Posts filed under ‘Cancer Survivor’

ADOPTION AFTER CANCER: WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

mae-danielle-cancer-survivor-adopt

Me & Mae (domestic adoption at 4 mo.)

As an adoptive mama with a cancer history, I’m often asked about the adoption journey for cancer survivors. Our friend Nikki who works as an adoption social worker sat down with me many moons ago as I researched my adoption options.

That coffee date has always stuck with me as it provided great insight.

So – it’s with complete joy that I bring you some Q&As with Nikki – one of the best adoption social workers out there. (And she just so happens to be going through her own adoption process right now, too!)

Nikki’s answering some of the most commonly asked questions I hear from cancer survivors who want to adopt.

Enjoy our first post & stay tuned for more to come!

ADOPTION AFTER CANCER:  WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

Nikki-desimone-pauls-msw

Meet Nikki, licensed social worker

Questions answered by Nikki DeSimone Pauls, MSW – August 2013

Q:  What are the types of adoption I can consider if I’ve had cancer?

A:  The only type of adoption that may be completely closed to certain cancer survivors is embryo adoption, based on what treatments they had and if those treatments rendered the individual infertile. Everything else is a possibility:  domestic adoption (both private and through the state) as well as international adoption.

Q: Are there any adoption paths/options NOT open to me as a cancer survivor?

A:  I don’t see any options that are not available on the whole. Most types of domestic adoption will be options, as will quite a few international options. Foster care, or adoption through the state, would generally yield even more flexible options.

Q:  What does a social worker look for in a couple who’s ready to adopt?

A:  Being a social worker who has written favorable home studies for cancer survivors, the thing I look for most is their oncologist’s report and supplemental medical letter. I also talk with the client for more information.

One recent example:
A prospective adoptive mom found out she had breast cancer the day I sent her the draft of the home study. A few days later she was scheduled for surgery and then had to reply to my request for her to submit changes needed to their home study. Boy, did she have a big change to submit! I did write a favorable home study; however, it was conditional based on the outcome of her surgery and treatment. As soon as the home study was done, the couple effectively went on hold. The surgery went well, treatment even better, and when she had been over one-year cancer free, she got a fantastic note from her oncologist. I did a home study update and they were placed with a baby a couple of months later. I had a lengthy note from the doctor so I was able to make the assessment that her prognosis was excellent, so I basically used that information in the home study and it went just fine.
This is clearly best case scenario, I know they can’t all be this great, but for example-sake, this was a good one.

Q:  Will having cancer impact eligibility to adopt in any way?

A:  A person who is currently undergoing cancer treatment should be 100% focused on their health and treatment and not focusing on adoption. But after cancer, and with a good prognosis, there are very few limitations for a cancer survivor.

Q:  Is there special documentation is needed for a cancer survivor to adopt?

oncologist-letter-for-adoption-homestudy

My oncologist Dr. Rosen wrote a great letter for us when we adopted Mae.

A:  Yes, the oncologist’s letter is paramount. Ideally, the letter will include:

  • what type of cancer
  • what stage it was caught
  • treatment plan
  • expected prognosis
  • percentage of recurrence (if that information is able to be stated)
  • if the physician would recommend the patient for adoptive parenting

The social worker will use this in making his/her favorable determination for adoption and may also pull quotations out of it for the home study (as home studies become legal documents.) So, getting a letter as favorable as possible is helpful.

In the above example that I gave about the gal who found out about her breast cancer on the day of the home study finalization, her doctor’s letter was so favorable that due to the early time period of catching it, aggressive surgery and treatment (double mastectomy, hysterectomy, chemo, and radiation), the percentage chance of her cancer recurrence became less than me getting breast cancer in the future. So being able to summarize that in the home study was compelling and the judge had absolutely no problem with it.

Q:  Do I need to be in remission for a certain amount of time before I can pursue adoption? How long?

A:  In talking with others about this, and after taking my own personal opinion into effect, we all believe that at least one year in remission is a good amount of time. In addition to the toll it takes on the survivor’s body, possible hormone imbalances, stress on the marriage and family, financial stress, time off work, etc., may all add up after a cancer diagnosis. One year out seems to be a good amount of time. That’s really the case in anything adoption though!

We social workers like to see a year after a life-changing event regardless of if the event is happy, sad, or scary, so this is no different. Some international countries will have additional requirements, such as needing someone to be 5-years in remission, and some agencies have their own requirements, others of them 3-years in remission, but that is all on a case-by-case basis.

Q:  What are some good resources for cancer survivors to look into when researching adoption adoptions?

