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Voices: Courtney's Adoption Story

July 15, 2009

Voices: Courtney's Adoption Story

by Courtney Zinszer

I found my lump at 33. That led to my first mammogram, which was negative. Because the lump was growing, my doctor ordered an ultrasound, which was also negative. I insisted on a biopsy. Much to my shock, I was diagnosed with cancer. I then had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.

Not believing my diagnosis, I didn’t cope well. My support group knew me as the bald girl who didn’t really have cancer. I wanted to urge Oprah to do a special: “My Doctor has the Wrong Slides and I Don’t Really Have Cancer.” At the time, I was a single mom of Sedona (my three-year-old daughter), I was finishing school for my teaching credentials and I was a newly-hired teacher. I scheduled my surgeries and treatment around work and school.

At the end of my treatment, I celebrated by participating in the Revlon 5K Walk for Women’s Cancers. I had difficulty completing the walk and needed help pushing my daughter in her stroller. Just one year out of treatment I found another lump. It was cancer again. I already knew the ropes: lumpectomy, chemo and radiation. But this time, my surgeon couldn’t get clear margins and I needed a mastectomy. I also discovered through gene testing that I had a BRCA2 mutation. My sister Erin tested positive for the same mutation. Fortunately my youngest sister Melanie tested negative.

Two weeks before my mastectomy, I met a wonderful man. His mom, a 20-year survivor, was re-diagnosed soon after we started dating. She passed away just weeks after Ron and I were married. The worst part about being young with breast cancer was losing my ability to have more children. I wanted at least four kids. My husband and I looked into surrogacy and adoption. We prayed for twin baby girls; our prayers were answered with two newborns. Sage, with blond hair, blue eyes, and big ears just like her dad, was born in Oregon on June 8. Sienna, breathtaking with brown hair and brown eyes, was born in Minnesota on June 21. Just 13 days apart, they look like twins!

Several years later I received a call from the birth mother of one of our girls. She was pregnant again and wondered: did we want the baby? We said yes. Sadly for us, she changed her mind at the last minute and kept the baby. I couldn’t bear another nine months of uncertainty. I asked my attorney if women ever deliver their babies and then decide to put them up for adoption. He told me they sometimes do. Four weeks later, he called about a woman who was delivering a boy that day and wanted to choose his adoptive parents. I felt as though I had won the lottery when we were chosen and met our new son the following morning.

Since cancer, my life has changed in positiveways. I completed countless breast cancer walks. I married the man who stuck by me through my second diagnosis and we adopted three beautiful children. I started Pink Wings (, a breast health awareness business which allows me to travel, meet other survivors, and raise money for and spread the word about young women and breast cancer.

Courtney Zinszer is the FORCE Oregon outreach coordinator and founder/owner of Mention FORCE in the shipping comments when you order from Courtney’s website and she will donate 20 percent of your purchase to FORCE.


Adoption after Cancer

by Nina E. Rumbold, Esq., and Denise Seidelman, Esq.
(Prepared in collaboration with Fertile Hope:

For a cancer survivor, adoption is a wonderful way to create or expand a family. There are many reputable professionals, agencies and organizations available toeducate and support you.

Types of Adoption

  • Private Placement Adoption occurs when birth parent(s) place the child directly with the adoptive parent(s) without an agency as an intermediary. The parties might locate each other through family and friends or even through advertising on the Internet. Confidentiality can be maintained, with last names, addresses, and identifying information disclosed only as desired. Using an attorney with adoption expertise is highly recommended and often required. Private Placement adoption avoids an agency fee. It can happen very quickly and inexpensively. Typical cost: $10,000-$15,000.
  • Private Agency Adoption involves a stateauthorized agency as an intermediary to match adoptive and birth parents. Typically, the agency has waiting couples who have been pre-screened and pre-approved to be adoptive parents. Identifying information can be shared or kept confidential. Typical cost: $15,000 $30,000.
  • Public Agency Adoption occurs when the state provides adoption services for children who are in its custody— usually because of parental abuse and/ or neglect. Most of these children remain in foster care until their parents’ rights are terminated and an adoptive placement is found. The opportunity to adopt an older child is more likely, and after the adoption, financial assistance is sometimes providedm for a special needs or a hard-to-place child. Typical cost: Little or none.
  • International Adoptions are usually accomplished through agencies with programs in foreign countries. You must satisfy the adoption requirements of both the country of the child’s origin and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The age of adoptable children, the quality of medical care provided to them, and the type of care provided varies significantly. Countries also have different requirements regarding issues such as the adoptive parent(s’) age, marital status and medical history. Some countries may impose a waiting period when there is a history of cancer. Although international adoption may be complex, there is usually more certainty about the type of child and the timeframe necessary. Typical cost: $7,000-30,000+, excluding travel expenses.

Adoption Requirements

You must be approved as an adoptive parent before a child is placed with you. At a minimum, this involves a home study by a state-approved provider. You should not be precluded from adopting solely because of your cancer history, but your doctor will need to provide an accurate assessment of your health and prognosis.

Financial Assistance

The federal Adoption Tax Credit can be as much as $10,630 (2005). Your state may offer an additional tax credit. Some employers also have adoption assistance programs.

Additional Resources

Information about the emotional aspects of adoption can be obtained through social workers, psychologists,support organizations, or through bookstores, libraries and the Internet. Some useful resources include:

  • National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (
  • American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (
  • Adoption Tax Credit (

Posted in: Voices , Fertility And Parenting
Tags: Family Story , Adoption

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