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Becoming a mum after cancer: Cancer was not the end of my motherhood dream
The next story in our Journey to Parenthood series comes from Gillian, a very brave and inspiring lady who, always wanted to become a mum. However, a stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis cast a shadow on that every becoming a reality. She is now a proud mum of 2 wonderful children and shares her inspiring story of her battle with cancer and how it didn’t end her dream of motherhood.
Throughout our series, we are exploring various paths to parenthood and the journey of parenthood itself. Showing different perspectives of how there is never a straight-forward route and going through tough times, especially as a Mum, can be completely overwhelming.
I have always wanted to be mum, it’s the only thing I’ve been 100% sure about all my life. Then, when I was 30 years old, recently engaged and starting to plan our wedding I got the devastating news that I had stage 3 breast cancer. I couldn’t even feel a lump, I just had a sore boob but my diligent GP referred me to the breast clinic anyway. I got the news that along with a mastectomy I would need chemotherapy and my fertility would probably be affected. I was lucky enough to get referred for IVF while recovering from surgery before the chemo started. We managed to get some embryos to freeze.
After chemo, radiotherapy and other treatments were finished, I had to go on a drug called tamoxifen for 5 years before I could try for a baby. I got married the year after my chemo finished and it was just such a celebration for me and all my friends and family, as we didn’t know if this day would ever happen.
A new start
For 5 years I knew the exact date we could start trying for a baby! After a blow out summer of fun, we started to try when I was 37. Pregnancy planning was discussed in detail with my Breast Consultant at the hospital. After nine months and a couple of early miscarriages, I conceived naturally.
While under close observation from an obstetrician, I enjoyed a relatively routine pregnancy and 9 months later our beautiful daughter arrived. She has transformed our lives and makes us smile and laugh so hard every day. She was well worth everything. Our family referred to her as our miracle baby.
And to totally push our luck, we had another daughter a year ago when I was 40. I feel so blessed and lucky to be a mum of two. It’s hard work but so much fun. I love seeing the world again through the eyes of a 3 year old and one year old.
I should also add (very proudly), that I managed to breastfeed both my daughters for 10 months with just one boob. Admittedly, I was very lucky in that both my daughters had a great latch, my milk came in quickly and supportive midwives.
The shadow and fear of cancer never goes. I worry a lot about getting it again and have had a few scares and lost a few friends along the way. It’s hard to think I may not see my girls grow up if it comes back. I want to be there to protect them, reassure them, love them, guide them for as long as possible. I just try to put the dark thoughts to the back of my mind and enjoy my daughters as much as possible which is not hard because they are so amazing.
When I got diagnosed 11 years ago, I could not find many stories online or in publications about ladies who had gone on to successfully have children after cancer and chemo. I think it’s important for young ladies who get diagnosed with cancer to know that this is not necessarily the end of your motherhood dream, there is hope in many forms and I know ladies who have got their motherhood dream after cancer and chemo whether it was through conceiving naturally, using donor eggs or surrogates.
My advice to others looking to have a baby after cancer
Pregnancy and planning: We discussed our plans to get pregnant in detail with my Breast Consultant at the hospital. I also got referred to an obstetrician when I got pregnant so they could keep a close eye on things.
Support with cancer: Maggie’s Centre at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh were amazing for support through my treatment and after, especially as my family are not nearby. I attended their Young Women’s support group once a month which I found invaluable and made some wonderful friends who were going through similar experiences.
Breast Cancer Now (formerly Breast Cancer Care) was an amazing resource for information.
Since I got treated, Macmillan Cancer Support has opened up at the Western General and some friends have found that useful.
If you can relate to this story and would like to connect with other parents in your situation, our Dribble Facebook Community is full of advice, support, chat, events and much more to meet other Scottish families. We also try to take the online offline too by arranging some Dribble events, including our monthly Breastfeeding Meet-up.
Remember you’re not alone.
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