by Liz Lizama
The cost to just become parents could reach nearly $75,000 for one Falls Church couple, Matt and Heidi Cahill, both cancer survivors.
Their journey to parenthood has proven challenging since Matt’s diagnosis of testicular cancer 10 years ago when he was just 22 years old. The two high school sweethearts were married only two months when the jarring news shocked them.
“I wanted to test her immediately on that ‘in sickness and in health’ clause just to make sure,” Matt laughed. “She passed.”
Matt underwent surgery the day after his diagnosis on New Year’s Day of 2006. After four rounds of chemotherapy and another surgery, doctors concluded Matt was cancer-free in August 2006.
Moving forward, five years into their marriage, the Cahills started plans to build their family naturally. “It just wasn’t working,” said Heidi. “We knew that with Matt’s cancer history it might be a little more difficult.”
After an unsuccessful year, the couple then began working with a fertility specialist and attempted natural-cycle IVF to no avail.
“We did four rounds of that, which is still really physically, emotionally and financially demanding,” said Heidi, prompting them to take a six-month break.
During that break from IVF treatments, Heidi discovered a lump on her breast in late December 2013. The eerie timing echoed the Cahills’ last battle with cancer just eight years prior.
“It was really weird because it was right around the same time of year Matt was diagnosed – just before Christmas, and I had my surgery right after Christmas on Jan. 4, ” said Heidi.
At age 31, Heidi was diagnosed with stage 2 triple positive breast cancer. During the treatment process, Heidi also learned she is a BRCA2 gene mutation carrier. “A lot of people are familiar with BRCA because of the Angelina Jolie op-ed piece,” said Heidi.
“It essentially means I’m predisposed to the likelihood of developing breast and ovarian cancer.”
Heidi underwent four and a half months of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. “I found out I was in remission really close to Matt’s remission date,” said Heidi. “Mine is July 30 and his is Aug. 4.”
Physically, doctors advised Heidi against a natural pregnancy. However, she said doctors recommended waiting at least three years if the couple chose to pursue that option though still very risky.
“I think we both decided we’d rather be parents that are here than have biological kids and have issues down the road,” said Heidi of the possible complications that could arise with a natural pregnancy. “Our desire to parent outweighed our desire to see our DNA.”
The Cahills then registered with two adoption agencies to increase the possibility of placement – one local and one in the Midwest where the two grew up.
The couple said they already drained their savings three times between medical expenses and failed fertility treatments before pursuing adoption.
Adoptions could cost up to $40,000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare Information Gateway. IVF alone cost the Cahills nearly $25,000 and yielded no results. Now the couple is embarking on an alternative path towards parenthood, which they estimate to run from $40-50,000 considering the fees of both agencies and a possible out-of-state adoption.
To help with expenses, the family launched a fundraising campaign at https://www.youcaring.com/matt-and-heidi-cahill-415893.
Last week, the couple appeared on NBC’s Meredith Vieira Show where the Goldberg Family and the National Adoption Foundation awarded the Cahills $15,000 towards their adoption efforts.
At press time, $38,000 of the $50,000 fundraising goal had been raised online. “If somehow we’re fortunate enough to exceed that goal, then we will put that away for baby number two,” said Matt, reiterating their family’s dream to have more than one child.