Raquel, Age 39
I’m almost 40 and still here. What’s so big about that, right? Well, at age 20, I didn’t think I’d still be here, for one. And now that I’m one year away from the big 4–0, I can tell you; it’s not scary to think about. I couldn’t be more excited to enter and celebrate a new decade of life.
I remember my family doctor recommending that I see a specialist because I hadn’t “bloomed” at 18. I remember the specialist telling me that, according to all the tests, I had a rare condition that could affect my ability to have kids later in life. I remember lying on the radiologist’s table, chatting with my tech about college life during a diagnostic ultrasound, and watching her facial expression change as she examined the screen. Two weeks and 36 staples down my abdomen later, I remember waking up from surgery to my oncologist saying they had removed the tumor. Still, they had to take everything else, too, that I’d never be able to have children biologically. “I can’t deal with this right now,” and pushed the morphine drip button just so I could go back to sleep. Time heals all wounds, right?
I found myself in therapy to help stop my nightmares about waking up during my surgery. I found myself in a breakup with my college boyfriend, who used my new-found shortcomings as an excuse to peace out. I was in a rage about not being fully a woman anymore and so angry with God for putting me through this. But then… I was able to find myself.
It took a few years and a move across the state to Austin to realize there was so much more to life. I was doing well at my job in radio, blessed with friends in this new city, and of course, like any single girl, I got a dog. I was alive and thriving. Kids? Who needs kids? I had zero dollars to my name, but I was going to live life to the fullest, and I did. The person I saw in the mirror was healthy, strong, ambitious, and grateful.
Relationships came and went — none of them seemed to fit the bill. Being in my 20s was the best until right before turning 30, when a new set of life changes came about. My dad, my hero, was in the final stages of pancreatic cancer, and at the same time, I met “my person” — TJ. One life in while another one on the way out. As Alanis says, “Isn’t it ironic?” Within 24 hours of meeting him, I told him about my conundrum of being unable to have biological children, and he responded with, “Well, we can adopt.” I knew — case closed, he was the one.
My thirties brought to life all the things I had been dreaming of for years — a wedding, traveling the world, killing it in my career (and finally making the money I deserved). Looking forward. At 36, we opened our hearts to adoption and quickly realized how much love surrounded us. Friends, colleagues, strangers, professional network acquaintances, family members, and neighbors all pulled together to help us raise money for our adoption. They believed in us. We were in the NICU six months later, holding our 3-day-old baby girl. As I was holding my newborn daughter, in my head, I could faintly hear that oncologist from my 20s saying that I’d never be a parent. And there I was.
Everything leading up to this point — this point that is just before 40 — has made me realize all the life I packed into the last two decades and how it was all possible because we got a stupid ugly tumor out, and I woke up to some crazy news. But that’s the point, right? I woke up.
Forty sounds amazing. It means more life and more waking up. I’m still here — so let’s do this.