One day Beth noticed a small lump on her breast. She had no idea it was the beginning of a long series of battles that would challenge her in ways she could never imagine.
Introducing Beth and Randy. The first Surrogacy Together couple of 2015. Learn more about Surrogacy Together.
Beth Baughman knows all too well that “life is too short to be unhappy.” At just 27 years old, Beth , was a mother to an 18-month son, named Lyncoln. In Fall, 2007, Beth noticed a small lump on her left breast, high up by her armpit.
Beth, an Iowa resident, was only on contract at work and had no health insurance. She ignored the lump for a month, assuming it had something to do with breastfeeding her son. But it got bigger. Finally she went to see the doctor. The physician told her it was probably related to her menstrual cycle and not to worry. But the lump continued to grow, rapidly. Doctors assumed it was a cyst and scheduled a surgery to have it removed. Before the surgery, Beth had an ultrasound.
“I remember the look on the technician’s face as she did the ultrasound. I knew it wasn’t good, but I had no idea how bad,” said Beth, recalling the day she began to seriously worry.
A full body PET scan was ordered. The diagnosis: Stage 3B inflammatory breast Cancer. It was in her lymph nodes and was already 10cm in diameter. The good news: It hadn’t spread to any other parts of her body.
And so Beth’s Battle to beat Cancer began at the bottom of the mountain. Her climb to the top was going to be daunting, but she began the trek anyhow. Her first leap of courage began at home, when she decided to leave Lyncoln’s father and move out on her own. Stuck in a relationship that wasn’t working for either of them, Beth made the choice that was a long time coming. “Being diagnosed gave me the strength to find happiness.”
Thankfully during the beginning of her diagnosis, Beth was hired on permanently at her work and she obtained health insurance. She was definitely going to need it. Chemotherapy had to begin before they could do a double mastectomy. The discussion ensued about Beth’s chances of having any more children. Doctors didn’t recommend foregoing chemo to remove Beth’s eggs. The younger a person is, the more the Cancer thrives. Beth’s Cancer was an aggressive form and was wrecking havoc on her healthy body. “At that point I was done thinking about getting married. I was battling to live for my son. Anything else was just not important,” said Beth.
During the six months of chemotherapy, Beth didn’t just lose her hair. It causes the body to induce a state of chemical menopause. Her menstrual cycle ceased and she had the terrible side effects of her body thinking she was done ovulating for life. She suffered from hot flashes, weight gain, and mood swings. On top of that, Beth’s Cancer was estrogen positive. That meant that the more estrogen in her body, the more the Cancer thrived. She was too young to remove her ovaries, so doctors decided to give her drugs that helped to essentially keep her ovaries asleep.
The many rounds of chemotherapy did work. Beth’s tumour shrunk so much it was virtually undetectable by touch anymore. Up the mountain she went.
After the double mastectomy, Beth was left with no breasts for 2-3 months while she underwent radiation – a double insurance against any Cancer cells left floating around. She did that every day for 8 weeks. It essentially burned her skin. They wouldn’t know if there were any remaining cells until the biopsy of her breast tissue came back. The result was positive; no cells survived.
In the midst of all the doctor’s appointments, treatments, pain, and loss, there was a shining hope. During the six months of chemo, Randy was transferred from Pennsylvania to Iowa by Beth’s company. In early Feb. 2008, Randy met Beth for the first time during his training. He had no idea she was wearing a wig. What he did know was he was attracted to her and in April when he moved to Iowa permanently he was hoping to see Beth again. But Beth wasn’t there. She was off work, concentrating on her treatments and recovery.
When he saw her again, late that summer, Beth had a short, pixie haircut and had gained about 40 lbs. Randy wasn’t deterred in the least. They began talking, emailing, and he took her on a few dates. Randy had heard Beth was a Cancer survivor through someone at work. He wasn’t giving up on her.
Eventually on one of their dates, Beth told Randy herself. “I was scared to let anybody in. My body was a mess. I had a son. To go and start dating someone caused me resistance. But I was tired of being afraid he wouldn’t want to be with me anymore because of the Cancer, so I blurted it all out.”
Beth recalls, “I didn’t want to need anybody. I had settled in comfortably as a single mother and wanted to focus on me. But one day I was talking with my mother who finally told me I had to take a chance with Randy, and so I let him in.
Some of their dates were spent in the Oncology department while she had treatments. Even though Beth was Cancer-free, she still had a major battle to face.
The reconstructive surgery would not be simple. There was so much damage done that her options were limited. They had to take fat and muscle from other parts of her body. The permanent scars would be there to remind her every day of her struggle to survive. Randy remembers how much effort Beth put into hiding her scars from him.
Randy and Beth dated for about a year. During that time Randy’s lease came up on his place so he moved in with Beth. “My son took to Randy like nothing I could imagine. It was pretty awesome the connection they had,” said Beth.
The first date Beth and Randy went on was in a quant town called Galena, Illinois. Exactly a year later, he took her back there to propose. A year after that, on the same day, they were married.
The love story that unfolded in the most unlikely of times, took Beth by surprise. Now, for the first time she could see a future with more kids. But the doctors had told Beth early on that she wasn’t going to carry any more babies because her aggressive form of Cancer put her at a high risk for reoccurrence. The chemotherapy had shut down her body so she wouldn’t produce any eggs. Doctors had put her on a medication that would block estrogen from getting to her cells. She would be on that pill for ten years. It was another insurance policy against the Cancer. After a year doctors had agreed to let Beth stop taking the shot that suppressed her menstrual cycle. Within three months, her period came back and carried on normally. There was hope of retrieving some eggs and using a gestational carrier to carry a baby to term.
At the five-year visit with the oncologist, they talked about IVF and egg retrieval. After a very long screening process, the fertility drugs were approved for Beth to take. Then came more bad news. Beth’s left ovary was clouded. She wasn’t producing any eggs and she had endometriosis. She had to endure a surgery first to fix that condition.
Eventually doctors were able to retrieve six eggs. Four out of the six made it through to be fertilized. Only two out of the four made it to five-day blastocysts. They were able to freeze two, beautiful embryos. “It isn’t much to deal with, but part of me says thank God we were producing any eggs at all,” said Beth.
The search for a surrogate was the next leg in their journey up the mountain. The costs involved shook Beth and Randy. The insurance company was playing a semantics game about coverage for a gestational carrier versus a gestational surrogate. The fact was that Randy and Beth just didn’t have $60,000 set aside for the expenses it would take to get them the baby they so dearly wanted. They began online fundraising. Their story aired on KCRG-TV9 and the media attention helped their cause. They were able to raise $8,300 towards the first part of the costs.
Surrogacy Together, a Surrogacy advocacy group has joined in to help the couple. Every year the agency approves four people to receive financial assistance. They arrange the costs for lawyers and doctors to be waived so expenses aren’t so high.
Officially, Randy and Beth are just beginning the process of looking for a surrogate, but are hopeful things will move forward smoothly. They know they will find someone amazing to help carry and grow a beautiful baby. Beth is proud to have lost 60 lbs and is feeling better than ever!
“During all the hurdles, I feel my faith got stronger and my prayers were answered. And I have to thank my mother. She never missed a doctor’s appointment. She was there through everything. She brought Lyncoln to see me when I needed him there to give me comfort. I only hope I can be as good a mom as she is.”
Beth’s climb up the mountain is far from over, but she has battled hard and is still going strong. As her journey continues, Beth remains hopeful that one day, in the not so distant future, that she will get the chance to make her family just a little bit bigger.