Audrey, 36, Ovarian Cancer Survivor
My story started with a fairly simple operation. I was to have surgery for uterine fibroids. I researched physicians who specialize in this type of surgery and found a wonderful doctor at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. Fibroid surgery went well. While the surgeon was operating she removed what she thought was a cyst on my ovary. Two weeks after surgery I had a low-grade fever that lasted a couple of days. My surgeon sent me for an ultrasound just to see if I had developed any infection. The technician took ages doing the ultrasound and called in the physician who kept looking at the monitor saying, “what is that?” while looking at my uterus. I wasn’t worried at the time; I just thought it was strange the way she commented. After a few days, the fever resolved on its’ own. A week later, the surgeon called me in to her office and told me she had news. The pathology from the surgery came back and the cyst she removed from my ovary was cancer. She referred me to an oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. She told me I would likely have fertility-sparing surgery where they would only remove the one ovary, unless they found more cancer when they were operating.
During the fibroid surgery, she didn’t see anything abnormal, though she did not see the inside of the uterus as she was very careful to take the fibroids from the outside of the uterus in order to preserve the uterine lining. But given the ultrasound physicians response when she looked at my uterus I then became concerned about whether the cancer was in there. So, while waiting for the appointment with the oncologist, we took a biopsy of the inside of the uterus. More waiting….which is the worst part of any cancer journey….and then the news: cancer in the uterus as well. This was the most devastating day as I realized they would have to take out the uterus and ovaries and fertility-saving surgery was no longer an option. So, at age 36 with no children and a very strong desire for them, I was to have a TAHBSO (Total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oopherectomy).
So, the research began. Can I save my fertility? Can anything be done? Should I even be thinking about fertility when my family just wanted me to be free of cancer? But the prospect of not being able to have children was more devastating to me than the cancer itself.
I contacted a fertility clinic in Toronto. They had me in the next day and told me that fertility treatments take 10-12 days and need to begin on day 3 of a cycle. It turned out, that very day, I was on day 3. This meant I had to begin the treatment immediately. Since my surgery was 12 days away, this was my only shot. So I sat down and tried to digest the huge decision I needed to make. I realized there was no question what my decision would be. As long as the oncologist was in agreement with the fertility specialist, we were going to go ahead. So, I took the hormone shots for 11 days, then 1 day for the egg retrieval and then my life saving surgery.
The surgery went well, the cancer was gone. Three weeks later the pathology reports were clear. No further treatment required. Then the healing began. Given that I had those wonderful frozen embryos, I felt hopeful for the future. Now, 2 years later, I am beginning the journey toward motherhood.