A:  I think just talking with social workers and adoption agencies about the possibilities for adoption is a great place to start. We can help with some of the basic information and research anything that is unknown. Things are so conditional when it comes to this topic, nothing is black and white, and talking with someone is a great idea for gathering accurate information specific to your case.

For example, I would be a lot more inclined to approve a family similar to the one I’ve been referencing here throughout, rather than someone who just had the one breast removed, no hysterectomy, and tested positive for the BRCA 1 or 2 genes.

Additionally, no two adoption agencies or social workers are going to react the same way, too. I’m more on the cautious side, but I also place a lot of emphasis on the oncologist’s letter. Whereas, someone who has never worked with a cancer survivor before, and has some negative family history (e.g., mom died two years ago from cancer), might not be as willing to consider the prospect.

FertileAction.org has a helpful resource page for cancer survivors. I also recommend calling an adoption consulting agency to talk to experts about your particular case. Consulting agencies network with a lot of adoption agencies and are advocates for those wanting to adopt. They can steer you clear from agencies that are not flexible when it comes to cancer survivors adopting and point you toward agencies who are more friendly toward the issue. A great group who would love to be an adoption resource for cancer survivors is Christian Adoption Consultants.

BOTTOM LINE:

It’s Danielle again —

So as you can see, Nikki is a WEALTH of knowledge and there is HOPE for the cancer survivor who wants to adopt!

Stay tuned – we’ll have Nikki’s advice specifically for cancer survivors who want to internationally adopt and domestic adoption for cancer survivors coming up.

And – if you have a question for us, please leave a comment and we’ll address it in a future post!

-danielle

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August 22, 2013 at 6:18 am 7 comments

But I’m not an athlete

“Twinsies” isn’t something I’ve ever really been “all about.” Just ask my husband. Days when we both choose to wear the same t-shirt, I insist that he goes upstairs to change before we leave the house… that is if I got dressed first. If he beats me to it, I quickly change my shirt. What can I say, I’m pretty independent.

So when my friend Amy insisted that we wear the same t-shirt for our first 5K together, I instantly replied with a loud “no way.” It wasn’t enough that she was planning to run with me at my pace (albeit my post-hysterectomy/I’m just now running again pace) – but she wanted to wear the same shirt…. a bright yellow Fellowship of Christian Athletes shirt. I had no issue with representing FCA from a beliefs standpoint, however there was one small problem… I’m not an athlete.

But really … I’m not an athlete

fca-endurance-amy-danielle

Amy & Me at the Glow Run 5K in Kansas City

For weeks, Amy insisted that I wear the shirt and match her. And while I kept throwing out excuses like I hate dressing as twins (which is true), I continued to hesitate because of my fears of failure and judgement. I’m a slow runner, a 10-minute mile is a victory for me. So the fears of people laughing at a girl who’s “obviously not a runner” dressed in an FCA shirt flooded my mind. Despite my involvement in youth sports and freshman volleyball, I would never classify myself as someone who could properly represent the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Plus, I wanted the “I’ve had cancer/I’m slow/It’s good enough that I’m here” pass. I didn’t feel like wearing the shirt would let me off that easy.

Taking one for the team

Long story short, I finally caved. And I wore the shirt. And since that first race, I’ve worn it again. And I probably will wear it in the future. Because Amy’s persistent and gentle encouragement finally sunk in this past weekend. It’s not about being an athlete and wearing an FCA shirt. It’s about representing Christ while we run.

Why I run…

FCA-endurance-glow-run-team

Friends from our church, The Avenue, running together!

Some of my favorite parts of the FCA Creed state:

We race to represent Christ, we’re not out there on our own strength, and that we compete for the pleasure of our Heavenly Father … for the reputation of the Holy Spirit.

I came to realize this past weekend that even running a 5K can be a testament of God in my life. Especially since I’m living proof that God is a healer… it’s because of Him that I’m physically able to run and have such a great Gospel community to run with. And while I can’t share my story or evangelize during the 3.1 miles (nor do I care to…), I’ve realized that I can represent Christ along the way. I can pray for my city as I run its streets. I can be kind and friendly to the other racers. And I can represent Christ in the sea of darkness … even if that means becoming a “twinsie” and sporting the FCA shirt.

-db

More about FCA Endurance team (yes, you can sign up … even if you’re not a runner.)

July 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm Leave a comment

“No” is not the issue

I tend to stay pretty busy. Well, that may be an understatement. Really busy. And even after typing that, I feel the guilt coming on. Those email forwards about BUSY = “Being Under Satan’s Yolk” did have an impact on me although I didn’t think I gave them much weight. Grrr. And just admitting that we stay really active already has me feeling bad.

