fertility

Breast cancer lesson 172: Christmas miracles do exist!

After friends hailing last Christmas’ engagement (after 13 years together) as a true ‘Christmas miracle’, I am delighted to report I am the welcome recipient of yet another one.

Today, on my official ‘lumpiversary’, my body has decided to celebrate by starting its first period since the start of treatment. Not something I thought I’d ever celebrate – or even talk about publically – this news is the best present those of us who have undergone chemo and risked infertility could hear.

Cancer takes a lot of things, but it I said at the very beginning, if it wanted to take away my chances of being a mother, it was in for a tough fight. But whatever happens in the future, even more exciting is the fact that this 33-year-old body is, at last, fed up of acting like it’s about 62.

Today is the day I reclaim my body and femininity, and that makes it a great day!

I write this for every woman facing or undergoing chemotherapy and hoping that one day soon, they too will smile in face of a packet of tampax. It took 20 weeks from the end of chemo, but it happened. All I hope is that, if you’re reading this and hoping, it will happen for you too.

There is hope for us all.

Let’s just hope the cramps are kind!

Merry Christmas one and all!

Breast cancer lesson number 41: The injecting is worth it

Eight has always been my lucky number. And, I am delighted to report, it seems to be not just lucky in life, but lucky in producing life. That’s right, the surgeon and embryologist have managed to extract eight eggs. By lunchtime tomorrow, we should find out how many of these eggs have been turned into embryos. There’s a one in 20 chance it will fail, so let’s hope the odds are in our favour this time after so much bad cancer-related luck.

The egg collection procedure (or what I saw of it) is nothing to fear. First, you arrive in your cubicle, get into a gown, foam slippers and a trendy mesh cap. Then you answer lots of questions, confirm consent and, in my case, pop a quick suppository in (it was either me or the anaesthetist doing this and I could tell by the look on his face that he’d rather it was me doing the honours). I obliged as he was the magic anaesthetist who’d managed to extract blood from me just a week ago.

The procedure room itself is the first theatre-like room I have ever seen (usually I get knocked out in a room nearby so I don’t get to see the monitors, team and sets of scrubs). Due to the fact it’s the first time I have been without my bra and corset for an extended period, they let me position myself on the bed, before attaching heart monitors, oxygen and a cannula. After a little gentle persuasion, the team took enough blood out for themselves and the oncologists so I avoided two blood tests today – and further bruising on my sore-looking left arm. Right arm was off limits as this second band shows.

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The last thing I remember is a syringe worth of happy relaxing juice and a further syringe of general anaesthetic. After that, they stuck a needle in my ovaries, extracted the eggs and fed me a nice cocktail of morphine and paracetamol. I was back in my cubicle with a packet of biscuits and a nice cup of tea in no time and, am now back home, back in the corset and rejoicing in the fact stage two is pretty much done. Just have to drink three litres of liquid a day (tea doesn’t count sadly) to flush my system – and wait for that embryo call.

You’d think after all this ovarian stimulation, my body might get a day off. Sadly, the oncologist I met in the morning had other ideas. My ovaries may have been swollen with eggs today for baby-making brilliance but, as of tomorrow morning, they’re going to be shut down completely until August (part of fertility back-up plan part two). Tomorrow morning, a lovely nurse at the hospital will be popping an implant under my tummy skin to release a drug called Zoladex. This clever drug (released over the next four weeks, after which I will need another implant) is designed to send me into a fake menopause. Chemotherapy can’t kill something it thinks is already dead. While I can’t say going through the menopause twice (first time at 32 at the same time as chemo) is particularly attractive (just imagine the combined side effects), if someone gives you the chance to protect you’re ovaries, you’ve got to take it. I will be well-versed in hot flushes when the menopause happens for real, that’s for sure.

As well as putting my body through five Zoladex implants, there was one further drug-related revelation in oncology. It seems that because of the fact the cancer had spread beyond the breast and into tissue surrounding the lymph nodes, I will be taking the anti-oestrogen drug for 10 years rather than five. This means that the end of treatment will be 2024 at the earliest! The good news? We should be able to come off it to try for children before the 10 years is up. Sounds a bit like extreme family planning to me.

With the eggs out, the countdown to chemo is now on. April 2 is D-day (or destruction day) and 31 March the day when the PICC line goes in (meaning four months without blood test needles). Stage three is in sight at last.

So, let’s hope we get those embryos in the freezer and let’s hope cancer doesn’t take another chunk out of my femininity. Having taken my boob, it’s already got its eyes on my hair!

