Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Personal: Cancer 6 months on

Six months ago today I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.  Luckily it was a relatively early stage but it was a complete and utter shock.  From the diagnosis to major surgery was just 14 days, which went by in a blur of hospital appointments, scans, putting a brave face on and staying sane which I did remarkably well.  'Surgery is the only opinion' my surgeon said. 'We need to physically remove the tumours, attacking it with chemo and radiotherapy won't cut it'.

And so I had the surgery, recovered, had a clear PET scan and was told to go and get on with life. Albeit with regular check ups of various kinds. 

And largely that's what I have done.  I returned to work at the end of October and spent four weeks in the office which was horrendous at first but got easier every day.  I then had a month off in December, taking all my annual leave in one go.  And now it's 2015 and a new start and a new leaf and all that.

And my cancer nightmare is over as quickly as it began.  At Christmas no one spoke of it in my family.  And now, probably only two of my friends who I speak to daily (via whatsapp of course as they are in the UK) could tell you that I still think about my diagnosis every single day.  Multiple times a day.  I am presuming that this will lessen over time.  I'm not in any way depressed and I am completely fully functioning mentally and dare I say 'normal' but I still think about it constantly. What happened to me and God forbid would could have happened, how much worse it could have been.

In my office there was another lady who also had Cancer.  Stomach cancer.  She was a South African lady who worked in Compliance and I didn't know her very well even though we worked on the same floor.  We never bonded over coffee in the pantry over our illnesses or anything like that.  We both just got on with it I guess.

When I went back to work on Jan 4th I learned she had passed away on the 28th December.  Finding that out really affected me and I felt crushed and scared.  How dare it kill her?  

Cancer is a bastard.  We all know that.  I bet if you're reading this you have lost someone close to you, or know someone who is unwell with cancer. 

Anyway the point of this post is to reach out and try to gain some knowledge, experience and understanding from others ladies on a situation that has arisen for me.

When I had my surgery I had to have a hysterectomy as well as lymph node removal.  My surgeon kept my ovaries although part of me wishes he didn't (although that's another story) but they were moved up into my abdomen.  But I have no other reproductive organs left now so it would be impossible to ever carry a baby.

As far as I am aware I am still producing eggs unless, as is common despite having my ovaries I have gone through the menopause in the last six months following my surgery.  And I am not entirely sure I haven't to be honest.   I've had various symptoms that would be classed as 'menopausal' but they could equally just have been routine and part of post surgery recovery.

At 34 now I will admit that having children wasn't top of my agenda.  I love my job and my partner has two children from his first marriage so it has never been a subject we have pushed or felt pressured by.  His children are 17 and 15, one is great and seems accepting of the situation but well, the other is a 17 year old girl who seemingly hates me.  I am not part of their lives, they're not part of mine.  We live 3500 miles away and I have met his son once despite the fact Mike and I have been together almost 12 years.  

I digress.  However, I'd always assumed I would be a mum.  It's just one of those things people do right?  And I always thought I had loads of time.

To have a family now I have two options-adoption or surrogacy.  And that's the point of this post. I have spoken to my doctor who says my eggs in theory should still be ok and I could think about freezing them and using a surrogate.  Actually the first thing he asked me when he diagnosed me was 'do you want children?  But I was unprepared for the enormity of the next statement he made which was 'I think you have cervical cancer'.  

14 days later the tumours and lymph nodes had been removed but I wasn't able to have children.  

Perhaps Mike and I should have taken our time at that point and discussed all of our available options.  But all I could focus on was 'I have Cancer, get it the fuck out of me' 

At the weekend I had a chat with my doctor and he said the egg freezing process couldn't be done in Dubai but he said he referred a lot of people to a clinic in the Czech Republic.  To be honest I would want it done in the UK if anywhere.  I've spoken only to two people about this so far who have sort of said 'why not, it would give you options in the future'.  But when I broached the subject with Mike I think he was quite shocked.  He has said he is open to adoption but I think I sort of floored him with this idea.

And obviously, it would be a costly process and a waste of money if I never used them or the process doesn't work.  Could I really put myself through the agony of defrosting an egg and being desperate  for it to fertilize and then being told it hadn't worked?  It costs around £30,000 to freeze 70 eggs-yes that seems like lots of eggs I know when you only need one but I guess the theory is the more you have saved the higher chance of a hit.  I also understand that the NHS will consider these cases in cancer patients where fertility is affected and of course that is me but having lived in Dubai for 10 years I am not sure I would qualify (or deserve it but that's another ethical dilemma).

I am sure all of you with children reading this couldn't imagine life without them.  Whilst I may not be ga-ga over babies (although my new niece is absolute perfection) I get terribly upset of the thought of me being the end of the line.  That sounds a bit narcissistic which I don't mean it to.  What I mean is not having children to leave a legacy to.  Why do I work so hard, why save money if there is no one to benefit from it?  Not being able to mould a person and reap the benefits.  Too see the world through their eyes.  Not having the relationship now that I have with my mum with a child of my own.  I know motherhood is hard.  Hardest job in the world but I know there are also many moments of sheer joy and utter delight.  I worry about becoming old because I don't have young people around me to keep me young.  I worry about being lonely.

Whilst I understand this is a very niche topic I would love to hear from anyone who has chosen to freeze their eggs.  About their experience, good or bad or ugly. 

I am all for having options but I am the kind of person who likes to know details and have a good idea what to expect.  Success rates.  Cost.  Pain factor.  Legal implications.  

When I was home at Xmas someone told me that 'you being a mum obviously wasn't meant to be' and it truly upset me at the time.  Maybe they're right, if everything happens for a reason maybe I accept it and move on.

I guess it's a situation that I never imagined I would ever be in.  And now I feel I might have options, albeit slightly limited ones but I don't know enough about it (at the moment) to make an informed decision.  Of course I will be doing lots of research myself but any personal experiences or even opinions would be gratefully received.

The bottom line is, I am here and I am doing well.  I have amazing family and friends.  I love my job.  I love the people I surround myself with on a daily basis.  I just need to figure out if there is a new avenue to explore in terms of my future.

I understand this post is a bit heavy and that people do come here to read about beauty and tomorrow I will be back to that I promise!

If you would like to learn more about cervical cancer you can visit Jo's Trust or you can read about my whole journey here 


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