Archive for international adoption


Posted in cancer, Cancer Life with tags , , , , on March 27, 2011 by lawler

Not too long ago I was putting together a work sample for an artist residency I hope to do this summer in order to work on a play I am writing and in the process listened back to some of the podcasts Talish Barrow and I put together for Wisconsin Story Project. One of them contained a long intro by the hapless hosts (Talish and I) and at one point I say, “cancer is like Christmas,” and go into a fairly articulate explanation of that somewhat crass phrase of mine.

And so, here we are, one thousand three hundred and five days from the day my doctor told me I had cancer — many of them the most difficult of my life — and cancer has, in a way, given me another gift.

His name is Jack — Jack Abebe Lawler to be exact. We began the adoption process about a year and a half ago after deciding to not use the sperm I had banked just days before my first chemotherapy treatments in the Fall of 2007 (we’re still paying for its storage though, which reminds me…). In November 2010, just a week after adopting a pit bull from the Dane County Humane Society (see below), we got a call, the call, known as a referral. Moments later we were staring at a picture of Jack on my computer. We were in shock. The call had come about three months before we had been told to expect it, and here was this four month old little boy staring back at us from half way around the world in Ethiopia. Were we ready? Could we really do this? Yes.

After four months of waiting and traveling — two trips to Ethiopia in the span of two months, in fact — he is now home with us in Madison. He has brought such joy to Dawn and I that, cliche or no, it is beyond words. He is a happy, healthy, fascinating little guy. And, as I said, in some ways we have cancer to thank for bringing him into our lives.


Life Goes On

Posted in cancer, Cancer Life, testicular cancer with tags , , , , on February 13, 2011 by lawler

It’s been over a year since I’ve posted on this blog, and I’m not sure that anyone will even see this (although I am baffled by the fact that I apparently still receive an average of 1000 hits on this blog each month) — but it occurred to me recently that Dawn and I are now in the midst of one of the stranger periods of our cancer journey…waiting. We are waiting for what is probably the greatest gift cancer has given us: our little baby boy, Jack Abebe. Here’s a photo of him from last month:

Jack Abebe Lawler, January 2011

We are adopting Jack from Ethiopia, and had the wonderful experience of meeting him a few weeks ago.We were in Ethiopia for about six days, and it was an experience of a lifetime. Much of the time I was looking around in disbelief thinking, “I’m in Africa, I’m in Africa, I’m in AFRICA.” It seemed so unreal, and while the persistent thought was of how to take advantage of the fact that I was in Africa, the overriding feeling was that it didn’t matter where I was, as long as I was able to meet my son — soon.

And we did meet him. We were able to spend quite a bit of time with him on two separate days while there. He is a beautiful, happy, healthy (if a little small) seven month old boy. And now we wait.

…and wait.

For those of you asking, “what in hell does this have to do with Mike’s cancer?!?” I’ll tell you: Mike’s cancer led to Mike’s chemotherapy, and lots of it. One round of the standard for testicular cancer, what’s known as the BEP regimen, and then, about a year later, a little process called High Dose Chemotherapy with Autologous Stem Cell Rescue (this link is to a paper written by the doctors that treated me in Indianapolis). All these drugs killed my boys pretty much dead. And while I banked sperm — viable sperm — before undergoing one drop of chemo, we decided that what we really wanted to do to have a family was adopt a child that needed one. If you’d like to hear a little story about this, you can listen to the podcast I recorded for Wisconsin Story Project by clicking here.

We began the process of adoption in the fall of 2009, and it has been a sometimes arduous process. But nothing could have prepared us for this part. The other night I ran into an old family friend of the Weithe’s (Dawn’s family) and he said to me, “it’s like the gestation.” And it is, I suppose (though I have no frame of reference here). Except that it’s not. As you can see from the photo above and those below, Jack is a very real baby boy whom we’ve had the pleasure and privilege of holding in our arms, rocking to sleep, playing with, kissing, and laughing with. He is not an ultrasound image on our refrigerator. What he is is a very real child living in an orphanage half a world away from us. Perhaps it’s impossible for people who haven’t gone through (or are currently going through) this, but I assure you it is rough. Concentration? Forget it. Peace of mind? Not really.

As we rush to finish the basement room that will expand our little house to make more room for our growing family, baby clothes, toys, cribs and changing tables have started filling every available corner and open bit of floor space in anticipation of his arrival. “When is the baby coming home?” is the question we are asked at least once a day by well-meaning people in our lives. “We don’t know yet,” is all we can tell them. I usually add, “in a month or so, we hope.” When we received the referral phone call in November (we were, I should note, completely taken aback by this as we weren’t expecting it for a few more months at least), he was four months old. He is now seven months old, and might be eight or nine months old by the time he comes home. I know it sounds like no time at all (a friend, also an adoptive father of a son from Ethiopia said to me recently, “Eff you, my son was eighteen months old when he came home” as a semi-serious joke about our impatience and the time we were missing with him).

Mike & Jack in Ethiopia

Dawn & Jack in Ethiopia

We are planning to name him Jack Abebe Lawler. His first name is from my father — whose given name was John, but was known almost universally as Jack. His second name was his given Ethiopian name, and we wanted to be sure that he would carry that with him throughout his life. In my own way, I can connect deeply with the idea of living with a significant shift in life at a very early age, and I am grateful for the tidbits of information and lore that I have to remind myself of my own early life with my mother. We are working very hard to ensure that little Jack has more than tidbits from his first year of life. And his name is a part of that.

Okay, so it’s time to stop writing this post. I’ll write more when I can about WHY we are waiting, but for now I’ve said something, gotten it off my chest — and now I’ll go back to waiting.