Breast cancer lesson number 39: Timing is everything!

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This is it. Inside this box is the last injection I have to administer myself as part of the fertility process (we won’t talk about the chemo-related ones just yet). No more Menopur. No more Cetrotide. Just two Letrozole anti-cancer pills and an injection stand between me and being able to have my eggs collected at 3.30pm on Monday.

Ovitrelle is a trigger injection. It stimulates the final maturation of eggs in the ovaries. That means, once I have jabbed myself with this last needle, there is no going back. I will be on the slab on Monday and, with any luck, we’ll have embryos in the freezer soon after that. The procedure to extract these eggs is something I have just read about (although wish I hadn’t) and is something I will not be reporting here. Ok, so it’s not on a par with having your stomach cut open and the boob chopped off, but I am glad I am asleep for it. If curiosity is getting the better of you, click here for the science, but please don’t ever bring it up over dinner! 

For the trigger to be effective, timing is everything. So, mum will be keeping me company tonight until 2am when I can deliver the final and important dose (she might get to watch Les Mis from start to finish as a treat). Then I get a day off drugs tomorrow (my body will probably go into shock), a light breakfast of tea and toast at 6am on Monday and a date with a cannula and some IV sedation later that day.

Of course, when the nurse called, I had my priorities right. One, what do I do with the sharps box of syringes that is currently making the kitchen look untidy? Two, what to do with all the leftover drugs in the fridge? (Sadly the answer in both cases is to bring them with us, which means we’ll be heading to oncology looking like a portable pharmacy or like we’re about to have a picnic in the waiting room. Let’s hope I get to keep the cold bag!). Three, if I’m at the hospital all day, when do I take my suppository? (There was a lot of laughter attached to that answer and you really don’t want to know more). And four, (arguably the most important question) can I have a glass of wine with dinner? I am glad to report, I got a whole-hearted ‘absolutely’ in response! (Better set the phone alarm for 1.55am just in case)!

There is one last – and rather unexpected – obstacle to overcome in this fertility challenge. It’s brown, it has a tail and it likes to enter our kitchen at night and camp out under the dishwasher. We’ve being trying to get rid of our visiting rat for nearly two weeks, but we do have an understanding that we just don’t enter its trap-filled and Nutella-fuelled lair at night. With refrigerated drugs to take, I think I may have to take a torch and some back-up if I stand a chance of getting to the pre-filled syringe without getting nibbled.

Oh yes, don’t think just because you get cancer, you can avoid first world problems. I have a list!

One last needle, one last shot of drugs and one chance to make embryos. Cancer won’t wait for a second cycle. We have everything crossed!

Breast cancer lesson number 36: What really happens behind the doors of the ACU

A trip to the Assisted Conception Unit (or ACU) is like a game of musical chairs. One waiting room and three consulting rooms later, and you come out with a bit less blood, a lot less dignity, a bit more information, and a lot more reassurance that you are one step closer to making embryos.

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This morning, everyone wanted me – or my left arm that is. First, the nurse on blood-taking duty thought she might have a go. Thankfully a bit of gentle persuasion was all it took to encourage her that I might be best left for the anaethetist. Next, tucked away in the ‘procedures’ part of the unit waiting for said anaethetist, a second nurse (who was worried about keeping me waiting) said she’d like to have a go after having spied a juicy vein. Smiling as I dutifully extended my arm, it took two failed attempts before she admitted defeat and left me nursing a cup of tea and a biscuit.

It wasn’t long before my knight in soft blue scrubs arrived with a large syringe and an appetite for my left wrist. Eighteenth ‘sharp scratch’ of the week, and we’re there. I am proud to admit that I have still not cried in a blood test, even though my arm is starting to look like I’ve gone a few rounds in the boxing ring.

I never thought I’d say this, but the internal scan part was the easy – if not so dignified – bit (think probe, think jelly and that’s all you’re getting). After having injected myself with a combination of Cetrotide and Menopur for the last few days (balanced with a few Letrozole pills), the scan was to determine the size of my follicles and how well I am responding to the treatment. The good news is, that while my veins might be retreating under the stress of all this poking, by body is still playing ball. The follicles are growing well and, if my blood test results agree, I will be heading back for IV sedation on Monday (no doubt, at the same time I am supposed to be in oncology discussing toxic drugs and having a further blood test).