This week I had a conversation that got me thinking about my schedule and my life pace in general. I think looking from the outside in, it might seem that we … or at least I … have an issue with saying “no.” And while at times that’s certainly at play, this week I realized there’s more to it than that. I don’t say “no” so much because I want to say “yes” so much. And fortunately … or unfortunately … I live with the reality that if I don’t say “yes” today … there might not be another shot tomorrow.

Live Like You were Dyin’

cancer-survivor-stories-arch

Talk about live as we were dying – I went up in the St. Louis Arch again.

As a writer, I’m not a big fan of clichés. But I don’t know any other way to put it – my cancer survivorship really does make me appreciate and live for today. As I’ve reflected on my conversation this week, I’ve realized all the different ways this plays out in my life … even down to my schedule. I do stay really busy. But I’ve also had some awesome life experiences thus far because I said “yes” to an opportunity, or sought out the opportunity because of a passion or curiosity.

Sure, sometimes it is time to say “no.” The reality of timing, finances, responsibilities and overall health (physical, mental and emotional) does not make me exempt from needing to learn that little word and practice it more. And I do use it often when we need a break or extra rest. But I guess  as I continue to work out my survivorship and understand all of its implications, this is just part of it. “Live like you were dying” as the country singer says, is definitely part of my life.

More Birthdays?

I don’t make plans for my 50th birthday party. Or honestly, even my 40th. And it’s not because I don’t hope to have one, or even plan to have one. It’s because I don’t count on it. Regardless of if I see age 30, 40 or God-willing… even age 50 … I want to be glad I took the chances, experienced the opportunities and invested in the people along the way.  If I do make it to 50 – that will be great. A big party will ensue. However, in the event I don’t make it to 50 – I want to embrace it the best that I can. If there’s ever a “no tomorrow” may I still be counting my blessings because today in itself was pretty great.

July 14, 2012 at 8:10 am Leave a comment

A Third-World View of Survivorship

Over the past several days, I’ve had the opportunity to get together with Taylor. While unknown to most of the world, those who’ve seen the documentary Rainbow Town know who I’m talking about. Taylor is one of the children featured in a film about a Liberian orphanage and is currently traveling around the United States. My friend Amy hosted him over the weekend and today he spoke at our church. As I’ve gotten involved with Rainbow Town, my heart’s grown for this amazing group of people in West Africa. Not only are they beautiful, courageous and strong. I’m convinced they’re some of the most faithful individuals on the planet.

rainbow-town-taylor-avenue-church

Taylor hanging out with our life group from The Avenue Church!

Emotional roller coaster

I’ve experienced many emotions during the few interactions I’ve had with Taylor. I imagine this is common when you either travel to third-world countries or meet people from them. Guilt – I was born a “Westerner” and have “simple” privileges like cars and credit cards. Sadness – no child should have to live through war. Embarrassment – he must think we’re so lazy. (He walks 1 hr 45 min to school ONE WAY!) Excitement – his passion to be a pastor is contagious. Joy – God SAVED him! And most of all – humbled. Now that’s a survivor.

Defining Survivor

I am a survivor of cancer. And Taylor, he is a survivor of war. And while I certainly am not trying to liken our experiences – I do understand life-threatening situations that leave physical wounds, emotional scars and life-changing consequences. We both identify with the word “survive.”

danielle-burgess-taylor-rainbow-town

What an honor to meet this guy!

The thing about Taylor though is that he doesn’t find his identity in survivorship. He’ll openly talk about being orphaned at birth and tied naked to a tree as a 4-year-old when rebels overtook his country; however, Taylor always ends with the point that God saved him. God had mercy on him and rescued him. No calls for pity. No room for tears. He shares his story to share about Jesus.

Finding Purpose in our Pain

Taylor’s story isn’t about Taylor – it’s about Christ. And that’s the way it should be. This teen has already found the purpose for his difficult life circumstances. He has no question about why he survived war, and what he’s to do now. And I’m rapidly taking notes.

I live in America where we process our feelings and talk about what happened. In the midst of it, we also get a “free pass” when it comes to our faith. We often aren’t pushed to lay down the pride and selfishness that can come with surviving something so awful. (After all – we do get a lot of attention and free t-shirts.) Instead, we can fall into the trap of self-pity and let ourselves off the hook. We think we’re acting like the Psalmist when we question God and blame him. However, for many of us – we can stay camped out at that place way too long, or never fully let God back into our hearts to do His work.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to have met Taylor. He’s showed me once again that there is purpose in survival that is far beyond ourselves. God works for our good and He loves us. No, life’s not always easy. And things aren’t going to be fair. But that doesn’t take away the fact that we are to fear Him and that He wants to use us. If we will just open up our hearts to Him, the journey through survival will make so much more sense… from any part of the world.

July 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm 2 comments


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