Baby, it’s just never gonna happen

I really wanted my next post to be a vlog and I’ve been wracking my brains for days on end about what my next topic should be.
Obviously this is not a vlog. On this topic, I needed to be clear and concise and I can’t do that without thinking about what I’m gonna say and how it needs to be worded.

So I’ve brushed over this topic before but I’ve never really gone into the nitty gritty.

Infertility.

I’m infertile. My eggs are naff. They’re non-existent. There will be no babies.

This isn’t because of my cancer. Vaginal cancer hasn’t made me infertile and it’s not fucked me up down there. I function normally… In case you’re wondering πŸ˜‰

Radiotherapy made me infertile. As my radiotherapy was directed in the pelvic region it didn’t just target my tumour. Radio beams hit my womb, ovaries, intestines, colon, stomach, liver, kidneys, the lot. For those of you that have never experienced radiotherapy let me just explain the effects as best I can… It burns you. After treatment you generally have a red mark where its been targeting. Or sometimes your skin peels like you’ve been sunburned. It can blister, swell, redden, peel or all of the above.

With me, by the end of my treatment from the tops of my thighs to my lower ribs front and back my skin changed colour. I went from a fair skin, that tans slightly in the sun but burns easily, to a skin that looked like it’s spent 20 days in the Sahara slicked up with oil. Without sounding racist my skin colour was a different ethnicity.

So with that on the outside, its no wonder it damaged my ovaries. So this probably brings you to the question what we’re my fertility options? There were none.

From the day I was diagnosed, to the day of treatment beginning, there was 3 days. I had a very aggressive tumour. It grew rapidly and with the size of it already (10 cm), they couldn’t risk any more time, in case it spread. It did, but they didn’t know that at the time and they hoped it wouldn’t. The option of harvesting any of my eggs for future IVF treatment was never on the table. It would have meant that I would have to be on a selection of hormone drugs to up my ante for egg collection. Not only that, but to retrieve said eggs it would also mean an operation and the tumour was in the way of the route they would take to collect my eggs.

At the time of being told this I didn’t care of the situation. When you’re that sick all you want is to get better. I never processed this part of treatment. I never dealt with it. I just thought logically and got on with what needed to be done.

After radiotherapy, brachytherapy (an internal form of radiotherapy – they target the tumour directly with radio beams) and chemotherapy I was then under the care of the early menopause clinic.

You can only be officially declared menopause free when you’ve had no period for over 12 months. However I still needed to see them to see what function I had left. A simple blood test works for this to see what your FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) level is. This is the hormone that helps release the egg. My FSH was 84. I remember saying to my doctor “that’s good then?”… Umm… No. On average, it should be between 4 and 20. At 84 it means my body is trying to kick the ovaries into action. So with this, they knew that’s it. It’s HRT (hormone replacement therapy), artificial hormones to replace what my body can no longer produce.

If I didn’t take this? My body would be too screwed when I get old. Osteoporosis, brittle bones, muscle deterioration, heart disease, strokes, the list goes on. I’ve got enough to deal with already don’t I?! So I take it.

Hey, fun fact: did you know that although I’m on HRT I can still have a period if I wanted to! Not a real period, but apparently, some women who go through the menopause early feel they’ve lost a bit of their womanhood. Or naturally your body still bleeds monthly. HRT is expansive like the contraceptive pill. Actually, some use the contraceptive pill as their hormone replacement. Look-wise there’s no difference in the appearance of the pills and the packet they come in. For me, I didn’t see the use of having a period if it wasn’t doing anything. That’s one nuisance I’m glad to be rid of!

During this consultation with my early menopause doctor she asked if I had a sister. Yes, I do, I said. She smiled and said good. She explained that in the future she could be an egg donor for me. I shot that down immediately. I love my sister, don’t get me wrong but that is just crossing too many lines for me personally. Until recently I realised she asked this because the NHS will not fund egg donation. I would have to find my own donor or fund it myself… This is about Β£5000+

I’ve always had strong opinions on where I stand with such tricky areas like IVF. I just wouldn’t do it personally. I couldn’t put myself through that emotional trauma. I have nothing against IVF or IVF babies I just don’t want it for myself. So it’s never really been an option for me. I never sat down and considered it.

I’m very much a practical thinker in life. And being this way I think has helped me considerably when I’ve had to deal with such emotional situations like this. Don’t get me wrong, I am deep down to my core devastated that I can’t have my very own baby. And it hurts so bad some days when social media is covered with friends babies or pregnancies but that’s OK. I have my cry and I move on. I deal with it.

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Fertility is such a hairy topic for those who go through problems, have IVF or just plainly can’t have babies.

You can’t talk to someone who’s had babies. They don’t get it. They have theirs. And you can’t talk to those who don’t have babies but still can, because they can’t relate either. My friends and family know my situation and they let me talk when I need or want to. They help. But things move on, the feeling of sadness goes at the end of the day, it’s not a topic that they will always be thinking of.

Friends please don’t stop the social media posts if you are reading this! I’m not hating on you. It’s just some days are harder than others and it’s issues I have to deal with not you.

So you may think, but hang on what about fostering or adoption? That’s a good route. And yes, I would agree. It was my option this time last year. But since then my cancer has gone metastatic when it gets to the stage 4 region (did you know I had to Google that bit? I’ve never officially been told its stage 4) you’ll never be cured from it. You have to constantly deal with the thought of it still lingering. It will come back.

I can’t put a kid through such an unstable future. You may not agree with my reasoning but this is the way my life is.

So this is the way it is. My kidless future.

It’s a very different perspective when that option is stolen from you and not a choice you’ve made yourself.

If you have any questions or I’ve not been clear on anything please feel free to message. I’m very open on my infertility and treatment.

