POLAND, Maine — You can watch Roslyn Flaherty's full story Thursday at 6 p.m.
Sam and Katelyn Burrell are looking for a surrogate to carry their child. The Poland couple is asking strangers on social media to help fulfill their dream: becoming parents.
“I have the best dad in the world, the best father-in-law in the world. I have so many friends that have kids and they love it,” said Sam.
“It’s really the only gift I wanted,” said Katelyn.
In the fall of 2019, the Burrells' dream seemed to be coming true when they found out they were pregnant, but their dream took a painful turn when Katelyn miscarried. While mourning the loss of their baby, the news got even darker.
“I was going for a couple of follow-ups and I ended up finding a lump in my breast,” said Katelyn.
At 29 years old, Katelyn was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Their world, which was already turned upside down by the miscarriage, was now turned inside out by cancer.
“We went from family planning to survival mode,” said Katelyn.
“It was definitely scary and at first we didn’t really think about the future," Sam said. "You’re thinking about fighting in that moment of well, let’s fight this. Let’s get through it. Let’s conquer cancer and move on with our life."
Before Katelyn’s cancer treatments, they decided to freeze embryos. It cost them $12,000 out of pocket.
“You don’t want to start a family and put yourself in a poorer financial situation,” said Sam.
According to Resolve New England, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support and education for those who have infertility, Maine and Vermont are the only New England states that don’t have a law requiring private insurance companies to cover in-vitro fertilization (IVF) costs. A bill before the Maine legislature would change that.
“If this bill becomes law in Maine, people of reproductive age that get cancer or other illnesses or treatments that might impair their fertility, they would have insurance coverage for the actual fertility preservation procedures. So, if they were doing IVF to create embryos for them to use after their cancer treatment is over or at a better time for them to use them, that would be covered by insurance,” said Kate Weldon LeBlanc, executive director of Resolve New England.
After freezing their embryos, Katelyn underwent a double mastectomy and 12 grueling weeks of chemotherapy. No matter what, she and Sam were not going to give up on their dream. They decided to find a surrogate to carry their child.
“We both feel like what we’ve been through this last year we never want to do again and if there is a way for us to keep me as healthy as possible,” said Katelyn.
Katelyn took a different approach to find one and posted their story on social media.
“We had so much support, so many people reaching out, but it is a process,” said Katelyn.
Katelyn said it would cost them roughly $50,000 to have their child by surrogate.
“When it comes to insurance, for people to tell you that it’s not covered because it’s an elective, it’s a choice. That’s like saying my double mastectomy was a choice,” said Katelyn.
Resolve New England said if the bill passes, it would also potentially cover the medical aspects of the process. Since the legislature referred the bill to a cost study, coverage details are not yet set in stone.
“The parts of the procedure that actually will be done with the gestational carrier, potentially would also be covered by insurance. So, things like legal fees or agency fees, those would be the individual or couples responsibility,” said LeBlanc.
Katelyn and Sam are trying to figure out how to cover the costs and wish surrogacy was discussed more and made more affordable for other couples.
“We jokingly say Kim Kardashian is the only one that we know who has used a surrogate. Everyone is entitled to having a family. It doesn’t matter how the family is created or what type of assistance is needed. We didn’t do anything to put ourselves in this situation,” said Katelyn.
Katelyn said a woman from Ohio messaged her on social media volunteering to be their surrogate. They will now begin the time-consuming and expensive legal and financial process to ensure the woman is an excellent surrogate match.
If you’re thinking about surrogacy, Resolve New England encourages all parties to have legal counsel to protect everyone involved.
The Burrells have created a GoFundMe page to help with the costs.