renee sitting smiling wearing grey soft comfy sweatshirt with gold foil


“You have cancer.” 

At 26 years old, newly married, and anxious to start a family, I got the news no one wants to hear. During emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy, my OB/GYN found a mass on my right ovary. Confirming with doctors at MD Anderson in Texas, the news was not good: “Low malignant potential; the ovary needs to be removed.”

I sat in an office at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL, with a doctor’s whose name I don’t remember, crying, as he told my husband and me how he would make a vertical twelve-inch incision through my chest and abdomen to remove the tumor and to examine my other organs. “There will be no chance for children,” he said. (He didn’t know me.)

When I woke from surgery, coherent, but embarrassed to be surrounded by medical students, I was told that my left ovary had a cancerous tumor as well. However, this amazing doctor, (I still don’t remember his name) told me he changed the incision to horizontal and followed my bikini line. He bluntly stated, “I removed your right ovary, I cleaned up your left, I saved your uterus, now hurry up and get pregnant.” So I tried. However, within six months the tumor returned. I went back for surgery number two.

I spent years being angry and sad. Everywhere I looked there were babies. I felt inadequate. I felt like less than a woman. I was mad I couldn’t give my husband biological children. Was I worthy? Should he find a new wife, one who could make him a dad?

Several years later, I stopped whining and used my energy to find my child. Our child was out there somewhere, I could feel it. There was this tug on my heart that I knew was real; “tugging on my heartstrings” I would say. The biggest “tug” came in May when I met a lawyer affiliated with adoptions in Ukraine.

Our son was born in May.

He was released from the NICU in October, and simultaneously my husband and I flew to Ukraine.

As we sat speaking with the head “nurse” at the orphanage, she mentioned this tiny baby boy that just arrived. Would we like to see him? The same day we arrived, he arrived? How could that be a coincidence?

As soon as I saw him, I knew this was my son. This child was tugging at my heartstrings from halfway across the world.

Of course, there were struggles along the adoption path: paperwork mishaps, government issues such as being kicked out of our own Embassy, medical hardships, lack of food, money, and sleep. Yet there was no shortage of determination. Nothing would stop me from bringing my son home.

Being strong, being determined, and using my energy in a positive way to overcome the most difficult situation of my life gave me the most precious gift – motherhood. 

My son is now 20, a scholar and athlete at the University of Tampa. I also have another son (through IVF) who is now 15. He, as well, is a scholar and athlete. My husband thanks me regularly for “giving” him these amazing boys. 

My ectopic pregnancy saved my life from ovarian cancer. My ovarian cancer made me a mom. Would I trade what I went through for biological children? Never. My boys were out there; I just had to find them.

Do not let hardships stand in the way of what you want. Overcome. Be determined. Stay strong. You never know what will happen.

Written by Renee Edwards, Siren Luminary

Follow Renee on Instagram! @reneealys

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