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Linda’s Story

The year was 1986 and I was 3 months in utero, being carried in the womb of my mother in Eastern Europe. On April 26th, the Chernobyl disaster happened in what is now Kyiv (next door neighbor of Romania, the country I was born in) and due to pregnancy, my mother could not take the anti-radiation pills to minimize the effects of radiation. I became the only child she could have.

Fast forward to 2008, my final year studying for my B.Sc. in Neuroscience at the University of Toronto. My parents had moved to Canada and I pursued my education until I started experiencing strange, inexplicable pain in my abdomen which landed me in the Emergency Room and a quick CT scan revealed what was wrong: a softball-sized retroperitoneal neuroma (a tumor of the nerves) pressing right against my aorta, sciatic nerve, and causing one kidney to hemorrhage. My first hospital-assigned oncologist broke down in the hospital and cried next to my bedside after my results came in showing the giant mass. She was removed from the case due to this emotional attachment and a heroic 30-something female oncologist named Natalie took up my case. She worked diligently and discussed this strange and very rare tumor in a 21 year old at her monthly medical conference with hundreds of other specialists about how to proceed with treatment. Finally it was decided: a conservative surgery would be led by 3 specialist teams (neurology, urology and oncology) to save my life with very high chances that I would experience lasting effects on mobility (losing function of my left leg), kidney loss or myriad other complications.

I knew exactly what was happening, after all I was pursuing pre-med education and had volunteered for 4 years at the largest oncology hospital in Toronto. I suffered most for my parents – their investment of time, labor and love they placed in their only child was being repaid with pain, uncertainty and I was powerless to change it. I was angry at myself, mostly for having only focused on my education and future career rather than expanding my interpersonal relationships. I knew deep down I wanted children one day, I knew I wanted a husband but I had pushed these desires off. Yet, I now faced the possibility that none of my plans, especially not my already-interrupted education, would come to fruition. After soul searching in my hospital bed, I recognized that true happiness for me personally would only come from the wholeness of my own family.

Natalie, my surgical oncologist and scientist, was 8-months pregnant when she performed my surgery. I survived the surgery led by this awe-inspiring doctor, despite all odds, her team of specialists saved my life, restored my leg function and saved my kidney. The pathology reports came back and miraculously, I didn’t need further treatment. The doctors involved had all concluded that the tumor had grown slowly throughout my life – it likely started, they said, in utero triggered by the Chernobyl radiation, and it had grown during hormone spikes throughout my life (ie. puberty). For my follow-up, I returned to Natalie and she had birthed a daughter, I inquired what she had named her – to my surprise, it was my name. I took it as a sign that I had unfinished business.

My fate took another course than what had been planned or expected, that’s for sure. I met my husband at 22, in the most unlikely of ways, immediately the year following my surgery. I finished my degree and continued my education for another semester to focus on fields I was interested in. During my spare time, I stayed in and played video games often, it was an escape unimpeded by the foot-long scars of surgery on my abdomen and the subsequent umbilical hernia. We met playing a video game (World of Warcraft) and were friends for half a year before we even met – we were spending all day texting or calling. Early on in our courtship, we spoke about having and raising children together. We understood each other, we had an uncanny amount in common, it quickly became obvious to us both that we were the perfect match. My husband is from New York, but our connection is so strong that I moved to be with him without any reservations. We have moved cities a few times for jobs (Seattle, New York), worked from home together for many years now, travel, cook, garden, watch movies and tv shows and do most hobbies together. Our families get along and our home is our sanctuary. We are patient and passionate about learning and diversifying ourselves.

11 years of marriage later, we do not have our own children due to my physical inability from my past surgery. I do not regret the turn of events that saved my life, but it did eliminate my ability to carry a baby to term in my abdomen. My husband (also my best friend and partner), has always sought to protect me and he is supportive of the surrogacy journey we hope to embark on. We have recently undergone IVF treatments and embryo cryopreservation – together every step of the way.

The only way we can have a baby is through the help of a gestational surrogate to carry our fetus through pregnancy. We are aware it takes a special, highly empathic and good-natured person to help us on this assisted-reproduction journey. We would be eternally grateful to our gestational partner for giving us the opportunity to become parents.

My life has been filled with lucky coincidences but I am asking for one more to round out our family: a child to enrich our lives, pour our love and time into and continue our family legacy.

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