer care team or a counsellor, you’ll find just opening up will help you cope with any issue on your mind. It may not resolve things straight away, but knowing you have a support network available means you’re never alone.
If cancer or cancer treatment has left you unable to have children, it’s natural to grieve for the loss. From distress and sadness to feelings of anger, periods of reflection and on towards acceptance, everyone goes through this process in different ways and times. Often, it’s a question of putting your thoughts into words so you can work out how to act on them, and this is where your support network can play a vital role.
Whatever you’re feeling - and whenever you’re feeling it - don’t bottle it up or worry that people won’t understand. Sometimes, getting it out there is all you need to begin making sense of your situation.
It’s also worth noting that when it comes to parenthood there are many choices available. These might include having a baby with fertility treatment, perhaps with help from a surrogate to carry the baby in her womb, or an egg or sperm donor. Fostering and adoption are also possibilities. With the facts to hand, you can begin to consider a course of action that feels right for you. What matters is that you feel happy and supported in your decision, whether raising children is a part of your life or not.
When you’re thinking about having a family, there are many routes you can follow. You might decide to foster or adopt a child who needs a loving home, try for a baby with help from a surrogate, or decide that raising children won’t be part of your life. It’s a deeply personal choice.
This is an opportunity to provide a supportive home environment for a child who has been taken into care. There are lots of different reasons why children are unable to live with their birth parents, from illness to welfare issues, and this can vary in terms of time. Fostering enables a child in care to join a family on a short or long term basis.
Fostering is overseen by your local council, who undertake to recruit a diverse range of foster carers.
This is a way of providing a family upbringing for a child who cannot be raised by their biological mother or father. Unlike fostering, this isn’t a temporary arrangement. All legal rights and responsibilities for the child will pass to you as the adoptive parent.
Adopting a child is a process that you undertake with help from your local authority and the adoption agency.
Fostering or adoption can be very rewarding, but also challenging. It’s worth taking time to gather the facts about these options, and to seek advice from experts and the people you’re close to, to make an informed decision.
Some people have a baby with help from a surrogate. This is where a woman agrees to carry the baby for you, in her womb. The baby might be conceived using eggs or sperm from you and your partner, or from a donor.
Not having children
You might decide these options aren’t right for you, or they might not be possible. Many people live happy and fulfilling lives, having chosen not to have children. If this is a difficult situation for you, remember there is help and support available to help you along the way.
Published: December 2016
Review due: December 2019