ovarian cancer

Random Act of Kindness – Number Two

After all the excitement from my first random act of kindness I’d made a small promise to myself to try and limit handing out these little envelopes to just once a week. Otherwise I’d get carried away and they’d all be gone and the excitement would be over.

I didn’t keep my promise long however. Just the next day someone, actually a couple, caught my eye and today my husband gave them their envelope.

Let me explain…we have to go way back to last year for a minute but I’ll get to the point I promise…

Last year I decided to set myself the challenge of not spending any money for a year (crazy I know and, for the record, I lasted just over 7 months). During this time I made a lot of things from scratch and started upcycling a lot of furniture for our home. I also wanted to make some garden furniture out of pallets and so a friend, who worked somewhere with surplus pallets very kindly dropped five off at our house.

Fast forward a month, however, and I was in hospital having emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy. Following that I was constantly unwell and tired and subsequently never able to build the furniture – unknown to me at the time this was because cancer was spreading across most of my organs.

So the pallets sat there for months reminding me of a hard and painful time and a project never started, let alone completed.

Then on Friday I noticed in a local Facebook group that someone was looking for old pallets and that they could collect them over the weekend. Result! I sent them a message and arranged a collection time.

But then I noticed something…

Their profile picture was overlayed with a pink and blue banner and #goPINKandBLUE. Now not many people know what this symbolises but I do because last year I had the same overlay on my profile picture. It symbolise a loss during pregnancy.

Uplifted by the ripples of the first act of kindness, I wanted to share more love and kindness and so I sent the stranger who was collecting my pallets I’d never used due to my own loss a message to say I was sorry their loss and that we had been there too and that yes it is shit but it gets better. 

After chatting over messages for a while, I decided that I wanted them to know that there is still hope and love and joy in the world and so told them about what I was doing with my little envelopes and that I wanted them to receive the second one.

I had planned to approach strangers and simply walk away as I had done with the first one but something about this couple spoke to me and I knew if I didn’t mention it then they would collect the pallets while we wee out as planned and I’d never get the chance.

So this morning, as agreed, they chapped our door and my husband gave them their envelope. I really hope it brings them some well deserved joy and laughter.

Love and light, Fi xxx

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Cancer Induced Infertility & Loss

After hearing the words “you have late stage cancer” you don’t think there is much worse news your Drs could drop on you. Sadly there is.

The day following my diagnosis I was destined to hear a number of unsavoury statements:

“The chemo will likely make you infertile”

“Your cancer is too late stage and aggressive to preserve your eggs”

“Chemo will likely put you through an early Menapause”

“You have ovarian cancer so you won’t be able to take HRT”

“Even if chemo doesn’t make you infertile, if you are approved for surgery we will conduct a complete hysterectomy”

In short…you will never have children.

Now as a childless, married woman in her 30s who had lost a child the year before this was, in all honesty, harder to hear than my cancer diagnosis.

Infertility wasn’t the hardest part though. I’d always been open and welcome to the idea of adoption and it was something my husband and I had previously discussed. In my nieivity I still thought this was a viable option. I remember confidently responding to all these statements saying it was ok, I was ok, I could adopt. I remember the consultant and nurse’s faces as they exchanged looks. A look that acknowledged my nieivity. A look of pity. A look that said it all in the silence – which one of us is going to tell her?…

It turns out that you can’t adopt once you have stage four cancer. You are too ‘high a risk’. Your mortality too visible to be considered a loving parent.

This was salt in an already aching wound. I began to process the facts:

  • I can’t conceive because of chemo making me infertile.
  • I can’t use an egg donor in future because of surgery.
  • I can’t adopt.

Wow – do you ever think you are getting a clear message from the universe?! Mine – you.will.never.have.children. EVER.

This took a while for me to come to terms with. I was already grieving the loss of a child and, with it, the loss of a future that was entirely different from the one I was destined to face. Now my future was changing once more.

With the help of an incredible friend [ST -I love you to the moon and back], I have healed these wounds. I have ‘come to terms’ with the news and I have now reached the point where I can write about this in the hope of helping others to understand what it feels like, and supporting those who are walking the same journey.

Reflecting on my emotions during this time I now offer you some Dos and Don’ts for supporting someone who has lost a child or found out they are infertile.

Don’t:

  1. Say you know how they feel. Even if you have gone through similar you don’t know how they feel. You know how you felt. Let them tell you how they feel and share how you felt.
  2. Complain about pregnancy or labour. Whatever your symptoms. However bad they get. Your friend would trade places with you in a heartbeat. Talk about how you are feeling of course(!) but never complain. You get to hold your baby at the end of it. Always remember that.
  3. Ignore their loss. If a friend has shared that they have experienced a loss or infertility don’t ignore it, instead see the ‘do’ section below.
  4. Feel you can’t share your pregnancy/baby joy with them. Everyone may be different but I love hearing my loved ones are pregnant or when their baby arrives. It provides joy and hope and love. Don’t ever presume someone who can’t have children (or has lost a child) won’t want to be part of your happiness – by ‘protecting’ them from this you will only make them feel more sad and isolated.

Do:

  1. Tell your friend you love them and are there for them. Then actually make sure you are. Ask what you can do to help. Be their shoulder to cry on.
  2. Acknowledge your friend was pregnant. Only two friends ever asked me how I’d found pregnancy. Was I sick? Tired? Excited? Scared? This acknowledgment made a massive difference to me. 
  3. Share your personal stories. Whilst you shouldn’t say ‘I know how you feel’…your friend may find comfort in hearing that you have similar experiences. I certainly appreciated when friends felt they were able to share their personal stories and let me know how they had felt without assuming I felt the same. This has built valued friendships and support.
  4. Remember pregnancy loss and infertility affects men too.

With love, Fi xxx