Also, if you find you are like me, and have gone through the menopause early, then there is a great charity that can help with people who can relate. The Daisy Network

Kudos if you have got this far! I know it’s a long post! βœŒπŸ»πŸ’œ

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive!

As I write this post I’ve just had my 3 month post chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy PET/CT scan. Basically the scan that’ll tell me if I’ve kicked cancers big fat hairy butt!
And for the whole day I’ve been pretty chuffed that I can sing Imagine Dragons song Radioactive at the top of my voice and know that it’s true! Well you gotta look at the good side to all this!

I can’t help but feel that this PET/CT scan holds my life in it’s hands more than ever. There’s nothing I can do about the results. What will be will be. I don’t feel like I have cancer anymore but you can never really know. It’ll be a hell of a lot more devastating for me, my family and friends if the results come back that I’m not clear of it. All because I do feel pretty normal again.

Back in January, just 5 lowly months ago, was when I had my first PET/CT scan. It’s hard to believe I’m the same person today. At 5’11” I was 8 1/2 stone, which is just under 54kg. Massively underweight for my height. I was in hospital, not yet fully knowing what I was dealing with… But I’m pretty sure my family did! The sneaky buggers didn’t tell me I was already in a cancer hospital! Haha. Hey, I told you. Before all this I was completely oblivious to cancer! I knew where I was I just didn’t realise it was a cancer hospital.

The PET/CT Scan

So with a PET/CT scan they inject you with some radioactive stuff that goes all round your body and highlights the cancer and any other suspect areas that it may have gone to.

January’s results showed how extensive the cancer was… A 10cm mass and that it was becoming a little bit suspect around my lymph nodes in my stomach region… I wanna call them my illiac nodes? As I said I’m not a doctor but I think that’s what it was.

At this point, although it’s scary knowing how big the cancer is I didn’t care. I was in pain, sleeping most of the day away and barely eating. When you’re in that much discomfort you really don’t care what title it is you’re dealing with. You just wanna feel better. And yeah I had cancer but I always looked at it like it’s cancer, it’s not cancer cancer.

I see cancer adverts these days where they’re telling the actor on screen and they’re devastated. They portray how isolated they feel and how life changing it is and yeah… I can kind of get where they’re coming from but for me, it was never like that. Life goes on.

You don’t want to look so broken to your family all the time. They’re dealing with this as much as you and in a way you could say it’s worse for them. They can’t do anything to help. I slept most of the day away and was in a pretty high drug induced bubble of codeine, oramorph and paracetamol.

How I found out I had cancer

Do you wanna know how I first found out I had cancer? I find it funny but I know my family don’t. They were pretty pissed. Haha.

I had this cancer nurse come round early one morning and gave me a “how to deal with being diagnosed with cancer” leaflet. Turns out this nurse was gonna be my “cancer nurse” I couldn’t stand her… She just wasn’t very good at empathy but tried her hardest, only it turned out being a bit annoying. No… I don’t want to talk about how I’m feeling to you. But thanks.

I just remember getting this leaflet before the doctors had told me and thinking “oh fuck, it is cancer then”. I made a laugh and a joke about it to my mum when she came in but I can tell you she wasn’t best pleased this happened without her there for support and before I had an actual diagnosis!

So yes, today I’m singing radioactive as loud as I can enjoying the fact that it is very relevant to me and revelling in the irony that is my life!

When your vagina lets you down

Oh gosh… So where do you begin?Β So Back in January, I was offically diagnosed with stage 3 squamous cell vaginal cancer. Cancer is a topic that you think will never touch you personally, as in touch your own body.
Unfortunately though, sometimes it does. And sometimes it does affect the “good” people who have done nothing to deserve it.
Sometimes you are not the master of your own future. Smetimes it is not down to your genetics, environment or lifestyle… Sometimes you are just plain unlucky.
Vaginal cancer and the statistics

Normally, when you think of a 28 year old female diagnosed with cancer, you will most likely think of ovarian, cervical or breast cancer. Vaginal cancer, I didn’t even hear of before my treatment so I wouldn’t blame you for thinking of those first either!

If you look on the Cancer Research UK website, you will see that vaginal cancer affects just 1% of the UK population in their lifetime. It is a cancer that is more likely to affect those over 70… now isn’t that a kick in the teeth? I’ve got an old lady cancer. Once my oncologist got into the nitty gritty parts of my cancer, I found out that the survival rate is 40% after treatment! Well holy hell… How are you meant to get your head around that? Thinking about it now, are the statistics so unfair because these ladies have actually died from this cancer? Or is it because they’re so old and other complications occured?

HPV

Vaginal Cancer is on the same strain as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The HPV vaccine was introduced into the UK in 2008 for 12-13 year olds. In 2008, I was 20, so at this point I had already missed that boat to be vaccinated against it. In Autumn 2009, a catch-up plan was introduced to vaccinate all girls up to the age of 18.

Looking back, I was aware of all the media hype concerning the HPV vaccine but as I wasn’t in the age gap that concerned me I was ignorant to it. Looking at it now though, how much more is it a kick in the teeth that I was shy of just 3 years to be applicable for the very vaccine that could have prevented me from having cancer! Not only do I have old lady cancer, I could have been vaccinated against it if I was just a few years younger.

Where it begins

I like to think I’m special. Haha. With life showing me how unpredictable it likes to be I’m thinking I’m not gonna be the average Jo(anne) Β when it comes to treatment and recovery. With the only thing positive in this whole thing, my age, they threw everything at me that my body could cope with. So in time I’ll tell you as much as I can the fun journey I took with Chemotherapy, Radiatherapy and Brachytherapy. Coz lets face it… I seem to be a pretty rare case as they keep telling me!