Reflecting on Father’s Day and Fertility

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Reflecting on Father’s Day and Fertility

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Livestrong has helped save more than $3.5 MILLION in fertility preservation through LIVESTRONG Fertility

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016 - 7:00am

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My dad taught me a lot. Because of him, I’m a passionate sports fan. I was wrapped in a Cubs blanket when I was born – remnants of his hometown of Chicago traveled with him to my birthplace in Austin. Baseball, football, basketball, golf, soccer… he introduced me to all of those and more. But above all, he taught me to be competitive.

I owe a lot to my dad. Yes, he may have instilled a deep love for heartbreaking teams like the Chicago Cubs and Bears, but also the legacies of coaches like Vince Lombardi and Jimmy V. He positively reinforced my athletic endeavors. It was never “don’t strike out” but always “be smart, get a hit.” He refrained from berating me on the sideline of a soccer game; instead he would pat me on the shoulder and remind me how much time was left to score again.

This glass-is-half-full mentality carried over into my battle with cancer. When I got sick at the age of 10, he printed huge banners that said “Failure is not an option” and “Tough times don’t last, tough PEOPLE do!” over my hospital bed. He stayed with me on weekends and we watched sports together. I wanted to make him proud. I wanted to win at cancer just like I won at sports.

As I was laying in bed, I hoped one day to have a son of my own. Picture that. 10 years old, tubes running in and out of my body. Shackled to a hospital bed, I pictured my future son. I envisioned teaching him the same things that my dad taught me. After five years of battling four cancers, over 75 surgeries, two bone marrow transplants, and countless rounds of chemo and radiation, I was just happy to be alive.

The path through survivorship to adulthood was a tumultuous one. I struggled with focus. I endured chronic pain. I had legal troubles. My finances were in the toilet with student loan and medical debt. Having kids was the farthest thing from my mind. When I found the LIVESTRONG Foundation in 2008, I didn’t have health insurance much less a grasp on what it would take to start a family. I slowly regained passion for life with their help.

When I felt comfortable in my path back to livelihood I wanted to know more about my fertility. Doctors said it would be difficult to have kids naturally, but there are ways to enhance the chances at building a family. I went to my doctor and requested a fertility test. Nothing is worse than hearing the words “you have leukemia”, but if there was one phrase that could come close to being as gut wrenching, it would be: “You have no viable sperm.”

I rarely share my sadness about my infertility with people. Usually because when I do, their first reaction is, “But you can always adopt!” “There are SO many young children in this world that need loving parents,” they’ll say. I know that. I really do. One day I might go down that path, and thanks to my dad, I will face that time with positivity.

Now, I have the privilege of working for LIVESTRONG – where this year alone we have already helped cancer patients and survivors save more than $3.5 MILLION in fertility preservation and medication costs through LIVESTRONG Fertility. I can tell my story so that others can prepare themselves to build a life after cancer. I can help explain to others that becoming a father or a mother could now be possible and that LIVESTRONG can help you prepare for the future. I hope that I can encourage others like my dad encouraged me. Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there and all the dads to be. Thank you for teaching us how to keep the glass half full.