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Entry 8 - Chemotherapy and Infertility

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. ~ Thomas Jefferson

Dear Amaala,

We are still in the midst of Covid-19. A virus that is taking hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. Many countries have been put on lockdown.  Businesses closed, schools physically closed and teachers reaching students remotely, working ways changing, and planet earth…well, she’s been given a chance to breathe, to rebuild herself and remind us all of her beauty.

Your nursery has been closed for a couple of months now, although you’ve been at home for a little longer, it’s important that Mummy doesn’t catch this virus, it could make me very unwell and we have come too far since cancer and heart failure to allow a virus to destroy what we have.

Daddy, me and you are all at home together, it’s lovely to have so much family time, although I have to say it isn’t easy. No family here to help look after you, work is still busy for me, and I’m often exhausted by the time the evenings come.

You hear of many people learning a new skill during lock down, some learn to sew, some learn a new language, others a musical instrument. I however, am trying to learn to let go of all expectation. For us there are very few extra hours in the day, life is busier than ever! And that has meant that writing has taken a bit of a back seat. Time is sparse and creativity a is running a little dry.

However this morning, I woke up at 6.30 AM, noted that you were still sleeping, and took the opportunity to sit and meditate. During my 15 minutes of stillness something called me to open the laptop, to start typing, and here I am, effortlessly allowing the words to flow from my memory to the page.

The next entry to this blog is the one where you were created, I had no idea in 2013 that when my Oncologist mentioned the words Infertility, they would lead me on such a life changing journey. But change my life it certainly did, and watching you sleep, I know with all my heart that I wouldn’t change a single moment of the seven years that passed since those words; because every step on that journey brought me to you. They brought me home.

8th October 2013

I had received a call from the Royal Marsden at a routine appointment to check the wounds from my mastectomy.  I remember answering the phone, and my heart sinking as the lady on the other end advised me that it was now time to meet my Oncologist. I sat down in the waiting room of the Spire Hospital at Gatwick Park and took in the seriousness of her words.

I had somehow managed to put chemotherapy to the back of my mind, compartmentalised that little thing I had ‘to do’.  Instead, I had been focusing on getting better from my surgery. My breast wound was pretty pain free, in fact I could barely feel anything in the area, but my left armpit was incredibly sore, and my left arm had started to display a side effect of auxiliary lymph node dissection (removal of all lymph nodes) - cording.

Cording feels is like a cord trapped under your skin, tying the end of your arms to the top of it, and taking away the ability to move, stretch or flex your arm normally. I could see lines under my skin, some sort of hardened tissue running all the way down my forearm, limiting my movement severely.

I had spent the weeks since surgery immersed in physio both at home and in the hospital. I loved my weekly sessions with my physio Helen, they allowed me to get out of the house to a place where I felt safe. Helen was more than a physio to me, so was my escape. She allowed me to talk, she shared her knowledge of cancer and the physical body and I shared my fears with her. She worked on my mental well being as much as my physical, although I didn’t really realise this at the time.  It was on leaving an appointment with her that I received the call that brought me back to reality, the dreaded C word. Chemotherapy.

Within a week Daddy and I found ourselves at The Royal Marsden, Sutton. We got lost on the way, and that only added to my angst. I felt so many emotions driving into the carpark.  Fear of what lay ahead, anxious at how our lives were about to change. I held a strange Hope that miraculously I would walk into a room and be told that this was all a mistake, that we would turn around and head back to our normal uneventful life! Oh how I craved that!

As we walked through the doors, I kept looking, looking for other patients like me, looking to see if I could see people with bald heads, looking to see what my reality would soon look like. I saw nothing, nothing other than staff busying themselves, friendly faces, smiling faces. Everyone seemed to be rather happy, this wasn’t the sad, grey death filled building I had created in my imagination, it was quite the opposite.

After filling in some forms, we were directed to the Private Outpatients Department. As we walked in, another smiling face, a beautiful bright room, a smell that I can still smell today, all these years later, a space that I can feel myself in if I close my eyes and allow myself to be taken back.

We walked to the desk and gave our details. We were asked to take a seat. Daddy spotted the coffee machine and spent a few minutes deciding which of these delightful FREE drinks he would consume as he eyes up the range of biscuits laid out in front of him.

I had been making changes to my diet, so avoided diary and sugar filled food and drink, opting for a simple mint tea instead.

And then we were called in, a nurse took us from the waiting room in to the consultation room, and there he was. The man who would end up saving my life.

Professor Ian Smith. I googled him ahead of meeting him, I had chosen him as my consultant on the recommendation of a friend and reading through his bio had confirmed to me that he would be the man to get me through cancer.

He reviewed the notes from my surgery, talked me through the type of cancer we were dealing with. He answered my questions, and advised me to avoid asking the question that everyone walking through his door asks, ‘Why me?’

‘You may never know the answer to that my dear, he said. It is true that the odds seem low, you’re young and have a healthy lifestyle. But sometimes these things just happen, and we simply have to deal with them. I will say this though. The type of disease you have is very much a western illness. We see very few cases in your native homeland. Had you been born and raised in India; I very much doubt you would be facing cancer.’

I had been reading A LOT about breast cancer and why it happens in young women. Stress seemed to be a big driver along with hormone imbalances. I had been taking the oral contraceptive pill for 13 years to control anaemia, could that be the cause? I guess we will never know.

Professor Smith went on to talk about our family unit, he noted that we were married but had no children and the conversation soon turned to infertility. ‘Chemotherapy can damage the ovaries; it can leave you infertile’ he said. ‘However, there are drugs we can use to help prevent that, it’s not guaranteed but there is a chance we can protect your fertility.

‘And what if the drugs don’t work? It would be too late by the time we found out?’ I replied back.

‘Well, yes’, he answered. That fact didn’t seem to worry him, but it certainly worried me! I was not willing to leave Motherhood to chance!

‘Can I go through a round of IVF?’ I had done my research and knew that if I collected eggs, we could potentially look to use them in the future.

Prof. Smith, didn’t exactly jump for joy at my request, but it was clear that he empathized with our situation.

‘Chemotherapy is my priority Kreena, we have already waited over a month due to your surgery, we must press on. My job here is to save your life, not create a new one.  However, I understand your situation, and will give you two weeks to sort out fertility preservation.  After that, we must begin treatment.’

With that, he wrote a referral to St Bart’s hospital, advising them that I required urgent IVF ahead of chemotherapy, and that the medication administered had to be done in a very controlled way, so as not to aggravate any remaining cancer in my body.

We left the hospital that day in a daze. I went in to begin my journey with Cancer but came out at the start of my journey with Infertility. We drove to a pub for lunch, ‘The Kingswood Arms’, it was strange doing normal things like this whilst everything we knew was being turned upside down, but those moments of normality are what carried us through the insanity of it all.

We ate, we chatted, and we vowed to get through it, both full of fear, both full of emotion, both holding it together for each other.

Love always, Mummy xxxx

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