Posts tagged ‘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

Week Two

week-two-10k-trainingLast week I announced to the world that I was training for a 10K. Well, okay – not really the world, but I did mention my training when writing for the Huffington Post. 

It was Week One and I was pumped. In my post, I explained how I wrestled with the initial fears of commitment but finally signed up for an upcoming race. I figured making it public would help me stay on track.

And it did at first. This time last week, I was pretty jazzed. I was on schedule, I hadn’t missed one day. Last Sunday night I ran a little over 3 1/2 miles. For someone who’d been in the hospital three weeks prior, I was pretty proud of myself. Shorts fit better. Mind was clear. Smile big.

And then, Week Two hit.

I headed out earlier this past week to run a quick two miles and struggled. Mentally and emotionally I wasn’t there. It was physically harder than I expected. Everything about the run was tough.

I chalked it up to a bad night and assumed my next run would go better. I was running with my trainer and another gal my age. I thought, “Surely having a group will help keep me going!

But, not so much.

I struggled again. But this time I had some of the fun “I’ve-had-colon-cancer-and-still-experience-side-effects” come up. For anyone else who’s had radiation or colon surgery – you probably get my drift. It wasn’t pretty.

After soaking in the tub to make the sting go away, I decided to take the rest of the week off to heal up. Good timing since I didn’t feel well all weekend. I was physically, mentally and emotionally defeated.

I needed some strength.

I’ve got a couple of close girlfriends who’ve stood by my side (and over my hospital bed) for many years. Hitting a “low” point made me realize I needed help. So I reached out and let them know what was happening.

And, in true fashion, they gave me just the encouragement I needed to hear.

I have the “muscles” I need to get through this. I just need to flex them and put them into play. Not only from a physical sense – but the emotional and mental, too.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been down because I want to feel normal. It’s one of many times my past has affected my present… and my future. I’ve been physically limited because of a circumstance I didn’t choose time and time again.

But through the years, God’s given me the strength to get through the trials. And as they reminded me, if I’m going to get ready for this race, I’ve got to tap into that.

Pressing on.

I see why so many Bible verses use running imagery. “Fight the good fight,” and “Press on to win the race.” That encouragement is no joke — running is hard.

And for me sometimes, faith is hard too.

It’s hard to use the muscles God’s given me to power through sometimes. But, if I’m going to run a 10K, I’m going to need that strength. And if I’m going to make a positive impact on others because of my story, I’m going to need to press on.

We’ll see what awaits me on Week Three.

August 5, 2013 at 8:00 am 3 comments

I want affordable health care. And a chicken sandwich.

Over the past several years, I’ve kept the Semicolon blog focused on one thing: life after colon cancer. I’ve covered various topics like eating organic and adopting a baby; however, I’ve steered clear of discussing one topic. Politics. My views are across the board, and even that stance is unpopular. However as a twenty-something, cancer surviving, Jesus-loving, mom of a biracial little girl – I’m still sorting out where I stand on many political issues. So you can imagine the dilemma I’m currently facing:

On August 1, I might just want a chicken sandwich.

I hope that means I’m not denied health care.

ChickFilA-ChickenSandwich

Suddenly my #1 with lemonade has become a political stance…

Torn between two groups

I have so many friends discussing Chick-fil-A, Facebook is now grouping all of their status updates together just like they do on Halloween when people post about their costumes. I come from a very conservative background and have many relationships with people supporting Chick-fil-A (Group A). On the other hand, I’ve also got several relationships with people who’ve been outspoken health care advocates, yet are unhappy about this restaurant chain’s recent comments and planning to boycott (Group B). I find myself in the middle of these two groups, wondering what it will take for all of us to get along.

In defense of the chicken sandwich…

If this restaurant chain was denying service to certain groups or making people sit in designated areas of the restaurants based on race, lifestyle or any other identifier, I’d certainly not patronize them. I’d probably be with my buddies from Group B. I’ve got a biracial kid so I get the anti-discrimination thing. However this restaurant, I feel, is not acting discriminatory. Sure, they have unpopular viewpoints and their leaders have offended some with their comments – however every group out there who’s passionate about something is likely to offend. Christian principles and Biblical truths are not always very popular; however, I feel like this restaurant delivers a good product, great service and stands by its values. So that’s why I will continue to go, and will most likely be eating a chicken sandwich next week.

However, can I still get health care?

