For eight months Schumacher, then 27, underwent aggressive chemotherapy. She lost all her bodily hair, endured weeks of nausea, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain and a bout with pneumonia that landed her in the hospital for an extended stay. “It was a long haul with the chemotherapy drugs,” said Schumacher. “I started in the Spring and ended at Christmas, but the treatments worked and I’ve been in remission for ten years.”
Three years into her second remission, Schumacher and her husband put the past behind them and started talking about and then trying to get pregnant. She said she never thought of waiting to see if she reached the five year remission mark again because “going through cancer makes you say to yourself -- ‘I’m going for it’.”
“You make a decision, you don’t wait for this thing to swallow you up, you just go for it,” explained Schumacher, whose son Ryder, her only child, recently turned seven. “ My doctor showed me his reservations but I ignored him because I wanted to have a baby. I was young. I didn’t ask questions. I was so optimistic all the time.”
What Schumacher and thousands of other women who undergo chemotherapy and other cancer treatments must acclimate to is the possibility of early menopause, damaged eggs, new cancers developing during the rapid cell division of pregnancy, and the risk of former cancers returning. Women and men with cancer also risk losing their jobs, housing and medical insurance due to prolonged medical absences.