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Jules was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 12 weeks after giving birth

Pregnant with her first child, Jules was repeatedly told by doctors that the pain she was experiencing was the result of a harmless cyst. Five months later, at the age of 37, she was dealing with a radical hysterectomy, a new baby and an ovarian cancer diagnosis…

Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t get cancer. I should know.

After years of disappointment, my husband and I had all but given up on our dream of ever having a baby. So when we finally managed to fall pregnant whilst away on our honeymoon, it felt a little bit like I’d finally gotten my fairy tale ending after all.

The first hint that something wasn’t quite right came during my 12 week scan. Doctors spotted a cyst on my left ovary. They told me not to worry and that they’d take another look during my 20 week scan. Later in my pregnancy, as I was measuring bigger than my term, I was referred to an obstetrician. He was training a young student doctor who examined me and then reported back to the obstetrician that he thought he could feel ‘a mass’ in my lower pelvic area. Rather than listening to him, the consultant just scolded him for using the word ‘mass’ and potentially frightening me. The obstetrician then made the assumption that my baby was breech and his bottom was wedged in the birthing canal so he booked me in for a c-section as a natural birth was out of the question.

Jules and sonI gave birth to my son, Freddie, on 17 March 2014 – naturally as he had miraculously turned, but before long I noticed that something wasn’t quite right with my tummy. I know most new mums have a little bit of a belly, but I still looked like I was six months pregnant!

My GP arranged for me to have an ultrasound which showed the cyst on my left ovary had grown quite substantially. My doctor gave me a CA125 blood test (which came back within normal range) and told me my age, size of the cyst and family history meant that ovarian cancer was extremely unlikely. I was booked in to have the cyst removed on the 2 June and then sent home. On the 11 June, about midday, the consultant phoned me and said we need you here at 4 o’clock. At that point I knew that I had cancer.

Is this really happening?

I think my main emotion at the time was probably disbelief; they’re talking about somebody, but that somebody can’t be you. This sort of thing happens to somebody else – right? Wrong!

I remember the next morning my husband got up with our son and I just laid in bed and screamed into the pillow because I just felt so out of control. I wasn’t in control of my life anymore. I was petrified - my baby was only 12 weeks old! This could take me away from our beautiful son. To wait so long for him and then to have something like this come along and wreck it. And what about my lovely husband? We’d not long taken our wedding vows: In sickness and in health. Did we really think that would come into play so soon? I don’t think I’ve ever felt so scared in all my life – a ‘scared’ that I have never, ever experienced before.

Breaking the news

Telling people was really hard. Everyone kept saying ‘you’re going to be okay’ and I was thinking to myself, ‘I don’t know. I just don’t know’. My husband was a tower of strength for me, but I knew it was affecting him. How could it not?

I knew that people didn’t know what to say, and knew they felt sorry for me, but I didn’t want pity. I remember just looking out of the window and watching the world go by – seeing people and thinking ‘you’re so lucky’. Obviously no one knows what’s going on in other people’s lives, but I just remember seeing girls without a care in the world and wishing that I was still at that place in my life. That place of carefreeness and planning my future...

Motherhood and cancer

Having cancer made me feel that I couldn’t be the mum I wanted to be. But on the flipside I thought, ‘you know what, I’m still here for him’. I’d rather have that time when I couldn’t pick him up so that I can spend more time with him in the long run.

I’d get really depressed. I was in terrible pain from the chemotherapy, but I tried to get back to normality as much as I could. My son really helped me not to focus on the cancer too much, but to focus on getting better. Bringing up a baby is tough enough – without dealing with a cancer diagnosis at the same time! I think it would have been really easy - if I hadn’t had him - just to stay in bed all day. He gave me the reason to get up and face the day. 

Moving on

Although I wasn’t aware of ovarian cancer at all, I always had a vague feeling that something wasn’t quite right down there. I’d had a cervical cancer scare, endometriosis and I’d previously had cysts. I was actually planning to take the decision to have a hysterectomy at some point anyway, but it’s a little bit different when the choice is taken away from you. I was telling a friend the other day that I do actually miss my ovaries - but they tried to kill me!

I guess my message to anyone else would be that if you truly believe there’s something wrong with your body, you press it, you go for it and make sure you get seen by someone who’s an expert in their field. YOU know your body better than any doctor out there – don’t be fobbed off...

The biggest change for me now is that I appreciate every single hour, every minute and every second of every day. I know it sounds cheesy, but I’ll look at a sunset and appreciate how beautiful it is. If I’ve learnt anything it’s how wonderful this life is and how wonderful it is to have your health and your future. 

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