So okay – I support Chick-fil-A. And while this might seem like a win for Group A – I’ve got a dilemma. In the event I buy a chicken sandwich next week – can I still support changes to health care? Many of my buddies in Group B are the ones who seem to understand why I got so excited that the laws are changing. I’m a walking pre-existing condition. I’m denied health care because of choices I did not make, nor have any control over. And the only reason I have health coverage now is because my husband works for a company who, thankfully, can afford a group plan. If that were not the case, we’d be scrambling. And I’d be denied. And I’m not sure what we’d do for health insurance. Owning my own business would probably be out of the picture. We’d have to look at changing jobs to get health insurance. And something about that just doesn’t feel right. Many of the people in Group B have been outspoken advocates for this. Yet if we agree on this issue, is it OK to disagree about Chick-fil-A?

Love covers all

I don’t hate politics, but I very much dislike the type of people we can become when “hot button issues” get involved. It’s not that I feel dialogue is unneeded and that our country doesn’t need run well – it’s that we can’t seem to respectfully disagree with one another.

I think it’s awesome when someone stands up for what they believe in – from both sides of the platforms. However I’d like to think that we can create a culture where people who are standing up will be respected, regardless of the issue. When someone stands up for something we disagree with, we need to respectfully disagree and not sling mud or slander. We’ve become a generation that “takes our ball and goes home” because we’re offended. What we need to do is link arms and sort it out. We might still disagree, however, isn’t there a way to live peacefully with one another?

As the Big Guy put it, “treat others the way you want to be treated” or “love one another; for love covers a multitude of sins.” While it might seem like the easy answer, or that I’m playing Switzerland, I really do feel like focusing on love is what we need to get us through these hard issues, and the upcoming months leading to November. We need to realize that as people from different backgrounds and cultures, we’re going to disagree. On the surface, the debates are about health care plans and a fried chicken combo meal. However what’s under this is much bigger, and I feel like a commitment to loving others first and foremost is the only way to get through. It’s what will make life worth living… and ordering waffle fries a non-political decision.

July 29, 2012 at 5:15 pm Leave a comment

January 23 – 10 Year Survivor | Mae’s Adoption Journey

If the journey to our three-week adoption wasn’t emotional enough, there was a special piece to the the timing of things that was making it even more memorable. I was walking in the shadow of another emotional January that happened just 10 years before. That one was just as thrilling, yet not so joyous.

The 2001 Diagnosis

Ten years earlier I had been rushed through a similar rat race of ups and downs – many that fell on the same days as key events in our adoption story. Except 10 years before, they weren’t full of anticipation and joy of a baby. Instead, they were full of fear and anxiety of cancer. As a 17-year-old, I had just been diagnosed with colon cancer. The roller coaster was full of doctors appointments, scans and scheduled surgeries. Not baby shoes and nursery items.

For months leading up to my “10 year” anniversary, I had come up with several ways I wanted to celebrate. I’d gone so far as to sketch out a big fundraiser to raise money for the Colon Club. Then I thought about running ten 5Ks in 2011, signifying my “10 years of survival.” But, nothing ever fabricated. And I realized that it was most likely because God knew I’d have other plans on the 10th year anniversary of being diagnosed with colon cancer.

10 Years of Survivorship and An Introduction to the Family

As the big day came, all I really wanted was to be with my family and our baby. Although I thought I wanted something “big” to give back to others – in the end I just wanted to be at home with the people who had supported me the most. My family.

Each one of the grandparents had waited for a new picture or update all week. While Mike & I would go visit the baby, they had yet to meet her. We wanted to make sure we had a court date and it looked like everything was a “go” before we introduced the baby to them. But as my special day came, I knew it was time. I wanted to celebrate my 10 year anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer with our family meeting our baby. Wht a way to redeem the day.

Meeting the Grandparents

Uncle Nick’s house had become like a second home to us, especially when he told us we were welcome to invite the family over. We gave each of our parents the time and address and told them we’d see them soon! We arrived a little early for more one-on-one time with our baby girl. Time flew and before we knew it, they had all arrived. And right on time – if not a little early. They couldn’t wait to meet our newest addition. It was a perfect moment.

The evening was one of the most memorable in the process. Grandparents ooed and awwed over our beautiful girl. Tears sprung when we finally disclosed her name to them, swearing them to secrecy. Even after a week of visits, we could tell she knew my face and responded to my voice. We ate pizza and had cupcakes. No talk of cancer was found – just excitement for a new baby. And in reality, that’s just how it needed to be.

