On my 21st birthday I was taken into hospital with a suspected infected ovarian cyst. I was living 300 miles away from home for a university years placement, but I wasn’t too worried, I was told it wasn’t anything serious and I’d be out the next day. I had the surgery that evening, I woke up in the high dependency unit with my mum at my bedside, I had previously called her and told her to stay at home; it wasn’t anything to worry about. I was hooked up to IV drugs and I wasn’t with it at all. I was released from hospital five days later having been treated for Septicaemia (blood poisoning) caused by the cyst which had ruptured. Still, I wasn’t worried. I put it down to one of those things that you deal with and I focused on my healing so I could get back to work, back to exercise, and back to focusing on me.
Two weeks later my world fell apart when I was sitting in the consultants office in the hospital. The cyst they removed had contained a very small tumour. At the age of 21 I was diagnosed with stage 0 ovarian cancer and I was booked in for a laparoscopy straight away to see whether there were any more tumours. I was so relieved when it all came back ok, they couldn’t see any more cysts or tumors and I was given the all clear 2 weeks later. I counted myself as one of the lucky ones, it was caught early and I could go on as normal. In time, I returned back to work and back to university to complete my degree. I had a new perspective on life, I didn’t take anything for granted anymore, everything I did had a purpose, everything I did was for a reason.
A year later I found myself back in hospital, I knew straight away that something wasn’t right and this time I called my mum in tears (she was only 20 miles away at this point). My worst fears were confirmed, a scan showed that there was a growth on my left ovary and it was decided that the best course of action would be to remove my ovary and have an intensive course of radiotherapy. The cancer was back, and this time the tumor was larger, but luckily it hadn’t spread further than my ovary. I was 22, I had just graduated uni with a degree in computing, I had my dream job lined up to start in a months time. I was angry, I was angry at the doctors for not picking this up sooner, I was angry at myself for not noticing the signs, I was angry at the world for letting this happen to me, I was the good girl, I worked hard, I looked after myself, this should not have been happening to me.
I got through the surgery and I had the radiotherapy and after getting the all clear, again, I started to rebuild my life and live my life. I lived every second of my life. I didn’t take anything for granted and I experienced everything to the fullest. I met a wonderful guy, we moved in together and we talked about our future. Then, early 2013, my world was rocked when I had a scare, my hormone levels peaked and the doctors thought the cancer was back, again. After numerous tests, agonizing waits and lots of tears it was decided that it was all ok. In this process, though, I learned some devastating news.
At 25 years old I was told it was virtually impossible that I would ever be able to conceive, or carry a baby. At 25 years old I was told I was infertile. I struggled so much with this news, I didn’t know how to process it or how to explain it to someone. I put on a brave face and wouldn’t let anyone help me. I couldn’t make my boyfriend understand, we’d just bought a house, we’d been together nearly 4 years. He expected I could take a pill and make it all better. It took me having a minor breakdown and telling him I was going to leave him for him to understand it all. We’re working through it; we’re building a strong relationship. I was offered fertility tests to find out but we’ve decided not to find out, at least not yet. When we’re ready, then we’ll walk that path, together we’ll walk it, but until then, we’re living our lives. We may not be able to have our own children, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to be parents. I see him with our neighbors children, he sees me with my best friend’s baby boy and we both see in each other the love and care we have to offer.
I want you to know that being told you can’t have children is painful. Going through hormone treatment for cancer, Polycystic Ovaries, Endometriosis, is painful. Seeing the look on other people’s faces when they find out you can’t have children is painful. Having to re-tell the story each time, having to tell your parents that they may not be grandparents is painful. But living your life, seeing the world, experiencing everything you can, that is not painful. This is not the end, this is just the beginning of our lives and our future…