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Shilpa's Story

Shilpa is a cancer survivor, a double-lung transplant recipient and a kidney patient. She shared her experience with family planning during The Kidney Foundation's forum in March.

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma while in university. I survived the cancer, but chemotherapy and radiation treatments damaged my lungs. Fortunately, I was lucky again, and received a double-lung transplant about ten years ago that saved my life. After a number of additional complications during my first year post-transplant, my health began to improve and I enjoyed some wonderful new experiences. I started to travel again, moved forward in my career and got to spend lots of time with the people I love. 

When I got engaged in 2017, my fiancĂ© and I started thinking about planning for a family. We knew there would be a number of factors to consider, so I spoke with doctors from my lung transplant program. They referred me to a high-risk pregnancy clinic, where I did a series of medical tests. A pregnancy is a significant stress on your body, and I was told carrying a child in my situation could pose a number of risks, including challenges to my new lungs.   

As a result, we decided to go in a different direction, with in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and a gestational carrier. This would allow the baby to share our genetics but be carried and delivered by someone else. Just two weeks after our wedding, I had the procedure, and it was successful. 

Our plan was to wait at least a year after we got married before looking for a surrogate to carry our embryo, to give ourselves time to settle into our new life. But the Covid-19 pandemic meant a change of plans as everything went into lockdown. In addition, new problems surfaced with my kidneys. Over time, they had been damaged by the anti-rejection drugs I was taking for my lung transplant, and further setbacks led to kidney failure. 

By now though, we’ve become fluent in the language of pivoting.

I am currently 37 years old, and my health is stable with home hemodialyis. A kidney transplant is hopefully in my future, and despite the many hurdles we have faced, we feel like we can’t wait to grow our family anymore. We have started our search for a gestational carrier, with the hope that everything will fall into place.