Years earlier my parents were standing in a library telling me I had cancer. My life was at stake, and the future was uncertain. But now, 10 years later, I was still here. I had life. And what was even better was that another little life was about to enter our world. That was the best celebration I could have ever asked for.

January 23, 2012 at 2:31 pm Leave a comment

Devotion

So that’s my word for this year.

In the past I’ve come up with a “word” for the upcoming year. It’s not just me drawing out of a hat though, it’s often times a word that’s put on my heart many weeks before the new year rings in. I’ve done this for the past several years now, and it continues to amaze me how true these words have come to signify the year. What’s really funny is the word I wrote just one year ago that I felt would be the resolution for 2011: fulfill.

Little did I know that in just three weeks into 2011, God would fulfill a longtime prayer on my heart to be a mama, as well as many other pleas like job changes, provisions and support throughout this entire year.

Making Resolutions and Breaking Fingernails

In addition to that very Wheel of Fortune – Before and After subtitle, I’ve realized that in my world, making resolutions are indeed like growing out my nails.  My nails can grow, and I hardly ever notice them. But the day I realize, “Hey, my nails have grown out!” – I break them the next day. Seems to be the same with me and goals. If I realize I’ve stuck to a plan, I jinx myself and find that I undo it all the next day or so.

Goals Goals Goals

Part of my hesitation to resolutions has been the “goals” element. I hate goals. I hate thinking about them, setting them and especially voicing them. And why? Because I hate failing, and so I would rather not put them out there in the event that I don’t meet my goals and then it’s public knowledge that I fell short. How’s that for honesty and a dose of pride I’m working on? Plus, ask an almost 11-year cancer survivor what their five-year plan is – and I bet you hear some similar things. I’m going to tell you that it will be by the grace of God that I’m alive in five years, so my goal is to survive. Not to pull the cancer card, but that’s the reality.

So while I’ve gotten my hatred for goals out-of-the-way now, I will say that the word “devotion” being on my heart and a good look at life now, I’m coming around to the idea of setting some sort of goal and making a resolution to stick to a few things this year. I suck at routines, but that’s on the list of what I need to get in order this year. Not just for me but our kiddo, who I hear thrives on that kind of stuff. I’d like to get my book proposal done and take the step in trying to get published. I’d like to blog more. I’d like to keep cutting out sugar. Thanks to my cholesterol test, I need to exercise more. And most importantly, I want to become a gal who prays more this year – like the real, honest prayers.

So, with that being said, I kick off this year and pray for a heart of devotion. And I secretly wonder if a year from now I’ll be shaking my head at what came my way three weeks into the year again. Dear Lord, take it easy on me. Is it a weird goal to stop hating goals? Nonetheless, that is what I strive for. To be devoted to my calling, to actually stick with my goals and to stick to something longer than a few weeks. Here goes…

 

January 2, 2012 at 9:08 pm Leave a comment

Semicolon Thankfulness Post

If you ever invite Mike and me somewhere, you can plan on the “Burgess 15.” Sometimes we’ll surprise you and arrive closer to the start time, but typically (at least if we need to arrive together, and especially with Mae), we run a little tardy.

So in true fashion, I thought I’d do a thankfulness post. My friend Luckie Leah was a rock star and posted one reason she was thankful each day of November. Many other buds posted on Facebook throughout the month. And while I’m way to all-over-the-place to actually stick with something like that, I thought I’d do it in our traditional Burgess fashion, just a little late.

As a cancer survivor, when Thanksgiving rolls around I don’t have enough hands to count my blessings. And that was especially true this year as I sat with a busy 14-month-old and watched her annihilate my mom’s famous corn casserole recipe. She’s a perfect fit – as we all love it, too. I indeed am blessed.

While this in no way will be all-encompassing, here are several things that top my list of gratitude in 2011:

I’m thankful for God’s love.
I’ve still not totally grasped this, and I don’t think I ever will. But this year probably more than ever I’ve seen God work, watched His plans become WAY better than mine, discerned His clarity, and heard his calling.

First Mavs game!

I’m thankful for Mike and Mae.
This fall Mike & I have been together for 11 years – married almost 7 in May. Holy cow. That’s a long time. And the great thing is I still love it. He’s my best friend. We’re a good pair. Even when put to the test by becoming parents in the same amount of time it takes to microwave a TV dinner. Well, not really that fast, but it felt like it at times. But through this whole thing, we’ve been blessed with a beautiful daughter, Mae, who’s the happiest kid I’ve ever met. She loves to read. She’s on the go. Yet she still makes time to cuddle. She’s the best.

