Two years ago, I was the healthiest and fittest I had ever been in my life. I was doing boot camp and had never felt so good, but I noticed that I was peeing a lot. I went to the doctors who said I had a UTI and gave me antibiotics. It didn’t clear up.
So I went back and saw my female doctor, who examined me and said there was definitely something there. She thought it was fibroids and fast tracked me in for an ultrasound scan.
At ultrasound, I could tell on the nurse’s face that there was a problem. I asked her if she could see fibroids and she said she could see something, but wouldn’t say what.
The next morning, I was getting my daughter ready for nursery and the doctor phoned me and said, “We have the results back and we think there is a mass in your bladder.” I couldn’t comprehend what they were saying and called my partner straight away in bits and told him there was a tumour in my bladder; it was such a shock.
I went for a cystography and the doctor told me it was good news; there was nothing on my bladder but there was something pressing on my bladder and I needed to have a CT scan. I had the scan a couple of weeks later and they thought it was in my bladder and sent me back for another cystography under general anaesthetic.
This was a week before Christmas. When I woke up, I was told it’s not in my bladder but there is something very large pressing on my bladder and I went for an MRI scan the next day. On Christmas Eve I received a letter saying I had a massive cyst on my ovary. I relaxed at Christmas because I felt that lots of women have cysts on their ovaries and I didn’t feel ill.
On the 3rd of January, I went into hospital to discuss the results of the MRI. They showed me the scan and the cyst was huge; it looked like I was 6 months pregnant from the inside but it was never sticking out, it was sitting in my pelvis. They told me it didn’t look cancerous and my blood wasn’t showing any ovarian cancer markers, but it was very large.
They had to remove it whole and told me if they see anything untoward, they will do a full hysterectomy. I had the first operation, which went well and everything looked fine. I was in hospital for three days and I felt really good. However, when I went back two weeks later for the biopsy, it came back with a low-grade cancer.
I was utterly shocked – there has never been cancer in my family. Once cancer was diagnosed, the NHS were amazing. I had to have a full hysterectomy. I was told I would go into the menopause and my hormones would be a bit crazy for a bit.
I had a very large operation. When I woke up, I was in agony but hadn’t really begun to process that I was in menopause. The scar runs from the top of my public bone to my chest bone.
Three weeks later, I woke up and literally felt like I was in a grey cloud. Now I look back, I think I had a year of mourning for my female self. I could not look at a pregnant woman without going into hysteria. I can’t hold a baby now – I can’t be around newborn babies because it makes me want another one. I know it’s not true, but sometimes I feel like I was punished because I didn’t speak the truth with my partner for my desire to have another baby. After speaking to other women who have had hysterectomies, even with three or four children, they also mourned their reproductive self and had a desire for more children; I now know this is quite a normal response.
The menopause made turned me into a person that I wasn’t. I couldn’t take HRT because of the cancer and I just didn’t feel like myself at all. Two years on, it has got easier and I only feel like this once or twice a month, not every day, and instead of focussing on what I didn’t have, I am so grateful to have a supportive partner and family, a gorgeous happy daughter and I am really content in life. I was so incredibly lucky – only 10% of women who get ovarian cancer are classed as low-grade, which means I didn’t need chemotherapy and it has a low chance of returning.
I talk about menopause all the time with my hairdressing clients and I feel like I am helping women daily; there is not enough information out there. We are still in the prime of our lives and to suddenly feel old and invisible feels horrible. Every woman is going to go through the menopause, you can’t stop that. Every woman needs help. It’s not talked about enough. It does get better and you need to be kind to yourself and always listen to your body.