Mother’s Day is a special day to celebrate and honor all mothers, as well as other influential and strong women who shape our lives. We had a chance to have a Q&A with survivor, mom, and Teen Cancer America AYA (Adolescent and Young Adult) Advocate, Alyssa Gomez. At the young age of 14, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Today, she speaks as a mother and leaves words of encouragement to other future AYA mothers and the importance of fertility preservation.
Tell us Alyssa, how does it feel to celebrate this Mother’s Day?
Celebrating Mother’s Day is simply amazing, it honestly brings me tears of joy. I appreciate my mother on a different level and I love being a mommy to such a beautiful baby girl.
Can you talk about what you went through pre-pregnancy? Were there ever discussions with your oncologists about complications of becoming pregnant?
The topic was brought up by my parents and I during treatment because we were concerned about my fertility in the future. I truly believe that had we not brought up the topic, it would not have been discussed. The oncologists said there weren’t enough studies to know the outcome of fertility in the future, but there was a possibility that my fertility may be affected.
Did your doctors ever discuss the options of preserving fertility?
Yes, once… We brought up the topic and they did discuss my options of preserving my fertility. However, the truth was (according to them) that I had no options. Their reasoning was that because I am a female, I didn’t have the option to preserve my fertility. They went on to say that males with the same type of cancer (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) were given the option to preserve sperm cells due to the radiation they receive in the area of their reproductive organs, but because the female treatment protocol didn’t call for radiation in the same area, I did not have any options for preservation. Needless to say, I didn’t know if I would be able to conceive until I was ready to try.
My parents later wondered if it was because of our insurance, but we never received a definitive answer.
Were you at an age where you didn’t feel comfortable talking about preservation?
I was definitely comfortable speaking on this topic with the doctors. In fact, I wanted to argue as to why females had no options to preserve fertility, although we were undergoing chemotherapy treatments that could alter a variety of things in the human body. Being a mother was the only thing I was certain that I wanted out of life. After this discussion with the oncologists, I was left confused and my spirit crushed. I felt that everything in my life from that point forward was uncertain.
I always loved babies and children because the possibility of having my own was uncertain. I sought out to surround myself with the presence of such tiny beings and worked with children ages 5 to 11 for eight beautiful years, I even took a position to be a live-in nanny while simultaneously welcoming my baby nephew, Luke, into the world. When Luke was born, my love for motherhood grew immensely.
Now that you’re a mom, what ‘advice’ or ‘words of encouragement’ would you give to any potential future AYA moms?
Now that I am a mom, the advice I would give to potential future AYA moms is to set yourself free from the burden of the unknown. The reality of this life is that everything is unknown from the moment we take our first breaths. Positive energy, living in the moment, and taking life one day at a time is the best for your spirit and those that surround you.
I’ve always had an open mind to exploring different options, such as adoption because I’ve learned that motherhood looks different for everyone. It wasn’t until I put all of this into practice and embraced all of my unknowns, that I was truly happy with life and all the surprises that were in store.
About a week after my enlightenment, I became pregnant. This was my proof that life goes on as it should, regardless of any worries or doubts and it was the biggest most beautiful surprise that has changed my life forever. It is hard work, but the most fulfilling role in my life. A once in a lifetime experience… and I wouldn’t change a thing.