I’m thankful for our Families.
I think we seriously have the most supportive families in the universe. I know we felt it before this past year, but we feel it even more now that we have a family of our own. Our families have supported us in every way possible as we’ve transitioned into parenthood. From all of the grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles (and even great-aunts and uncles) that Mae has, we’re abundantly blessed.

I’m thankful for our open adoption.
Never thought I’d ever type that one. But indeed, it tops the list this year as something I am very thankful for. Not only has knowing Mae’s birth family been helpful in having some of her background; but it’s also brought many surprises to us – in good ways. These guys are our biggest cheerleaders. It’s like another extended family for us. They’ve taught me so much about love. And I wouldn’t have this any other way.

I’m thankful for Friends.
I know – aren’t we all, right? But seriously, I’ve got some amazing friends. This year the meaning of true friendship has been so evident to me through some buds who are technically my friends but feel more like family. They rake our leaves. They stay at our house. They’ve babysat. They pray for us. The list goes on and on. And it’s not really about what they do for us at all – it’s who they are. And we’re truly grateful.

I’m thankful for The Avenue.
The Avenue is our church home, which is really like an extension of our family. Serving with the leadership team over the past few years as been a rich experience. This year I especially felt a re-confirmation that we are in the right spot, and this church is exactly where we are to be. It allows us to serve with our gifts (Mike rocks it out on the worship team, I still keep all of the communications going), it gets us involved in serving others, and I couldn’t imagine life without such a great community.

I’m Thankful for Semicolon Communications.
Who starts a business in a down economy? This gal. But really, I felt like God was growing my business and leading me to dive in full-time this summer. And I am so grateful for this. It’s allowed me the flexibility to hang at home with Mae a few days each week. And to volunteer for the Colon Club. Through this business, I have the opportunity to be a marketing consultant for a few companies, and then be a copywriter for another. All while getting to keep first things first. Thank you Lord.

I am thankful for my health.
I’ve had a cancer-free year. All scans and tests have been clear. I’ve never been so thankful to be healthy.

Meet Beckett! He's handsome!

I’m thankful for a lot of other things, too.
I have a new nephew! We’ve got two running cars. I made some writer contacts. We vacationed to the beach. We went to a family reunion. My brother and sis-in-law came home several times from Louisiana. Oh so many things that I’m so thankful for.

So here are some list toppers for my year. I have to say, one of the best yet.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4

 

 

December 4, 2011 at 11:41 pm Leave a comment

Survivor Playlist

So I took a jog around the neighborhood a few nights ago. And then again at the gym last night (well, I ran at the gym, not around the gym.) And I realized something revolutionary. A good playlist can make all the difference in the world when running. (I realize that’s why the whole iPod craze caught on, but bear with me, I’m slow…)

So, in addition to some workout and worship playlists (don’t judge – they both help me keep going when I’m jogging) – I’ve created a survivor playlist. And let me tell you, it’s one of the best things in the world. If I’m having a rough day, running up a hill, having to head to the doctor’s office or even have a routine scan, I’ll put on my playlist and start jamming away. The songs are very carefully selected, and either bring back a memory of why to persevere, or just bluntly tell me to keep going.

Danielle’s Survivor Playlist

I couldn’t tell you I had a playlist without telling you what’s on it! Here are the songs I’ve added to my “survivor playlist” so far, and I’m sure there will be many more! Also see that although one of my biggest pet peeves in life is internet videos, I’ve decided to be trendy yet again and post links to videos so you can hear the songs and have something to look at. (And yes, I realize that YouTube is nothing new, either…) Maybe I’ll catch on sooner one of these days.

Enjoy!

Stronger | Kanye West

Survivor | Destiny’s Child

We Trying To Stay Alive | Wyclef John

I Will Survive | Gloria Gaynor

Shackles | Mary Mary

Stellar | Incubus (thanks to Guitar Hero, this one’s on there.)

Beautiful Day | U2

Lucky | Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat

Since U Been Gone | Kelly Clarkson

Life Is Short | John Reuben (ignore the cooky video, only one I could find with the song.)

What I’ve Done | Linkin Park

 

Have any new suggestions for me? Leave a comment and let me know of songs you think I should add!

September 7, 2011 at 10:56 pm 1 comment

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