ON A RAINY EVENING in June, Randi Fishman and her husband, Zach, are lounging on the sectional sofa at their Potomac townhouse, their two daugh- ters snuggled between them as the television drones on in the background. When 6-month-old Austyn needs burp- ing, Randi is on her feet. “She loves her bottle,” Randi says as she lifts the
baby, who flashes a smile from over
her mom’s shoulder and tries to blow
kisses to anyone who looks her way.
Austyn’s 3-year-old sister, Parker, wraps
herself around her dad’s knee while the
grown-ups chat. She’s in her Cinderella
nightgown, exhausted and hungry after
a day at camp.
For Randi, there’s nothing mundane
about this scene, given how hard she’s
had to fight for it. Early in their marriage,
Randi and Zach, now both 35, would
have giddy conversations about whether
they wanted to have two children, like
his family, or three, like hers. But just
before their first wedding anniversary,
the discovery of a small lump in Randi’s
right breast changed everything. Zach
can reel o; from memory the dates of
every major medical event that followed:
Randi’s double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in October 2011, her
visit with a specialist at Shady Grove
Fertility in Rockville soon after, the
recurrence of the breast cancer nearly
a year later, then the start of radiation
The conversation bores Parker, a
lover of sparkly jewelry and hair accessories. “Stop talking,” she says, eager for
attention. Randi breaks away to unfold
a kiddie table and brings her little girl a
slice of pizza. Austyn is propped on the
couch, still smiling.
Even after Randi was diagnosed
with breast cancer at the age of 28, she
planned on getting pregnant one day,
so she decided she wanted to freeze
her embryos for safekeeping. But when
the cancer returned, her medical team
advised her against carrying a child
because pregnancy-related hormones
could stimulate the growth of more can-
cerous cells. ;at’s when she and Zach
began to seriously consider finding a
gestational surrogate, someone to carry
their biological child.
“We always knew surrogacy was a
possibility,” says Zach, a commercial real
estate developer who took the lead on
researching fertility options.
“I didn’t know,” Randi says, “not at the
beginning.” She’d heard about surrogacy
in passing from her doctors and saw a
story on the news about a mother who’d
carried a baby for her grown daughter.
But for most of her adult life, Randi had
just assumed she’d get pregnant. “In my
wildest dreams I couldn’t imagine someone else carrying my child,” she says. She
ended up using two di;erent surrogates,
and the second was her own sister.
THE CALL THAT UPENDED Randi’s
life came on Oct. 14, 2011. ;e Win-ston Churchill High School graduate
was living in New York City, working as
a sales representative for young fashion
designers, when she returned home to
Potomac for the Yom Kippur holiday.
Toward the end of her visit she went
in for a routine gynecological exam.
Dr. Tobie Beckerman felt a small lump
in Randi’s right breast but didn’t think
much of it. ;e chances of breast cancer
at Randi’s age were slim—according to
the National Cancer Institute (NCI),
1. 9 percent of new female breast cancer
cases are diagnosed in women ages 20
to 34. Beckerman figured it was a cyst,
or normal glandular tissue that was
unusually close to the surface. Nothing
to panic about, she said, just something
to monitor. But because Randi was going
back to New York, the gynecologist
ordered a sonogram that day.
Randi wasn’t worried until the image
revealed a mass. ;e radiologist kept
saying it looked “weird,” without o;ering specifics, she recalls. “;at’s when I
started to panic,” Randi says. She rushed
back to see Beckerman, who scheduled
a biopsy for the following day with Dr.
Glenn Sandler, a local surgeon with a
special interest in breast surgery. ;ree