So what happens next? I wait for a call. If the call keeps me on track, I continue with my injections until Saturday, when I get to mix things up by introducing a ‘trigger’ injection called Ovitrelle and stopping the Cetrotide and Menopur. Ovitrelle is designed to stimulate the final maturation of the eggs. All being well, they will knock me out on Monday, extract what they need and then get to work in the laboratory. There is a suppository in the mix here, but the less said about that the better!

I must confess, it’s not the most romantic way of making babies. But, in what feels like a continuous race against time at the moment, it’s the best chance we have of being able to change nappies, clean up sick and join the banks of people having sleepless nights all over the Capital.

The stakes are high, but let’s just hope the chemo is kind, so we’ll never have to use our little embryos.

Breast cancer lesson number 35: It’s ok to not be ok

I have a confession. Last night, I cried while trying to inject myself with my Menopur drugs. I sat looking at the needle that I was about to inject into an already sore and bruised thigh and I cried and I cried and I cried.

I cried not because it was yet another needle (although 13 needles in two days, is not fun). I cried not because the fertility department hadn’t called me back to advise me on dosage so I didn’t know what to inject (although that was a little concerning, because I don’t want to be hyper stimulated!). No, I cried because I was weary and the thought of seeing more blood and being the one to inflict yet another bruise made me sad.

My body is fighting the pains that come from having my tummy turned into a boob and my lymph nodes removed. My body is fighting every time it gets confronted with a needle. My body has a cocktail of anti-cancer drugs and fertility hormones swirling around inside it. My body needs a day off from fighting. The trouble is, that day is about six months away.

I promised myself when I started this blog that I would be honest and true to myself throughout. I have, up to now, been incredibly positive. I have smiled in the face of cancer. I have been diligent in my research and have made all the right noises. I wanted to be a great and patient patient. And, you know what? I will do and be all of those things again and again.

But, right now, as I sit on the sofa I am not being brave or strong or inspirational. Today, I’m just being me. And that’s ok. Today, I am hurting. And, the fact is, that’s ok too. I am writing this post, not because I want people to feel sad for me, but because I want to reach out to those experiencing challenging times and say, it’s ok to not be ok. You’re not made up of a series of powerfully positive personality traits. You just have to be what your body allows you to be when you wake up each day. And, listening to your body and admitting that it’s ok to not always be a pillar of strength is probably the greatest lesson you’ll ever learn. It’s hard, but it’s also quite liberating.

Ask me how I’m feeling right now and I’ll tell you. I feel like I have already run a marathon but am back at the starting line (complete with injuries from the first one) waiting to go again. I want to stop, rest and heal but I can’t, because I’m running for my life. I also want to give Duncan and I the chance to be parents. That’s a big thing. Cram it in between major surgery and chemo and it’s still a big thing. It’s just that there are two other really big things either side fighting for attention.

Yesterday, my lovely oncologist turned to me and said that he was behind me 110% and would be there to support me through this next phase. He also said that there will come a time when I will desperately want it to stop. When that time comes he said he will remind me of the need to keep going. This was a pep talk unlike any other pep talk I have ever received. For surgery, they told me it would hurt, but if I did my exercises, I would recover. It did, I am and I will. For fertility, they told me to inject, inject, inject and then they will eventually inject me for once and take my eggs. I am and they will. The experts are usually spot on. Based on yesterday’s conversation, I should be preparing for the fight of my life. I need to be ready. But, when you’re covered in bruises and you’re just piling on the pain, it’s hard to get ready.

Yesterday, instead of trying to take the title of world’s best patient (I seem to have a burning desire to be a textbook student in every consultation because I think people often forget that doctors and nurses are humans too with real lives away from the ones they’re trying to save), I should have just accepted the support available and explained how scared I am. The truth is, there is no such thing as the world’s best patient (and if there is, don’t tell me because I don’t want to be tempted to apply). No patient is good or bad. Everyone is different and, while it’s nice to be the nice one in the waiting room, I am just another name on a long list of cancer patients. Nice people don’t queue jump or get better drugs (just extra biscuits if they’re lucky). I will continue being nice, but I know that far better than seeing me, would be to never see me at all!

As a quick aside, it’s not all bad being one of the youngest people in the waiting room. While I was waiting for my appointment, a lovely old chap chose to sit next to me because he’d picked me out as ‘the good looking one’. Trust me, there wasn’t much competition, but it still felt good. Not sure he’ll be rushing to my side when I have no eyebrows though!

There will be a time to be strong. But, for now, I’m just going to sit on the sofa, drink tea and work up the courage to take my next injection. Wish me luck. 

