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My Journey to Love and Motherhood After My Hysterectomy
by Jasmin W. Carey
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July 3, 2019

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My Journey to Love and Motherhood After My Hysterectomy

All Jasmin W. Carey wanted to be when she grew up was a mother. Then, at 29, she had a full hysterectomy.  

Courtesy of Jasmin W. Carey

As a child, everyone asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” which is often met with replies like “doctor,” “lawyer,” “singer,” “basketball player” or some other lofty lucrative profession they’ve seen on TV or that’s been placed into their ear by their parents. 

For me, my answer was always simply and sweetly: “A mom.” 

That was my only aspiration. I didn’t care how I was going to make money or where I would go every day. I cared about raising children.

With that purpose driving me through my adolescence into adulthood, it became the sole reason for me becoming more career-oriented. I wanted to provide the best life possible for my future children. 

With all of this love for my non-existent child inside of me, imagine my devastation and disappointment when, on March 17th, 2017, I was told I had a tumor the size of an orange on my right ovary. 

On March 17th, 2017, I was told I had a tumor the size of an orange on my right ovary. 

I’d gone to the doctor for a dull, inconsistent pain I’d had in my lower abdomen for several months. Like most women, I assumed it had something to do with my cycle and never allowed it to alarm me.  But, over time, it grew more persistent — convincing me to get it checked out.  

After a few ultrasounds and blood tests, my doctor called me and told me that what she originally thought was a cyst looked abnormal and the protein in my body that detects this type of cancer (CA125) was elevated. By the time she called with this news, she had already scheduled for me to have an emergency appointment with a gynecologic oncologist later that day.

RELATED: The Black Maternal Health Issue You Haven’t Heard of: HELLP Syndrome

Because I was only 29 years old, and ovarian cancer usually occurring in women over 50, the oncologist glanced at my chart and reassured me that it was just a cyst, despite my original doctor’s suspicions. Given that he was the cancer specialist, I trusted him and resolved that my first doctor was just being overly careful.

Courtesy of Jasmin W. Carey

On March 24th, I got admitted to the hospital for a cyst removal. A few hours later, I woke up to realize that the “cyst” was a tumor, and it had been removed, along with the subsequent right ovary, a real cyst on the left ovary, and my appendix, as it was fused to the right ovary. 

Question after question flooded my mind while I spent two weeks at home healing from my procedure: Can I still have children? Is this cancer? Do I need chemo? Is one ovary just as good as two? Did he get it all? I had just met him a few days prior, and in an instant, my whole life seemingly changed at his hand. 

I went in for my two-week post-op check-up and was hit with the cold words, “You need a hysterectomy. Carrying a child would be too risky for you. I don’t even know a fertility doctor that would take your case for you to freeze any remaining eggs. This isn’t cancer, but it isn’t not cancer either — it’s the cancer gray area. Just Google it.”  

Those were the last words I was left with that day: “Borderline ovarian cancer… just Google it.”

Those were the last words I was left with that day: “borderline ovarian cancer… just Google it.”

I got in the car with tears in my eyes and began doing just that — Googling it. Confused and sad, I texted a close friend who was in her residency to be an OB/GYN, and she urged me to get a second opinion, and that, since my diagnosis wasn’t full blown cancer, saving my eggs could still be an option.

I began searching for a new oncologist, and in a few clicks, I found everything I never knew I needed: an award winning, Yale-educated, Johns Hopkins network, Black, female doctor about 20 minutes from my job in D.C. 

I walked into my first appointment with her prepared for more bad news.  Instead, I was greeted with, “You have time. I have the name of a fertility doctor you should talk to. This chapter doesn’t have to be over.” She agreed that I needed a hysterectomy eventually, and that I should not carry children, but as long as I was willing to explore other options – so was she.  

RELATED: Black Obstetrician/Gynecologist Dr. Jessica Shepherd on the Importance of Maternal Health

The next year was filled with blood work, check-ups, CT scans, and MRIs to ensure that no other tumors lived in my body and that I did indeed “have time.” She referred me to a fertility doctor that was charismatic, funny, and more than willing to take my case — at the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. My insurance didn’t cover a dime when it came to fertility and I just didn’t have that kind of cash. 

