One of the hardest experiences in our society is without doubt being confronted with the diagnosis of cancer, all the more so if you want to become a mother. Our former patient S.I. bravely faced the diagnosis. In today’s article, we would like to share her testimony and tell her story about her struggle with the disease and the fulfilment of her desire to have children.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1.38 million new cases of breast cancer are reported every year.
Breast cancer is a malignant tumour that originates in glandular tissue in the breast from tumour cells that invade healthy tissue around the breast. Although this disease is more common in women, it can also affect men.
According to studies by the Spanish Association for the Fight against Cancer, the scientific causes of cancer are still unknown. According to recent studies, neither lifestyle, family history nor age are sufficient factors to determine the risk and know the reason for it scientifically.
The most effective method of prevention is early diagnosis and information: recognising the symptoms we receive from our body and regular check-ups with specialists are generally basic tools for detecting and fighting cancer.
In the case of S.I, the diagnosis came a bit too late: after a year with pain all over her body and severe abdominal pain, she came to the emergency room. “There is a 95% chance that you have a malignant tumour in your colon,” she was told.
Motherhood after a cancer: a real testimony
How were you diagnosed with colon cancer? Have you noticed that something is wrong?
I had a fever for a year and a half. During that time I had a lot of tests in the internal medicine department: I had pain in the sacrum and was constantly exhausted. Getting up every day to go to work became increasingly difficult because I had no energy. But I had just been promoted and I had fought hard for the job. I liked my work. I had put my discomfort down to the stress and thought that once I got used to it, I would feel better again.
Three months before I was diagnosed, I was suffering from severe stomach problems, I had hardly any appetite… I went to the family doctor and was put on sick leave for three days. I was in bed the whole time because the pain was unbearable. I knew then that something was wrong. I started to lose weight.
The day I was diagnosed with cancer, I was at work, the pain was unbearable, I spoke to my boss and told him I had to go to the emergency room. I knew there was something wrong with me. On the way I called my husband and told him that I was very sick and that I was on my way to the hospital.
After an examination, the doctors confirmed to me: “There is a 95% probability that you have a malignant tumour in your colon; we have called the responsible surgeons because you urgently need to be operated”.
I asked her to leave me alone with my husband to explain it to him (it had been less than a year since he had lost his 47-year-old sister to stomach cancer) and reassure him.
I will never forget the look in his eyes. I told him not to worry, everything would be fine, I finally knew what was happening to me. I called my sisters and just told them that I didn’t want to tell our parents at that time.
Afterwards two surgeons and a gynaecologist came and confirmed what we had feared: it was indeed cancer. In spite of the bad prospects, I knew that I wanted to be cured. And not only that, I wanted to be a mother. It was the year 2011 and it was not long before I suffered a miscarriage in the fifth month of pregnancy.
In these moments of loneliness I always had to think about my family, my husband, my sisters and above all my parents.
How did you react when you were confronted with the diagnosis?
I knew I had to be strong, and the next day they asked me a lot of questions about my family history.
Strangely enough, I was more worried about my family than about myself, because my mindset was positive and I was convinced that I would make it. I managed to reassure my parents, but not my sisters, as both of them were aware of the seriousness of the illness, and one of them works as a nurse.
How were the first days after the diagnosis?
They were difficult days, for me and for all who love me, but I always smiled because I had to stay positive. I had to fight not only for my life but also for my dream of becoming a mother. What was incredibly difficult was to communicate it to my family and reassure them.
Have you ever thought about becoming a mother before?
Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I got pregnant naturally twice. The first time I lost the baby, my darling Adrian, in the fifth month of pregnancy. The pregnancy did not develop well from the beginning, but I was convinced that the baby was still struggling to survive, and I would not give up either. However, the situation became so bad that I had to end the pregnancy.
On 22 June 2010 I was admitted to the emergency room with contractions and my baby Adrian was about to leave me. I had high fever, but when I felt a little better, I begged my husband that they should save my son, that my life was not important. In the end Adrian didn’t make it. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. The baby’s heartbeat was weak, but I could feel his movements.
After the diagnosis, did you have a consultation about your chances of becoming a mother? You were still of childbearing age.
Within 15 days after the cancer surgery that removed half of my colon and part of my bladder, the oncologists who treated me wanted to start chemotherapy quickly. I asked them to give me at least a week to visit a fertility clinic and get advice on freezing my eggs. However, as I had a very swollen bladder and stomach at the time, they advised me not to undergo stimulation.
How did you get the egg donation?
I was told that I would have to wait at least a year before considering fertility treatment. We used this time to pursue another of our plans: to get married. We were able to organise the wedding we had always dreamed of, and a few weeks after our marriage I started a fertility treatment with donor eggs.
The choice of clinic was simple: a very close relative had succeeded in having twins in this clinic and she was convinced that I too would have very good chacen there.
From all my background we knew that it would not be an easy path, but we wanted to try. I was given a very thorough diagnosis, which involved several tests to find the treatment protocol that best suited me. I was always treated with loving care and great professionalism. I always remember the whole process with great affection.
Emotional support is very important to overcome any illness. How was it for you?
The emotional support from your family and friends was the most important thing. Especially the support of my husband was incredible and helped me a lot through this time. To go alone through eight cycles of chemotherapy over eight months, with hardly any breaks between medications, is impossible. The support of the partner is also incredibly important during a fertility treatments.
What was it like to get a positive pregnancy test result?
We were at home waiting for a call from the clinic when the phone finally rang: The result was POSITIVE, I knew that this time it was different. We were very happy, but we only told the closest relatives about it. We wanted to wait for the first ultrasound examinations.
In the eighth week, when we heard his heart, I knew that everything would be fine and that our son (I had the feeling that he would be a boy) was growing inside of me. This moment cannot be described with words!
On 31 December 2015, at 22:20, He was born by Caesarean section, weighing 3,652 kg. I cannot describe the feeling and joy I felt at that moment. He will turn 5 years old and every day he makes us happier.
Despite the long journey we have had to make, I believe that I would not change any of this, not even the bad, because it had to be my baby, and that is how it was.
With this testimony on cancer and fertility, we want to give visibility to all those patients who have to fight against cancer. We hope that the words of S.I. can carry a message of hope.