Alexandra (“Alex”) Betts, age 23, is a woman who everyone describes as “kind and caring”; it is simply who she is.
She was inspired to investigate surrogacy after watching her close friend struggle to conceive a child. Alex’s young friend suffered agonizing pregnancy loss after pregnancy loss, and it was heart-wrenching for Alex to watch her go through so much pain.
Alex was one of those lucky women who had a wonderful pregnancy. Her pregnancy with her son Logan, now age 4, was enjoyable and complication-free. Because of this, she began to consider the idea of becoming a surrogate mother. When her friend eventually did go on to carry a successful pregnancy Alex celebrated with her, but the thought of helping someone in need stayed with Alex and continued to grow.
Alex explained, “Once the idea of surrogacy enters your thoughts, no matter what happens or how much time passes, you cannot shake it; you know in your heart that this is something you simply must do.”
After careful consideration, Alex began to look at surrogacy agencies and came across CSP. She decided that she had found the right agency and filled out an application.
CSP surrogate mother case manager Carole Jackson was very impressed with Alex upon speaking with her for her interview.
“I thought that Alex was just lovely and was unbelievably caring. We don’t often have surrogate mothers in the program who are so young, but she is incredibly independent and capable. Her heart was in the right place, as far her desire to become a surrogate mother. What really struck me about Alex was her enthusiasm for helping someone; this is a young woman with a huge heart.”
Upon completing the CSP screening process, Alex was sent the profiles of a few intended parents to consider. She was matched with a lovely couple, and when they met in person everyone knew that this was the magical match that they had dreamed of. Their relationship flourished and matured throughout the journey. She was regularly in touch with them through the entire pregnancy and felt supported and valued by them. As for the pregnancy itself, it couldn’t have gone better.
Throughout Alex’s surrogate pregnancy she was the picture of health. She had extensive blood tests done in September, during her last trimester, and everything was completely normal.
“During the pregnancy I felt fine all the way through. Obviously I had a little morning sickness in the beginning of the pregnancy and heartburn at the end, but it wasn’t until the last two weeks that I started to feel bad.”
In the 2 weeks before she went into the hospital to deliver, Alex’s unusual symptoms persisted and increased.
“The last 2 or 3 weeks my heartburn had gotten really bad and I started feeling a little lump right at the bottom of my throat,” she explained.
Alex assumed that the stomach acid from her heartburn was just affecting her throat and making it feel like there was a lump in it. Then, she began to feel extremely tired. She thought that she may be coming down with a cold, or that the exhaustion was just normal when you are 36-weeks pregnant.
“Other than that, I didn’t notice anything,” she recalled.
On a beautiful, sunny California day in November, Alex and her intended parents decided to have lunch together and exchange a few gifts. During lunch Alex began to feel a little ill and joked that their baby girl might be making an early arrival. They had planned on touring the hospital together that evening, but instead, Alex ended up in Labor and Delivery.
On November 29th, 2017 Alex gave birth to a beautiful, healthy 7-pound, 2-ounce baby girl. Alex’s mother was with her for the delivery and couldn’t have been more supportive and proud of her daughter and her surrogacy journey. The intended parents were also present for the birth of their daughter, with eyes brimming with tears and a huge smile on their faces the entire time.
Unfortunately, it was during the joy of her labor and the baby’s birth that Alex received the startling news that something was very wrong with her blood test results. Alex’s white blood cell count was over 80,000 white blood cells per microliter of blood—the average range is between 3,500 and 10,500, with it sometimes going a bit higher after delivery.
Alex’s result was extremely high, and they began to investigate why. After extensive testing and four blood transfusions, the doctor gave her a shocking diagnosis. Just three days after giving birth to a healthy baby girl for her intended parents, Alex was told by doctors that she had Acute T-cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). She learned that 95% of her blood was cancerous.
Acute T-cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia is the rarest form of cancer in adults and is normally found in pediatric patients. It starts in the white blood cells in a person’s bone marrow, and then invades the blood and can spread throughout the body to the organs. The cause of this particular type of cancer is unknown. It has no relation to any lifestyle factors, IVF medications, or any other known factors. It does not normally produce tumors, but Alex’s doctors discovered that she also had a 4” tumor in her chest cavity.
Because Alex was already in the hospital, there was no delay in the start of her treatment. She started her first round of chemotherapy immediately and was moved from the maternity ward to the cancer ward. She was in the hospital from November 29, 2017, when she went in to deliver her surrogate baby, until January 4, 2018.
Her intended parents were caring and supportive throughout Alex’s pregnancy, and that support has continued as she battles this illness. They have been sending her regular updates and pictures of their little girl. Thankfully, she has been tested extensively and she is completely healthy.
“It was an amazing journey with them. We emailed each other all of the time and they have been sending pictures and regular updates.”
Alex’s close-knit family has also helped her at every turn, with her mother caring for her and helping her care for Logan. This network of support has helped her stay positive as she goes through this journey.
“I have had so much support that I haven’t really been able to feel horrible about this situation,” Alex explained.
CSP CEO Karen Synesiou explains her thoughts on how the CSP staff, Alex’s fellow surrogates, her intended parents and the surrogacy community have rallied around Alex.
“Surrogacy is more than just taking a baby home; it’s belonging to a community that really cares about you as an individual. When help is needed and life takes you down a side road that you never thought you would be on, you have a community around you that is solid, supportive, and is always going to be there for you.”
Alex’s first round of chemotherapy ended during the last week of December and her body has responded very well to the treatment. They ran blood tests the following week and the cancer that had ravaged her body so quickly was undetectable in her blood. That being said, she still has a long road to recovery ahead of her.
Her second round of chemotherapy began on January 22nd. She will be able to stay out of the hospital and have out-patient treatment if all goes well, but she will be out of work for at least another 6 months. On January 26th she will be traveling to Stanford University Medical Center, near San Francisco, to discuss options for her bone marrow transplant and have some testing done. Thankfully, it was discovered that both of her brothers are a positive match for donation.
Alex was always extremely active and high-energy, so the biggest transition for her has been learning to slow down and accept that she is tired. She is exhausted and has neuropathy from the chemotherapy, which makes it hard to complete her normal daily tasks.
Despite all that she has been through, Alex remains optimistic about the future. She is thankful for the early detection of her illness and the quick treatment that she received. She says that if she had not chosen to help a family by becoming a surrogate mother, it is doubtful that she would have caught the cancer as early as she did.
“I would have probably waited way too long and gone in way too late if I didn’t have the pregnancy,” Alex explained.
Alex will have to remain close to Stanford University Medical Center after her bone marrow transplant. She will stay in a hotel with her mother and son for 2-3 months at that time. While Alex is thankful to have medical insurance, her copays are high and she is still responsible for her living expenses and childcare. Without any income, the bills are quickly piling up. She has started a GoFundMe account to help offset the cost of these expenses. Any donation to this fund would be greatly appreciated.
In her most recent online update, Alex explained how thankful she is for the support that she has received.
“I started to get real down the last few days and then I was reminded of how many friends I didn’t know I had. I have had neighbors, co-workers, distant family, CSP, and many people I don’t even know help me in many ways. I have seen kindness that is deep and true. I am grateful for each and every one of these people.”