Courtesy of Jasmin W. Carey

Also that year, I had reconnected with an old friend, Jasmine. (Yes, we have the same name. Yes, it’s weird and we hate it. She prefers JT.) JT and I met on a social media site about 10 years ago. She was a singer, a poet, a wordsmith, and very much in a relationship. Although we lived in separate states and did not speak much, we always found ourselves commenting on photos or making jokes. In 2016, as communication became more frequent, we both found ourselves single and living a little closer –– with her in NY and myself still here in D.C. We spent the summer of 2016 talking all day every day, making arrangements to see each other that we never followed through on, and falling asleep on FaceTime. 

JT and I met on a social media site about 10 years ago.

But, over the summer, it became clear that the distance was unsettling for JT, and that she was not willing to fully invest in someone she could not see at her leisure. I was ready to jump in head first, but not with anyone who was unsure, so I moved on. I know it sounds a little crazy because we had yet to meet in person, but the hours of countless conversation had to count for something — didn’t they? Maybe I was overzealous and maybe she wasn’t zealous enough, but it didn’t feel like the right time.

With the onset of my health issues, I began documenting it all on Facebook, Instagram, and a blog. JT took notice and began checking on me after I had posted about that original surgery. After a year of not speaking much, we slowly worked our way into our all day and all night routine once again. 

Knowing that distance was worrisome for her, I didn’t let much time pass before I drove to NY to visit her. That visit turned into biweekly visits for a year, and it turned into something serious.  But with that, there were questions.  

JT has always desired a traditional heterogenous type of relationship — where a masculine figure is the provider and protector and the feminine figure is the nurturer.  JT is the masculine, the provider, the protector, and she has worked hard on accepting this truth and presenting it to the world, not only in what she desires in a partner but in her own journey of self presentation.  With this, though she has wanted children, she never wanted to physically carry (through pregnancy), or birth children — so much so, that when she first learned of my potential surgeries, she thought she had “dodged a bullet.”  

We were both nervous about what the future of this relationship would be. 

Courtesy of Jasmin W. Carey

We were both nervous about what the future of this relationship would be. Would we adopt? Would she change her mind? Should I let her go if I couldn’t give her the type of family she wanted? None of this seemed fair – but don’t get me started on “fair.”

She urged me to start a GoFundMe page to cover the costs of the fertility treatments. I was hesitant to ask for help, but I knew I did not have a choice if there was any chance of me having the money to freeze my eggs in a timely manner. 

RELATED: How Self Acceptance and Love Led Me Down an Unexpected Road to Motherhood

By early spring of 2018, she was coming to D.C. to come to appointments with me and I had successfully raised $10,000 to freeze my eggs. Although I would need more money later to finish the IVF process, I had enough to get me through this first step. During the final tests prior to egg freezing, the fertility doctor informed me that my ovarian reserve had declined. It would be harder to get the number of eggs we wanted, but he was confident we could still get enough to make this worth it.

RELATED: A Man’s View of IVF: How This Husband Supported His Wife Through an Emotional Journey to Get Pregnant

In the days to come, I had this nagging feeling that I needed the results from my tests. This was a huge decision to spend this type of money and to take medication and have daily shots in order to freeze my eggs. I needed to see the numbers for myself. About a week later, the office emailed me my medical records, and to my surprise, my numbers were actually lower than what the doctor had indicated to me. My already slim chances for success were now cut in half. 

My already slim chances for success were now cut in half. 

This doctor, that I was putting my future motherhood in the hands of, had lied to me. I was floored. I was disappointed. I was back at square one. 

With JT by my side, I decided if I wasn’t going to freeze my eggs, I needed a hysterectomy immediately. I didn’t want to live another day with any potential of cancer reoccurrence active in my body. I scheduled a follow-up with my oncologist a week later and set a date for the hysterectomy — May 17, 2018.

Leading up to the hysterectomy, I sought out therapy. I knew what this change meant for me, and I knew I needed someone else to help me make sense of all of my emotions. After being let down by two doctors, I needed to strengthen my medical team — even for my mind and my heart. 

