"I was diagnosed with womb cancer on 28th June 2013, aged 39.
I had been undergoing various fertility tests after stopping oral contraceptives in October 2012, as my then finance and I were trying to conceive our first child. My periods simply never came back.
After 3 months of waiting, wondering if I was already pregnant (and exhibiting some symptoms of same) we went to my GP. Blood tests were taken, which initially suggested Premature Ovarian Failure. I wasn’t happy to just leave it there, and was referred for an ultrasound. The nurse wouldn’t let me see the screen, and simply said “I’m going to be seeing you again”.
The results came back at the end of March, showing cysts on my ovaries and what was described as “scarring” in my womb. By this point my insane mood swings, the constant worry, the sleepless, sweaty nights in addition to working 60-70 hours a week had taken their toll– my fiancé and I parted company after nearly 3 years together.
I was booked in for a hysteroscopy, biopsy and D&C on my 39th birthday, in the belief that this would “solve” the problem and kick start my periods. It didn’t. On referral to a gynaecologist, (who advised me my surgery results were clear) it was suggested further tests should be performed, before I could commence fertility treatment in October. I had resigned myself to lone parenthood, but didn’t feel I should give up on my one dearly and long held dream simply because I had no partner to share it with.
Then I got a letter. Please attend an appointment on 28th June, you require further treatment.
I knew as soon as the nurse asked if I had anyone with me that something awful was coming. I never considered cancer, and I hadn’t even heard of womb cancer.
Within 5 minutes I had been told that my womb would need to be removed, and my dream of becoming a mother was over forever. I wasn't afraid of being ill; I wasn’t afraid of dying – even when it was explained to me very clearly what would happen to me if I left it untreated. I was heartbroken by the very nature of the treatment.
The surgery itself was complication free, and the indication is that the cancer has been removed, although I will need scans every 2 months for the next two years to check, as I kept my ovaries. Although surrogacy has been suggested, I simply can’t bear to watch someone else’s body do what mine can’t on my behalf. Even if I came to feel differently, I don’t seem to be producing eggs anyway. Devastated doesn’t even come close. I feel a failure as a woman. I waited until it was “right” to try to have children, only to have it snatched away.
My recovery has been good, although I am exhausted most of the time. The emotional scars will take longer, if they ever heal at all. People keep telling me I should be grateful – don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to die, but I find it hard to be happy that the only thing I ever really wanted to achieve will never happen.
The reactions from those around me have varied from the supportive to the dismissive. My fiancé and I were reconciled and were married 4 days before my operation. I’m eternally grateful he has two children already; the guilt would have been unbearable knowing I denied him the chance to be a father, though I know it has hit him hard too. My closest friends have rallied round and done everything from collecting prescriptions for me to arranging charity events in support of womb cancer research. I have had messages of support from friends around the world, some of whom I have never met in person but who seemed to know when a funny text or email was needed.
Others, people I considered to be almost family have shunned me. One because they didn’t agree with my marriage, one for reasons best known to herself. I’ve been accused of “faking” my illness, it has even been suggested that I didn’t have it “that bad” as I didn’t need chemo. These reactions say far more about the people having them than they do about me – I have chosen to rise above it, but the rejection at such an awful time has been hard to deal with.
My job now is to be the best wife, step mum and friend I can be above all. My next priority is to do what I can to raise awareness of this silent, sneaky, thief of a disease for other women like me.
Cancer stole my hopes and my dreams, but it didn’t get my life. I refuse to let it steal anything else."