Breast cancer lesson number 26: Make every day a milestone day

Today is a milestone day. Ok, so it’s not exactly on a par with diagnosis day or pathology results day (just a few of the compulsory days Breast Cancer likes to throw in to keep us entertained). But, that doesn’t make it any less meaningful. No, today is the day I come off Provera (my progesterone hormone). That means, in a few days time (if my body plays ball), the fertility side of my treatment will begin. Self injecting here I come!

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Moments in time don’t have to be monumental to make it as milestones. When you are strapped into a body corset, even getting to the end of the road can feel like a huge achievement! So here is a glimpse into my world of the major – and not so major milestones – that have made a mark in my diary these last few months. I hope this will help those facing the cancer challenge in the future to understand a bit more about timeframes and what to expect.

1) 24 December: Lump discovery day
Arguably the most important day (and most valuable shower) of my life. I took the discovery seriously, but am glad to report, it didn’t put me off the Christmas ham.

2) 25 December: Proposal day
Ok, so not fundamental to the story, but it’s a lot easier talking about losing a boob and making embryos when you have a man by your side (and a ring on your finger). I am a lucky lady.

3) 27 December: GP referral day
Not the most reassuring of visits I’ll admit, but the doctor acted really fast and referred me straight away. I know a lot of young women are told to come back at another point in their cycle to see whether the lump has changed size, but thankfully, due to it being Christmas, I got my referral. Just another reason to love Christmas!

4) 9 January: Hospital appointment day
Was planned in as the morning before, but due to work commitments, I moved it to the Thursday morning. I know how stupid that sounds, but I really didn’t believe it was anything other than a breast mouse. Let’s just say, I have learned my lesson (and missed a fabulous annual client lunch that day as punishment). What started as a quick ‘feel’ turned into an ultrasound, a few biopsies and a rather awkward conversation with two consultants (they didn’t say cancer, but they did ask about my family history A LOT).

5) 17 January: Diagnosis day
Not a day I’ll forget…ever! Crying, mammogram, more crying, truck load of leaflets and, you guessed it, more crying.

6) 18 January: The day that taught me the value of friendship
Afternoon tea at the Modern Pantry was made all the more sweet with a close friend at my side. Having hidden away for months, this day encouraged me to get out my phone and start planning (trips to Sketch, nights with Darius, relaxing walks and home visits). I love my friends and the colour they bring to my days.

7) 23 January: MRI day
Four needles, one arm full of contrast dye and a noisy test to determine whether or not I could have a lumpectomy.

8) 25 January: Feeling human day
I had a facial. No one mentioned cancer. I walked into a shop (ok, so I was buying track suit bottoms and zip up tops) and someone told me I looked and smelled great. I smiled. It felt good.

9) 27 January: Diagnosis day (part two)
More cancer, another biopsy, a trip on a secret staff bus, a plastic surgeon meeting, pre-op testing and a lot of tummy squeezing. The mastectomy is on, the tummy is borderline.

10) 31 January: Fat testing day
One CT scan and one feel-like-you-are-wetting-yourself moment to check whether I had a good blood vessel in my tummy to transfer to my boobie.

11) 1 February: The day I decided to start this blog
A major mental milestone, this blog helps me stay positive, while keeping my loved ones informed and helping others diagnosed with the big C!

12) 4 February: Carbo-loading day
Ok, so with the volume of chocolate coming through the letterbox on a daily basis, this was more like a two-week period. But, on this day, at a work away session, I ate a lot. I believe this was a major step forward for tummy and will always think about it when rubbing aqueous cream into new boobie.

13) 10 February: Decision day
Tummy confirmed as new boobie. Did a little dance (away from the surgeons of course)!

14) 14 February: Provera day one
The countdown to freezing embryos begins. Won’t mention what happened to Duncan that day. More of a fertility milestone for him than me. And on Valentine’s Day!

15) 15 February: Last supper with D day
Sounds a bit dramatic, but it was actually a beautiful meal at the Cutty Sark pub that reminded me of the importance of taking time out to savour special moments with loved ones.

16) 19 February: Pre-assessment and mobile off day
Memorable not because I found out about leeches, physio moves and arm measuring, but because I turned my work emails off on my Blackberry for the first time in a long time. The red button now only flashes to alert me of good wishes.

17) 20 February: the day I tried my first ever Nandos
Ok, don’t judge me. Not quite the last supper I had imagined. Couldn’t resist. First time ever – and with my parents.

18) 21 February: Surgery day
Wasn’t around much, but hear it went well. Got a new boobie. Got rid of cancer. Not a bad day.