I promptly set up my first session. She was welcoming, she specialized in trauma, she had a wonderful smile, and she was Black. I immediately felt at home while we pushed though each session uncovering all of the layers of why motherhood was so important to me and all of the traumas I’ve endured just to get here. She cried with me, laughed with me, and helped prepare me for the grief that could come after the surgery. She knew I would mourn a child that I never even conceived. I already had, and it was nice to know that concept wasn’t as crazy as I had been feeling.

On surgery day, I arrived with my mother and JT. I checked in and got my IV started while trying not to let my nerves get the best of me. To be honest, I just wanted it all to be over. A surgery that was supposed to be about four hours – became seven. The four scars I had from the first surgery – became 10.  I remember waking up sore and disoriented, as I had expected, with my mom and JT filling me in on how long everything took. My doctor soon came in to say, “I’m so glad you followed your instincts. The remaining ovary had another borderline tumor – even bigger than your original one, but it’s okay because we got it all. You had a lot of scar tissue so it took a while and a lot of incisions, but it’s all gone now.”

I will never be able to describe what this feeling was like. Despite my pain, the 3-day hospital stay, and being poked and prodded — I felt free. I was relieved. The biggest decision I had made to date ended up being the right decision. I had so much fear that maybe I was rushing the hysterectomy, maybe I should get more opinions, maybe I should just wait, and all of that was put to rest. A tumor that never showed up on any of the tests that year had found a hiding place and continued to grow. Only God knows when I would have felt it or when it would have caused an issue, and by then, maybe it would have been too late. “Thank God I followed that nagging, impatient feeling within me to just move forward with the surgery.” is all I kept thinking to myself.

“Thank God I followed that nagging, impatient feeling within me to just move forward with the surgery,” is all I kept thinking to myself.

On the day I was released, I got home around 4 pm and rested on the couch — which would be my new bed for the next three months, as comfort would prove to be difficult for a while. JT woke me up around 9:00 pm that night and asked me to come to the basement, saying, “I know you can’t move too much, but I need you to come downstairs.” 

Step-by-step, I slowly, and sleepily made my way, and was greeted by a trail of rose petals leading me out to the back patio. I immediately knew what this was as she sat me down, surrounded by string lights, more rose petals, and candles. She began to read two poems: one she wrote herself, and one she selected. She spoke about always wanting to be here in spite of everything. Then, she asked me to marry her.  

Then, she asked me to marry her.  

Credit: Scott Hughes/@s.cameron_photography

As much as I had been waiting for this moment, part of me couldn’t believe it. That this woman was willing to abandon the way she saw herself having a family — just to marry me. I couldn’t say yes fast enough as she placed the asscher cut diamond halo ring on my finger.

Given all I had been through, conversations immediately began about having children. Adoption? IVF and a surrogate for JT? It was all on the table, but I never imagined the moment she said, “I’ll do it.” This woman who never wanted to physically be pregnant, who told me she “dodged a bullet” by not dating seriously me back in 2016 because she didn’t want to give up her perception of her family in her mind, was telling me that she would get pregnant. 

I had so many questions and concerns for her. How would a pregnant belly look under her men’s button down shirt and dress slacks? How could her swollen feet fit inside her Italian shoes? How would my dapper, short-haired fiancé, who would rather be called JT than Jasmine, feel about committing herself to something so feminine for nine months? 

I never asked her to do this. It was a big deal and a decision I never wanted to put any pressure on her to make, but she said she wanted to do this for us, and we haven’t looked back.

Knowing we wanted to start this process sooner than later, we knew we wanted to get married beforehand. On her birthday, April 14, 2019, we got married in front of our immediate family, with two of our closest friends serving as our officiant and photographer.

On her birthday, April 14, 2019, we got married.

We spent an amazing week in St. Barth’s afterward to take in all we had been through in the last two years and to celebrate her birthday and our wedding. We also knew that starting the process of creating a family would be expensive, and once the baby was here, they would have all of our focus.  So we needed to end “pre-baby” life with a bang, and we did just that. 

We came back home and started our first round of IUI (intrauterine insemination). Now on our second round and hopeful, we have been preparing a nursery at home, clearing out the clutter, and making space. We know our baby is on the way.  And we know that baby is coming through the perfect vessel of our imperfect journey, that was perfect for us.

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