A widow whose husband died of cancer a month after their wedding has opened up about her struggle with in vitro fertilization as she tries to have a baby with his frozen sperm five years later. Fabi Powell (pictured, right), 35, was living in California and visiting friends in Nashville, Tennessee, when she met her late husband, Josh Powell (pictured, left), at a bar in 2014. They hit it off immediately and continued talk on FaceTime after she returned home the next day.
Two months later, Josh was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the tissue around the joints, such as the muscles and ligaments. ‘We were falling madly in love with each other, and then cancer just kind of came into our world,’ she explained during an interview that aired on the Today show on Tuesday. ‘He was a fighter and somebody who saw cancer as a bump in the road.’
Synovial sarcoma accounts for 5 percent to 10 percent of soft-tissue tumors, according to the National Cancer Institute. Fabi moved to Nashville to support Josh as he battled chemotherapy, radiation, and multiple surgeries. The reality of their situation only brought them closer together.
‘What this cancer diagnosis was able to do is bless us with this beautiful full perspective that life is short and to not sweat the small stuff,’ she told Today. ‘We tried to pack our lives and our days with as much living as we possibly could when he did feel well.’
In the spring of 2016, Josh learned he was in remission and proposed to Fabi during a trip to the beach a few days later. They planned to get married the following year in May 2017. Shortly after they got engaged, they were hit by the news that his cancer had metastasized to his lungs.
They hoped that chemotherapy would slow down the growth, but the treatments didn’t work. When it became clear that he only had a few months to live, they had a difficult conversation about their future.
Josh had frozen his sperm before he started his treatment years before, and he shared that he wanted her to have his babies.
‘He said, “How cool would it be to have a little piece of me live on forever and you would be the best mom,”‘ she said. ‘He intentionally planted the seed…it was the only time in our relationship that we talked about him possibly not being here.’
Knowing their days were limited, the couple bumped up their wedding to November 12, 2016. The groom spent the week in the intensive care unit and was three hours late for the ceremony, but he made it.
Josh died on December 13, 2016, 31 days after their wedding. Fabi gave herself time to grieve and didn’t rush into any decisions during that first year. She hoped to fall in love again and eventually started dating. ‘I wanted to give myself a chance at finding love again before jumping into my IVF journey,’ she explained. ‘I just never found anybody that I wanted to spend a significant amount of time with let alone be the father of my children.’
After being locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic, she reassessed her thinking and decided to move forward with fertility treatments. Fabi started her IVF journey in early 2021, four years after Josh’s death, and has been documenting her experience on Instagram.
She had two egg retrievals and embryo transfers that failed at the first clinic she went to, but she kept trying. Fabi opted to have their embryos genetically tested to make sure they didn’t have the BRCA2 gene mutation that Josh and his mother carried, which increases the likelihood of cancer.
Genetic testing has made the already arduous process of getting a viable embryo to transfer even more difficult. Over the past two years, she has undergone five rounds of IVF.
Fabi has been candid about how the process has been emotionally, physically, and financially draining. ‘By far, aside from navigating life without my husband, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life and my heart goes out to anybody who is forced to have to go through this process to try and create their family,’ she said.
After having three eggs retrieved at a new clinic, she has one viable embryo to transfer when she is ready to try again. ‘The pressure on that one little miracle makes me physically ill thinking about it, but in the same breath, I know it only takes one and I’m so grateful to have another chance,’ she wrote on Instagram in September. Mrs Powell explained: ‘I like to think that God knew we only needed one and that he is annoyed with me for doing another retrieval because I didn’t trust that his one would be THE ONE.’
‘So he left me with zero backups because we’re not going to need a backup. That’s the story that’s getting me through the day anyway, so I’m going with it… I’m trusting that this one is our one.’ Fabi told Today that she doesn’t want to have any regrets and isn’t willing to give up on the dream that Josh left her with. ‘I know this baby is supposed to be here and because I feel so strongly about that,’ she explained. ‘That’s what gives me the energy and the courage and the strength to keep fighting.’
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