“In December 2013, a stubborn cough was causing me pain in my lower abdomen and so I saw my GP. Concerned, they referred me immediately to hospital where doctors discovered a tumour the size of a rugby ball. I underwent surgery to remove the tumour and the attached ovary and was discharged just before Christmas.
“Then at the start of the New Year I was told that the tumour had contained cancer cells. I was diagnosed with Stage 1C Moderately Differentiated Mucinous Adenocarcinoma of the ovary – ovarian cancer which is not common in a female of my age.
“I needed treatment but had just enough time for one collection of my eggs before the chemotherapy would damage my remaining ovary. Although we had been trying to conceive for the past two years, all our plans to start a family lay with this one small chance. Yet we didn’t spend time worrying, we went with the flow and listened to the experts.
“My oncology consultant had arranged for us to receive treatment at Oxford Fertility. Arriving at the clinic, we were immediately put at ease, the facility was so calming, relaxing and comfortable. Everyone bent over backwards to help us. Nothing was ever too much. No question or request. It felt so welcoming and personal from the reception through to the clinical departments and staff.
“During the treatment, we knew our chances were slim. I only produced four eggs and one fertilised. This was frozen, put on ice for if and when we were ready to proceed with our only chance of having a child of our own.
“I viewed my treatment as a journey. It wasn’t a blur, it was just something I had to do, and I understood what lay ahead, I just got on with it. I altered my focus, treating it as an adventure, which really helped. I didn’t spend time thinking about me but focused on what opportunities had opened up for me.
“I was off work during treatment so decided to do some fund raising. Whilst I was going through the fertility treatment and before starting chemotherapy, I shaved my head (although my chemo would not result in me losing my hair). I raised £6,500 for Macmillan Cancer Support. This was recognised in 2014 when I was awarded Macmillan Cancer Champion and again in 2018 when I was invited to a Macmillan event at Buckingham Palace where I met Macmillan patron, Prince Charles.
“My treatment lasted eight months before I was given the all clear with five years of check-ups to follow.
“Whilst on holiday last year, Justin and I talked about our little frozen embryo and made the very difficult decision that we would return to Oxford Fertility. We knew that the embryo may not survive the thaw or transfer.
It would be easier emotionally to not try, but we would spend the rest of our lives not knowing, we had to take our only chance with our embryo that we had nicknamed Nemo.
“We returned to the team at the clinic and continued our IVF cycle, four years after we had started. Two weeks later, when ‘positive’ appeared on our pregnancy test, we were convinced we had done something wrong, it couldn’t be possible. A couple of weeks later we visited the clinic for a scan. It was a very quiet journey to the clinic as we were both thinking that the scan would reveal no baby and our hopes would be dashed. It was only when we saw the heartbeat on that scan that we realised I was definitely pregnant. Justin and I turned to each other and burst into tears of joy and wonder, the sonographer also had a tear in her eye. It was a special moment.
“Work had been fantastic, taking me off front line duties to allow me to take all my medication in preparation for getting pregnant. I just tried to stay as relaxed as I could through my pregnancy and nine months later our Ayah arrived. She is our miracle and our world.
“My thanks go out to the clinic, my family and friends who supported us all the way through our journey. Also, to my doctor who was quick to pick up the signs of there being an issue and ultimately saved my life by referring me straight to the hospital. The most thanks must go to Justin though. He has been my rock and my hero. I think he is going to be Ayah’s hero too, she’s already a daddy’s little girl, the apple of daddy’s eye.”