19) 22 February: The day I survived
Owwwwwwwwwww! It hurt, but I got through it, and that is all that matters.

20) 23 February: The day I got up
Getting out of bed is only a big event if you thought you’d never get out again the day before.

21) 24 February: The day the drains started coming out
They don’t hurt if you breathe in and out three times and follow the nurse’s instructions. Go to your happy place and you’ll be fine.

22) 25 February: Big reveal day
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the mirrors or the tears. I did manage to wash myself and pull my big knickers up though, so it wasn’t all bad. I also got rid of that moving mattress (certainly something worth celebrating).

23) 26 February: The day I got released
Hospital day 5 means home time. Felt good sinking down into our old mattress and getting settled with my home comforts.

24) 1 March: The day I did nothing
Having overworked my arm the day before, today was a day of reading and film watching. Never underestimate the restorative power of nothing. I have been too busy in life to notice.

25) 3 March: The day I finished my first post-surgery book
I love books, but could never get into them after my hip surgery. I take this as a good sign my brain is starting to fire again.

26) 5 March: The day I dressed myself
Wouldn’t have made this a milestone a few weeks ago. It’s amazing how much excitement can be gained from putting your socks on. I also passed wound care today, so one step forward.

27) 6 March: The day I walked in the park
Ok, so we had to drive there, but Greenwich Park had never looked so inviting with the early signs of spring. I even got to see the deer and admire the view.

28) 7 March: Pathology results day
The first day of the rest of my life. A big meeting that reinforced the importance of seeking out milestones and making a difference every day. Friday was also the day my wonderful nurse of a mum went back home to leave Duncan and I to fend for ourselves. I am happy to report that we are doing pretty well. Duncan is spending most of his time trying to stop me lifting things (I have resorted to painting my nails in the hope that the frustration of chipping the paint will stop me in my tracks) and we did have a rather interesting discussion about the merits of a scrubbing brush when doing the washing up (he is going to buy one this weekend).

29) 8 March: Duncan does the washing up day (and gets a quick look)
A monumental life event. Ok, so he struggled with the pan, but he did great (even without a scrubbing brush). His reaction to the ‘new’ me was thoughtful and kind. He even towel-dried my back when I couldn’t reach. I also got to remove the sticky mesh on my tummy and the final steri-strips on my boob, so am starting to look less like an accident victim.

30) 9 March: Bye bye Provera day
The window to help preserve my fertility is starting to open. Have also just had a lovely lunch outside for the first time this year.

They may not be big, but for me, each one of these milestones has made 2014 one of the busiest and most emotional yet – and it’s still only March. Each date has made such a lasting impression, I didn’t even need to consult a diary to write this post.

There will be many more cancer milestones (and more tenuous ones) to come (from chemo day one to radiotherapy planning day and the day I get my first tattoo) and I intend to embrace and smile in the face of each one. After all, a life without milestones, however small, is not really a life at all.

So, raise a glass to milestones. May you all have many happy ones this year.

 

Breast cancer lesson number seventeen: The body is an amazing – and unpredictable – thing

One week on from chop-me-up-and-get-the-cancer-out day and I am delighted to report that (touching all wood around me), I seem to be free from any early complications.

On the tummy side, I’m still pretty sore, coughing is savage and laughing just cruel, but my magic corset is helping me get around. On the boobie side, there’s still numbness, some hard tissue (that’s not had enough blood) and swelling (wouldn’t mind if that stayed actually) and it’s a nice shade of yellow, but it’s alive and that’s all that matters. And on the arm side, with the exception of some nasty pins and needles in my hand and swelling under the armpit (that means I can’t use it properly), it’s coming back to life. Healing takes a long time, but for week one, I’m feeling good.

There is one tale of the unexpected, however, that I have not yet shared – and it was enough to contribute to my recent broken sleep (if you’ve read lesson four, you’ll understand the significance of this). After working hard to ‘switch everything off’ for surgery so that I could start fertility treatment in a few weeks time, imagine my surprise (and that of the nurses) when, on day one, I ‘came on’.

I realise this subject is enough to turn most male stomachs, but this wasn’t any ordinary monthly cycle or episode of PMT. It was the cycle I wasn’t supposed to have, so I could give myself a window to preserve my fertility and freeze some embryos before chemo. Its arrival brought with it two fears: 1) I had lost that window and would have to start chemo with the realisation it may take away my fertility for good or 2) I would have to start self-injecting with hormones now and taking anti-cancer drugs to try a give myself the time to stimulate those ovaries. Sadly, when the nurses called the fertility clinic to explain my dilemma, it became clear option two just wouldn’t be possible so soon major surgery.

