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Long time, no blog post. Sorry about that! We have been very busy the last couple of months. And are actually back at Mayo as I write this. Let me catch you up!

Recovery

Hank the tank.

After Shawn’s [8.5 hour] surgery, he spent 5 days in the Mayo Clinic Hospital. He has a gnarly 18-inch scar, about 39 fewer lymph nodes, and a story to tell! Shawn’s recovery went shockingly well. He didn’t have any complications post surgery and was able to manage his pain really well from the get-go. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, my husband is a rockstar. Shawn was finally able to return back to work the beginning of December after being on leave for 7.5 months. It has been really refreshing to have a somewhat normal life back. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas surrounded by so many family members and friends. It was wonderful! And we even added a furry little friend to our family. On our 2 year anniversary, Shawn surprised me with the greatest gift, an 8 week old Boston Terrier. We named him Hank!

Infertility

Now to the not so great stuff that no one wants to talk about. Infertility. So we knew going into this that our chances of conceiving naturally weren’t wonderful. To recap; after Shawn’s diagnosis in April, we hurried to Fargo to try and bank some sperm. Unfortunately, his analysis showed no sperm. There were many tears shed that day but we were hopeful that his counts would come up post chemo.

Shawn after surgery.

Fast forward to October, Shawn’s big surgery was ahead of him and because of the location and nature of the surgery, we were warned that there may be some nerve damage and turns out they actually had to remove some nerves because they were intertwined with tumors. Specifically, the nerves that cause a man to ejaculate outward. Instead, his sperm will end up in his bladder. Now, this is not at all harmful to him but makes conceiving naturally impossible. I don’t think this reality has fully hit us yet, but we do know that we want to try whatever we can to have biological children if possible. So with that being said, our next step in our infertility journey is to wait until July [1-year post chemo] to test Shawn’s sperm count again. Now obviously, Shawn cannot give a sperm sample the traditional way because of his nerve damage but what they can do is test his urine. If there happens to be any sperm they would do an extraction where they would surgically remove his sperm. Isn’t science cool!?

If they do find sperm and are able to do the extraction, we would then do IVF. And if we aren’t able to get any, we will adopt. Which to be honest, has always been a part of our plan. Even before we knew infertility was our reality, we wanted to have a couple of biological kids and adopt a couple of kids. We just didn’t realize that biological children may not be in God’s plan for us.

To be honest, the thought of never being able to carry our children makes me very sad. And a little mad sometimes. It’s just not fair. Cancer should not be able to take this normal part of life away from us, but it has. We never thought this would be us. That we would endure a cancer journey our second year of marriage, but we have. Or that infertility would become our reality, but it has. Isn’t it crazy how life can change in a split second? Sometimes it is something good that happens and sometimes not. So please never take for granted the “normal” things in life. Like having a healthy husband or being able to conceive children naturally.

Untold Stories

Recently, we went to Makewell’s annual gathering; a collection of area makers and creators. If you are a creator or maker, in the Bismarck/Mandan, Fargo/Moorhead, or surrounding areas, I highly recommend you check them out. The night was packed with speakers that challenged us to be more creative, innovative, and determined; and breakout sessions that encouraged new connections and engaging questions. One of the questions in our last breakout session asked about untold stories.

Photo Credit: Bryan Hempstead Media

This really resonated with me because when we found out Shawn had cancer we talked about how much of our story we did and didn’t want to share with the world. And we decided that we wanted to share it all. The good stuff, the hard stuff, the raw stuff, all of it. Why? Because we hoped that in doing so that we would be able to connect with others going through similar situations and cultivate community so that others don’t feel alone in whatever they are going through. We’ve had countless people reach out to us and tell us that some part of our story has helped them in their own situation. Whether that means that they or a loved one are going through cancer or maybe they are just enduring suffering of some sort and they can relate to something we have written. We never want people to feel pity when reading our story. That is not the reason we share. By sharing we hope we can encourage you, maybe educate you a little, and hopefully help raise awareness about cancer and infertility. They are both far more common than people think.

So today I encourage you to tell your story. Whether it is untold or just hasn’t been told very often. Share it! You are important, your story is important, and you never know who it could help. We’d love for you to share your story, or a link to it, in the comments below.

Back to Mayo

As I mentioned earlier, we are currently back at Mayo. Today and tomorrow Shawn has post-op scans, tests, and appointments. We will meet with his Urologist [who was also his surgeon] and based on the scans he will determine what Shawn’s next steps will be. Obviously, we are very much hoping for clear scans and to just have to do 3-month routine check-ups. There isn’t really much more I can tell you about this, other than we will update you all when we know more!

As always, we appreciate each and every one of you and are so very thankful that we didn’t have to endure this journey alone. We can’t even imagine how much harder all of this would have been without such amazing family and friends. Big or small, you all played a part in making this diagnosis bearable.