Family in Cleveland’s West Park went surrogacy route for child after woman’s cancer diagnosis By Heather Taylor
We love this story from Cleveland,Ohio about surrogacy.
Father’s Day will have an extra-special meaning this year for the Martello family of Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood.
They will be celebrating the holiday for the first time with their 4-month-old daughter, Olivia.
The fact that Dan Martello is a father is something he can truly appreciate. He first learned he would become a dad last Father’s Day. While parents-to-be are usually overjoyed at the news, it could be said that the Martellos have even more reason to be elated.
Becca Martello, 43, was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in June 2006, which meant the cancer had spread outside of the breast and regional lymph nodes. She learned that part of her treatment involved undergoing a hysterectomy, which was a devastating blow.
“We didn’t have any children, so at the time it was harder to accept, I think, than the cancer diagnosis,” she said.
Cancer treatments, especially breast cancer treatments, can present women with infertility issues, said Halle Moore, M.D., an oncologist with the Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute.
“There is a special issue with breast cancer,” she said. “Treatments often involve changing the hormonal environment and changing estrogen. With the hormonal treatment, you can’t get pregnant when (the treatment) is shutting down your ovaries and reducing estrogen in your body.”
Dan, 45, vowed that they’d find a way to add children to their family. Becca immediately focused on that thought, continuing in the following years as she underwent chemotherapy, a mastectomy, hysterectomy and radiation.
“I read about the power of visualization. I could picture a child, and I did that through the next few years,” she said. “I couldn’t see the face, but I pictured a little baby. I honestly believe that’s what got me through.”
She added that her husband was her “rock” throughout the ordeal, and also credits family, the community and the power of prayer.
The Martellos conducted research on the Internet in hopes of making the vision a reality. They learned about surrogacy and were able to find a surrogate in the Cleveland area.
Moore said a woman with cancer can have her eggs frozen before undergoing treatments to try to use them for reproductive methods such as a using a surrogate. The initial introduction period with the woman who would be the surrogate was like going on a first date, Becca said.
“I had to get a new outfit and get my hair done,” she said, laughing.
Dan admitted he was initially skeptical, but said after meeting the surrogate and her husband, the four of them hit it off. Doctors implanted two of the Martellos’ embryos in the woman.
The surrogate delivered the good news last summer and the baby in February. The Martellos named their daughter Olivia Jewell and plan to call her “Liv” as a nickname.
Dan said Olivia “unfortunately looks like him,” adding they laugh about the baby’s uncanny likeness to her father.
The Martellos continue to remain close with the surrogate family, which includes three children.
“I initially thought of the arrangement more as a business relationship, but it turned more into a personal relationship because any amount of money we paid (the surrogate) isn’t equal to what she’s done for our family,” Dan said.
Aside from Father’s Day, June holds added meaning for the family because of other milestones: the couple’s 10th wedding anniversary, Becca’s 44th birthday and the fifth anniversary of her cancer diagnosis.
Becca gets scans every three to six months to monitor the cancer. She was shocked and overjoyed in December when the scan turned out clean for the first time. She recalled looking in her back yard on that snowy day and seeing a bud on her rose bush.
Before that day, when the Martellos were deciding what their next step in life would be, it was always in the back of Becca’s mind that her Stage 4 cancer could worsen at some point.
“The nurse, social worker and everyone said you have to live for today; you can’t look at the what-ifs,” Becca recalled, adding these days her cancer diagnosis seems even further in the past.
“We’re head-over-heels with our little girl,” she said.