THE BLOG

The Best Thing I Did While Battling Cancer

05/30/2014 05:16 pm ET | Updated Jul 30, 2014
Digital Vision. via Getty Images

It was October, and right in the middle of football season. We were at a game, using our free student tickets, rallying the Utes together, just as we did every week. The team had taken a time-out, and as I sat back in my seat, Sean took my hands in his, looked me straight in the eye and told me that he felt like it was time that we started looking into getting pregnant. That night was pure bliss for me; I was in my favorite place with my favorite person talking about making a lifelong dream come true, and bliss was hard to come by those days for us.

Sean was in remission at that point, and had been having clear blood work and scans come back long enough for us to seriously consider moving on with our lives. We had been married just over a year, but had known from the beginning that if we wanted to have a family of our own, we'd have to fight for it. Sean had banked his sperm just a few days before undergoing surgery to remove his testicle, as we knew that this surgery alone, never mind the chemotherapy that was sure to follow, could potentially be enough to stop Sean from being able to father children. We felt like we were in a good place. Finally.

Except that "finally" wasn't really our situation. We were in a good place again, for now. We'd been down this road so many times in the last couple of years. We were on a high again and knew how much we would stand to lose if the bottom were, once again, dropped out from underneath us. Sean had been back and forth with his cancer diagnosis and remission multiple times over the past couple of years, and we knew that if the trend kept up, we'd be in for bad news again.

We knew that contemplating parenthood was risky. Since his diagnosis, Sean had never been cancer-free for more than 6 months at a time, and here we were, discussing starting a family together. How could we justify bringing new life into this world when Sean was staring his own mortality straight in the face? We were young, but knew full well what the risks of making such a decision might mean. That night, on the train ride home, we talked things through.

Was this really something we wanted?

Of course.

Was this time right time for us?

Is there ever really a right time?

If we went for it, what would the first step be?

We'll call the fertility specialist who helped us when you banked.

What if the worst happens?

Let's take this one step at a time.

That evening when we got home, Sean said something that became a game-changer. Instead of worrying about the "what-if's" in life, it became clear to us that we were the decision-makers.

He said, "I'm done letting cancer control my life. One day I have it, the next I don't. I married you because I love you, and we want a family. I'm done letting cancer make the decisions for me. Having a baby is what is right for us, and now is the time to do it. I don't know what the future looks like, but as long as you're there with me, I know it will be blessed."

That's exactly the way Sean was. He had this marvelous and incredible perspective on life. The good in life was always so plain to him, when for me, seeing the sparkle was often much more of a chore. He knew that the right thing to do was to own his life, to take control. He knew that his cancer was a fight, but it was never in charge.

We decided to go for it. We made the decision to take back our lives from the chokehold of cancer. It was daring and uncertain, and there was a lot of second-guessing and doubt. But ultimately, the joy and surety of happiness together guided us to our answer -- we make the decisions in our lives. We are responsible for reaching for our dreams. We may not have control over everything, but we do control our attitudes and our own happiness.

The best thing Sean and I ever did while battling cancer was to release the grip on life that cancer had formed. We threw off the fear and doubt and the worry and the pain of it all and charged ahead together. For us, that meant making the decision to begin our family, and now, 4 years after his death, I have three gorgeous daughters by him. Oh! They challenge me every day, and of course, I often find myself drowning in the stresses of parenthood, but when I look back at where I've been and where he and I were together, I know that we made the right choice.

We made the choice to make the choices.

To read more about Karen's experience with cancer, follow her personal blogs here, here, and here.