"I am a 32 year old, recently married woman, currently living in Preston. I never in a million years thought I would ever hear the words, “I’m sorry, you have cancer.” I’ll start from the beginning, from when I think things became strange.
I got married in August 2015. I moved from London to Preston, so it was a big change for me. Me and my husband talked about having children for a while, even before we were engaged. We both knew it was important that we didn’t take our time with starting a family as I suffer from PCOS and it could have been difficult for me to conceive.
My cycle suddenly changed in February 2016. I began to bleed in between my cycle. In April, my cycle changed again and became really heavy. I always suffered from heavy bleeding, but this was different. I spoke to my friends about it and we put it down to it being stress of not being able to find a permanent job, moving cities, being away from my family etc. My husband and I decided that we should try for a baby soon after. Nothing happened and I was told by a friend to go to the GP and get referred to a Gynaecologist for testing.
In August I was referred and I had my first appointment with the Gynaecologist in September. We started off with blood tests and then she wanted me to have an HSG (an X-Ray of my tubes and womb) to see if my tubes were blocked. The procedure didn’t work the first time so I went in again at the end of November for the second one. They found this one difficult as well. I had complained about bleeding after this procedure so about a week later I went in again for an ultrasound. At this stage the doctor found what looked like a polyp in my uterus and she informed me that it would need to be removed.
I went to see my Gynaecologist again and she informed me that she wanted to perform a hysteroscopy, polypectomy, a laparoscopy and dye and ovarian drilling to see what was going on and to help with my fertility. By this time my periods had become even heavier and the Gynaecologist suggested some tablets to help minimise the bleeding.
I had the procedures in March 2017 and by all accounts they went well. The Gynaecologist informed me that she had removed the large polyp and found lots of small ones in my uterus that would go off for testing as was procedure and that one of my fallopian tubes was fully blocked and the other one was almost completely blocked too. She told me that they would refer me for IVF if we weren’t able to get pregnant in 6 months.
After the procedures I went home to London to recover. About 10 days later I received a phone call from the hospital asking me to come in the next day. I informed them that I wouldn’t be able to, but that I could come in Monday. They agreed to a Monday appointment and at the end of the phone call the nurse told me that the doctor had requested that I bring someone with me. She was insistent that I have someone with me for the appointment. I knew deep down that something was wrong and the thought of cancer did momentarily flit through my mind.
On the Monday we went for the appointment in the afternoon at 2 o’clock. My husband and I sat down with the gynaecologist and there was a nurse in the room as well. She told us everything that had happened so far and then explained that the sample she took from my uterus had gone for testing and that during the procedure she didn’t notice anything concerning.
She told me they’d found cancer and I started crying. The first thing I thought was ‘Oh my God, what is he (my husband) thinking right now, how am I going to tell my parents.’ It sounds like a stupid thing to think but I guess everyone deals with these things differently. She informed me that she had already contacted the oncologist and that I would hear from them soon. She was genuinely shocked and told me that if I hadn’t come to her for fertility testing they wouldn’t have found it this early. I guess you could say I was lucky, but I didn’t feel lucky.
I saw the Oncologist and his team a week later and they told us that normally the treatment for endometrial/womb cancer is a hysterectomy but because I hadn’t had children yet and we wanted a family they were opting for a hormone treatment to preserve my fertility while reversing the cancer.
I am currently taking 400mg of progesterone a day for 6 months. I’ve been taking the tablets for 2 months now and I have 4 months left. It hasn’t been easy so far. I took the news really well at first. I was really positive and reassuring everyone around me that everything was going to be fine. I wanted to be strong for myself and for everyone else. That lasted about 2 weeks. I went back to work after the Easter holidays and within 3 days I had to be off on sick leave. I guess being strong wasn’t working for me anymore. I was being strong for everyone else but inside I was breaking apart. But I didn’t want anyone to worry. Not my husband, not my friends and not my family. I cut myself off from everyone, even my husband. I stopped talking and when I did talk to people I faked it. I made out like I was fine and that everything was ok. But I felt like I was being dealt an unfair hand. I felt like I had done something wrong to deserve this.
At the same time I had friends announcing they were pregnant left and right. I was happy for them but so unbelievably upset for myself. The thought that I may not be able to ever have my own children was killing me inside and I had no one to talk to about it. On top of that the treatment was taking its toll, making me tired a lot of the time and I was having trouble sleeping too. I would spend most of my days going to the gym and then sitting in front of the TV for the rest of the day. It was definitely not healthy. I didn’t want to see anyone and I just wanted to be left alone.
I went back to work after the half term at the beginning of June. It has probably been the best thing for me. Though I am exhausted every day when I get home, I am busy and I have no time to think about having cancer. Most people where I live don’t know I have cancer because it’s a small community and my husband and I are quite private, so it helps that no one asks me any questions. I am sure it will all hit me at some point but for now I am feeling ok and that has to be enough for now. One day at a time.
In October I will have another hysteroscopy and they will test to see if the cancer has gone or not. If it has then we have the green light for IVF, if not then it will be back on the operating table for a full hysterectomy. I try not to think about it because I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t want to hope because I don’t want to be disappointed but deep down of course I hope that this treatment will work. I am worried how I will cope if the treatment doesn’t work, but I have to think about what is more important; my life or having children. It sounds like it should be an easy choice to make, but these things are never easy and it’s not something you can be logical about either.
I guess my message to women of my age and younger out there is KNOW YOUR CYCLE. Recognise any changes and talk to your GP about it. Don’t just put it down to being nothing, because it might be something. Womb cancer doesn’t just affect older women. I am living proof of that."
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