On the day that I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the one and really only decision that I had to make was whether or not I wanted to take fertility preservation steps, ahead of my chemotherapy treatment. Yup, that’s right, aside from taking my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, fingernails and quite a few of my brain cells, chemo also had the ability to take away my chances of having naughty little (short) children.
As a thirty-eight-year-old woman, I was already pushing my luck a bit when it came to starting a family. Alex and I hadn’t quite decided what we were going to do and I was still far too in love with my sleep to go there. Being a nanny for around fourteen years
might have did also play a part in the speed at which my decision was made!
When my oncologist told me I had an aggressive and fast growing tumour, he then just casually dropped in that I’d need to go away and think about whether or not I’d like to freeze my eggs ahead of treatment. To us, it seemed as though he was leaning towards starting the chemo treatment as quickly as possible, but oddly, they sent me away to take two weeks to think about it. Two weeks!
Now let me tell you, when you’ve been told you’ve got a fast growing tumour and you know nothing much about cancer cells, two weeks seems a hell of a long time. With that and the time it would take to go through the process of freezing my eggs, we decided I was better off getting stuck into the treatment as soon as possible, without going through the preservation steps. It actually took us about fifteen minutes of working through the pros and cons and boom, our lives were changed forever.
For those of you who don’t know, chemotherapy can affect your eggs, hormone levels and the functioning of the ovaries. There is also a risk of it bringing on early menopause in women who are close to the natural menopause age. On top of all of that, the Tamoxifen tablets (that I’ll soon be starting and taking for the next ten years), reduce oestrogen levels, so I’d have to take a break from them in order to attempt to get pregnant. The pregnancy might not even happen anyway, and it is not advised that I take that break for at least two years… when I’m nearly forty, people! Let’s be realistic here. Fertility treatment doesn’t always work the first time, I may not have many good eggs left already, and the NHS doesn’t tend to pay for women over that age to go through the treatment… so can you see where I’m going with this?
I recently went along to a talk hosted by a fertility specialist at a Younger Women Together Breast Cancer Care event. He explained about fertility in layman’s terms and I got more of a jist about how my chances might look, moving forward. It’s definitely not impossible for me to get pregnant, but realistically, my chances aren’t that high. There is in fact, a blood test that I can do, which will show me how my eggs are looking after all of my treatment. Whether I go there is another matter though. Aside from everything else, the fact that getting pregnant could even bring back the cancer, is scary enough.
Every now and then, I wonder if it was the right decision to rush straight into chemo, but the fact that the choice has already been made, and there is nothing I can do about it, is reason enough for me to believe that it’s the path we were meant to take. Other doors will open somewhere along the line, and what good would it be if we had eggs sitting there in a chilly freezer if the cancer had spread to other parts of my body?
… Yes, that’s what we thought.
I’ll just keep thinking about the extra holidays that I’ll be able to take for years to come. Always a bright side to everything, eh? ;)
In other news… I started my four and a half weeks of daily radiotherapy today. I’m so happy to be doing that at St Thomas’ – It’s a bit of a trek for a ten minute appointment, but I’m just looking at it as a good exercise mission…
Until next time x