It’s just a plugged milk duct, I thought, as I stared at my bumpy breast in the bathroom mirror. I had just stopped breastfeeding my nine-and-a-half-month-old son, so this was bound to happen. But when the lumpy area on my miniature mound was still there a few weeks later, I made a doctor’s appointment to check things out. “It’s probably infected,” I told my family physician as I undressed, talking nonstop and ignoring the look of panic in her eyes as she felt the suspicious area on my right boob. She ordered an urgent ultrasound and mammogram. A follow-up biopsy confirmed: It was cancer.
They caught it early, I had a double mastectomy, it didn’t spread. Really, I’m a lucky gal. But due to the hormonal treatments, which I will be on for many years to prevent a recurrence, I’m unable to carry another baby. My husband and I were ready to start trying for a buddy for our first bundle of joy, so as you can imagine, this was, shall we say, a bummer.
But then we remembered the Fabulous 14—our fertility Hail Mary.
Several years back I’d read about the rising trend of couples in their 30s freezing their embryos, giving them more time to save money and work on their careers. At that point, my husband and I had been talking about having kids but weren’t quite ready. Freezing our future chances seemed like a brilliant idea. I shot needles in my belly for several weeks, had my eggs retrieved, and we were able to freeze 14 embryos, aka the Fabulous 14. After it was confirmed I wouldn’t be bearing our next love child, we did some research, met with a lawyer, and decided surrogacy would be a great way to complete our family.
Green tea latte in hand, I went where I always go when I need an answer in a hurry: Facebook. A few keystrokes later, I found a handful of very active groups dedicated to surrogacy in Canada. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I posted my story. Within minutes I had multiple responses, including one from a surrogate who was currently pregnant but had a close friend who was looking for IPs (intended parents). “I think you two would really get along,” she wrote. “She has a great sense of humor.”
She passed along my info, and this gal, let’s call her Rose (after my favorite Golden Girls character), and I start messaging each other daily, getting to know each other and feeling things out like some weird surrogacy version of The Bachelorette. A fellow Scorpio, she’s hysterical and whip smart (like me, right?). She texted me pictures of a coworker napping at the office, and I of my son having a meltdown. We shared details here and there about our surrogacy expectations, but mostly it just felt like two girlfriends catching up. I flew to see her one Monday—as much as I love a good text, an IRL meeting seemed like a prerequisite to asking this lady to carry my baby—and we spent the entire day at a Swedish spa laughing, drinking, and almost getting kicked out of the “quiet meditation pool.” Silent Scorpios, I think not.
We made it official when she popped the question: “Listen, I was wondering, would you like to go out with my uterus?” We were a perfect match.
She’s the first person I reach out to when I wake up, oftentimes with a video of me singing Queen off-key in the car on my way to Starbucks. When she came to Toronto, where I live, for the medical screening, she brought her husband and kids. I fell in love even more. It was so easy to be around them all, almost as if we had been in each other’s lives forever—the oldest and dearest of family friends.
The day of the embryo transfer we were like two teenagers laughing and giddy with excitement. I held her hand tightly as they implanted one of our embies on ice, and we both got teary when they gave us an ultrasound photo of her uterus with one of the Fab 14 tucked safely inside. When the blood test for pregnancy came back positive two weeks later, I don’t know which one of us was more excited. “I am so thrilled I get to do this with you. I couldn’t imagine doing it for anyone else,” she said. And honestly, neither could I. I was more excited than I ever thought possible. Excited for a sibling for our two-year-old troublemaker. Excited for the first ultrasound that we would hear the heartbeat. But also, excited that—because of breast cancer—I have this amazing new friend who is now carrying our baby.
There is no question—breast cancer sucks. It would have been really nice if that bump on my breast had indeed been a blocked milk duct and I could have carried our next baby. But there is positivity everywhere if you know how to look for it, sometimes in the form of new best friends who love you so much they’ll carry your baby when you can’t. Because of this disease, we turned to surrogacy and welcomed Rose into our hearts and family forever. And for that, breast cancer, I am eternally grateful.
Sarah DiMuro is an actor and writer in Toronto. Follow her on Instagram @sdimuro2018 and check out her vlog for Rethink Breast Cancer.
Originally Appeared on Glamour