Woman beats cancer, but at a cost

BUCKHANNON — A local woman fought cancer and won, but 10 years later she’s still struggling with a side effect of her battle — infertility.

In 2006, Jamie Bailey went to a cervical cancer screening and the results came back showing a slight abnormality even though she had received a vaccine for the most commons strains of HPV, the virus that causes the cancer. While the vaccine is highly effective at preventing many incidences of cervical cancer, Bailey said it does not protect against certain uncommon types of HPV — and thus why screenings are still so important.

A major surgery followed in 2008 that cleared Bailey of the cancer, but left her infertile. She went through 16 infertility procedures over the course of two years, but scar tissue formed and doctors advised her not to continue. That’s when she realized her plans for the future were forever changed.

Bailey described infertility as a void that can’t be filled.

“You’re never going to be able to feel your baby kick, you’ll never be able to share those moments with your husband, like ‘Oh come feel the baby.’”

Upon first learning she was infertile, Bailey went through a range of emotions. She was embarrassed and kept the information from her friends and family. She blamed herself and felt as though she was the only one to have infertility. Over time it became a defining trait in her social interactions. Her friends and coworkers would refrain from talking about their families around her, or she would be excluded from conversations on child-related topics.

On one occasion, a woman had asked Bailey if she had kids, and when informed that she did not, the woman said, “You’re the smart one.” 

The assumption that Bailey chose not to have children, while not malicious, struck a chord. 

“Your whole life you are expecting to grow up, get married, have babies,” Bailey said of the societal norms presented to girls at a young age. “And you take the one thing you lived your whole life expecting, and it’s just gone.”

But over time, Bailey learned that she was not alone. Many women experience infertility, including eight of her closest friends.

Everyday life has returned to normal, but being alone at home sometimes presents Bailey with bitter reminders of her infertility.  The lack of a child’s laughter leaves her feeling empty.

So Bailey and her husband decided to do something about it.

For the last few years the couple has considered their options, starting with surrogacy.  Even though she will never have a biological child, Bailey felt it was unfair for her husband to be left without biological children as well. 

However, surrogacy proved too expensive, as did adoption.  It costs $12,000 just to enter the adoption system, and there is no guarantee they would come out of it with a child.

Foster care became the best option for them.

“We had to sit down and really contemplate what was more important to us, having our own child, or having a child,” Bailey said. “And when it comes down to it, I want to be a mother and he wants to be a father. It may not be biologically ours, but we are gonna be able to take a child into our home that may not otherwise have one.”

Foster care comes with its own share of fees and expenses, and Bailey is turning to the local community for help.

Bailey has worked in emergency care at St. Joseph’s Hospital for six years, and plans to retire from there.  She hopes to fund her legal fees and foster care expenses through community fundraisers.  She has already found a lawyer at a $2,000 flat rate, and has planned a yard sale this summer to begin raising funds. Other ideas she has considered are hosting a bake sale or a community dinner, and a 5K race. Nothing is set in stone as of yet.

Bailey hopes that by sharing her story she will help anyone going through the same situation, showing them that they are not alone.  Being more open and sharing her experience with others has helped her through the tough emotions she sometimes faces, and Bailey asks the community to be supportive to those who face troubles in their lives and never to assume anything. 

“Think before you say things, because you don’t know what any woman is going through,” she said.

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