The good news – and the reason I have held off sharing this until now – is that the cycle disappeared nearly as quickly as it arrived. When the body is subjected to trauma it starts doing funny things. This was just its way of being funny. Thanks body, not funny! On Wednesday, I was given the green light to keep taking the pills, so that fertility treatment can start once the scars have started to heal properly. So, we’re back on track.

There was, however, a bit of amusement attached to this mini drama (again sorry male friends, this could be considered over-sharing). When I made the discovery, I needed pads fast. It was at this point that I was presented with NHS equivalents (imagine full on adult nappy or pad the length of an oven glove). It may not have been shocking enough to stop my period in its tracks, but it certainly prompted me to ask my two unsuspecting male visitors (sorry guys) to sort me out – and fast!

So, if your body starts playing up and having a bit of fun, do not despair. It’s just its way of saying: ‘Hang on a second, did I consent to this rather brutal attack? I have feelings too.’ Let’s just hope it plays ball when I come of the pills at the end of next week, otherwise there’ll be strong words! 

Breast cancer lesson number four: the time to have that awkward conversation is now!

I love science. I still find it hard to understand exactly how planes stay in the air after take-off – and I have never really found a way of incorporating the periodic table into daily life – but, when it comes to the science of fertility, I am in awe.

The fertility question is an interesting one when you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Talking about life after cancer, before you’ve even started the fight may seem strange. But, you know what, it wasn’t the possibility of dying that came into my mind when I first heard the news (the doctors have got that bit covered). It was the thought that the choice to have children may be taken away from us – before we even walk down the aisle. Having babies is all about the next chapter – after this rather unfortunate obstacle is but a distant memory. What is life about if it isn’t about hoping and dreaming – and making sure that next chapter is a chapter worth fighting for!

My advice to all women in the future who find themselves in this unenviable position is, just ask. After all, if you don’t ask… The last thing you want is to be sitting with a cannula in your arm being fed chemo drugs and knowing that those drugs might just be the ones to take your fertility away (and there’s no back-up plan). Having started my periods at the age of 10 (my primary school friends will remember me missing swimming lessons every two weeks for six months, which I put down to a strange-but-frequent illness), it would be a cruel twist of fate to have the hot flushes start at 32!

I promised my family that I wouldn’t do anything that would delay my treatment or risk my health. On surgery planning day (see lesson three), I explained (with a heavy heart) to the surgeon that I didn’t want to attend my assisted conception appointment if it meant that I would start out on a journey I wouldn’t be able to finish. At this point, the surgeon laughed and said: ‘Jackie, if you think we’re going to let you do anything that would risk your recovery, you’ve got another thing coming.’ That certainly told me who was boss!

The great news is, if you ask early on, and you are lucky enough to have time (I know this is unfortunately not an option for some women and other cancers), it can become just another part of your care pathway.

So, within days (thank you amazing NHS), I was sat next to anxious looking couples in the fertility clinic waiting to talk about freezing eggs and embryos (I’d already done plastic surgery and boob jobs in the same week, so why not?).

This is where the amazing science comes in. IVF involves exposing the body to high levels of oestrogen. The trouble is, my lovely lump quite likes oestrogen and is being fed by the stuff – the very thing my ovaries need. The solution? Pump my body with cancer drug Letrozole, which will try and protect the breast from the effects of oestrogen while stimulating the ovaries just enough to get those eggs going. In short, two weeks after surgery, two lots of drugs are going to have to have a scrap inside me! Let’s hope I don’t have to join in!

I came away from the fertility clinic truly humbled (and a little bit violated – but I won’t go there)! The biggest smile of my day, however, came from the pharmacist, who was confused as to why I was only being prescribed a small number of Letrozole pills. He was trying to be discreet in the waiting room and asked me to justify the prescription (as if I’m the doctor!). Having tried to skirt around the subject so as not to disturb other patients, I ended up saying: ‘Look, I’ve got cancer, I want babies, these drugs will let them pump me with hormones post surgery so I can try for babies, and then I can have chemo. Is that ok?’ I think I may have over-shared to both the pharmacist and the entire waiting room. After that, I think he would have prescribed anything just to stop me talking!

Of course, it takes two to make an embryo. What’s the last thing any man wants to hear a few weeks after proposing: ‘Um, would you donate some of your manhood towards the greater good?’ Just need to make sure he signs the consent forms now before the next appointment!