I’ve got something to tell you…

I returned to Sydney and threw myself back into work on Sydney Social 101 and the first couple of weeks went by in a blur, I missed Stephen massively, but we of course spoke on the phone every day. We both spoke about the amazing time we’d had back in the UK and continued to book our plans for Vietnam and Stephen’s first trip to Sydney.

I had been back three weeks when I started to feel a little under the weather; I felt nauseous and tired all the time and wasn’t sure what was up.

I decided to book an appointment at the doctors to make sure everything was ok, I had been burning the candle at both ends, whilst also travelling all the way around the globe and then back again so didn’t honestly think too much of it. I managed to squeeze a last minute appointment with my GP before work the next day.

The first thing the doctor asked me was when my last period was… which threw me a little – I explained that I only had a dot of an ovary and had eight eggs frozen in the UK due to my uncertain fertility. My GP still stressed for the date, so I told her. To my complete shock she asked me to take a pregnancy test. Which I did. To utter amazement, it came up positive almost immediately and to say I was surprised was an understatement, after everything I’d been through I didn’t think I could get pregnant, let alone so quickly after meeting someone, no matter how special they seemed to be.

My head was a spin of emotions, excitement, fear, and happiness – so many things to process I couldn’t figure out what to think. All I knew was that I wanted to make sure everything was ok with the pregnancy before I told Stephen the impending news… My GP managed to get me in for a dating scan the following day. I didn’t sleep a wink that night as I couldn’t believe what was happening and I was worried how Stephen might take the news….

The scan was a 10am the next day, so I’d already told Stephen that I had a doctor’s appointment and that I’d call him straight after – so he was expecting my call. I told him I’d left my charger at work the night before as I knew I wouldn’t be able to speak to him and not tell him what was going on.  I went in for the scan and couldn’t help but feel a little bit excited as I sat in the chair. The sonographer was the nicest person and put me at east straight away. He picked up the embryo on the screen immediately and was even able to pick up a heartbeat. The date of the pregnancy was just over five weeks, I simply couldn’t’ believe it.

As soon as I left the clinic I phoned Stephen, who had been waiting up for my call. My heart was racing, but I still felt a sense of ease in knowing that I had to tell him I was pregnant with our baby. As soon as he answered, the words just fell out of my mouth and he was pretty stunned, to say the least. He just kept on saying “Oh my days” over and over again and then quickly realized that I was on the other side of the phone (after about a minute, ha!) and immediately asked how I was feeling.

We proceeded to have a really good chat about how we were feeling, I explained that I was excited that it was with him, but if I could’ve done it differently, I would’ve liked it to maybe be in a year’s time… However I was so happy that I was able to get pregnant and that I wouldn’t have wanted this to happen with anybody else.

After a lengthy, open chat we both felt a buzz of excitement as Stephen realized that at 41, he felt ready to have a baby and was happy that it was with me. I felt so lucky that I’d been able to get pregnant, as I know how much of a gift it is and how much my friends have struggled.

We knew that we had our five-week trip ahead of us in three weeks and literally couldn’t wait to be back with other and talk about the new future that had been set out in front of us.

On the 15th December, the day after my 31st birthday, I boarded my flight to Vietnam, knowing that he was doing the same from Manchester. I was beyond excited to see him again and couldn’t wait to just get a hug from him.

When I touched down in Hanoi, I was tired, the flight wasn’t easy with the lovely nausea that the first trimester brings and having to walk around the plane every 30 minutes. Despite the tiredness I was consumed with excitement and couldn’t wait to get to the hotel. Stephen has arrived two hours before me, so was sleeping in the room.

As I got to the hotel concierge took my bags and escorted me to the room, as the lift headed up to the 9th floor my stomach was doing somersaults. We knocked on the door and my heart was racing. Stephen took a while to come to the door, he opened it and was stood there v sleepy in his dressing gown, I just threw myself around him! I was beyond thrilled to be back in his arms and he felt the same.

Things didn’t feel any different, although we both kept saying that we couldn’t believe that I was actually pregnant! The first night we went out for dinner and then headed back to the room and just crashed out and watched a movie, it was absolute heaven!

The trip went by in a blur and was the absolute trip of a lifetime. The first trimester of my pregnancy didn’t bother me too much, apart from me having to be more careful with my food choices than I normally would be (food makes me happy and I usually love trying international cuisines).

In Vietnam we travelled to Halong Bay, Hoi An, Nah Trang and Saigon for Christmas day. The sights were incredible and we just didn’t stop laughing the whole time!

 

Upon our return to Sydney at the end of December, we spent New Year at Watson’s Bay Hotel in Sydney and toasted (mine was orange juice) to 2016 and all that we had in store.

The three weeks in Sydney were spent showing Stephen the sights and introducing him to what was to be his new home. I also had my best friend Sophie visiting Australia with her husband, who Stephen got along famously with, so it all worked out perfectly.

I couldn’t believe that in a matter of six months and a chance meeting with a handsome stranger on a plane had lead to this exciting new beginning and I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.

On the 13th January 2016 we had our 12-week scan and were able to see the heartbeat together this time and our little baby move on the screen. Such a special moment in time that I was so thrilled that we were able to spent it together.

IMG_1585

 

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Residency, More Illness and a Trip Back Around the Globe

Fast forward from moving to Australia in Jan 2009, I’d been living in Australia for seven years working as a publicist and running two successful blogs: Dating 101 Sydney (www.dating101sydney.wordpress.com) – documenting the highs and lows of my dating experiences. Sydney Social 101 (www.sydneysocial101.com) was also my passion project I started in Feb 2012, which is still going today.

I’d been mostly single and completely loving my life in Sydney with my close friends, who were more like family and a lifestyle I’d dreamed of my whole life. However as I approached 30, I felt that if I met the right person, I’d consider settling down – only in Sydney that’s much easier said than done!

I literally could fill a book with my dating woes, giggles and short-lived triumphs (see http://www.dating101sydney.wordpress.com for background on that!), however no one had ‘turned my head’ so to speak. I’d made the decision long ago that I’d much rather be on my own than in a relationship that didn’t make me happy.

I’d had even more woes with my body, just when I thought I was through to the other side of the tunnel with only forward to look… I should’ve learned by now that I should never have any expectations when it comes to me and my gynaecological health.

I was so lucky to secure my Permanent Residency in Australia in July 2012, I was beyond ecstatic knowing that I could remain in Australia for the rest of my days, if I chose to. Little did I know that I might be heading back around the world again in a quest for my health.

I had my routine six month scan with my gynaecologist in Sydney and he picked up that I had what’s known as a fibroid in my uterus wall… Not a Dermoid this time ladies and gentlemen.

I was advised that the fibroid was very large (15cm) and that I would have to have major surgery to save my uterus, and to ensure that I’d at least be able to carry a baby. I had faced surgery before, so this wasn’t as daunting to me as maybe it should’ve been. The part that really scared me and was affecting my every day life was the severe bleeding that I was experiencing daily. We’re not talking heavy periods here, I mean haemorrhaging large quantities of blood and clots each day, so much so that I had to take at least two changes of clothes to work everyday to change into, less than ideal.

I briefly had a Mirena (IUD) fitted, on the advice of my gynaecologist, which was meant to make the bleeding easier. Unfortunately I was one of the unlucky ones that it made bleed even more heavily, so I had it promptly removed, along with a polp in my uterus. It was in October 2012 that I returned back to my mums in the UK in search of a solution for what was becoming a life hindering condition.

I headed back to the UK with a view to return to Sydney in three months, however my body had other ideas.

I wanted to see my specialist from the UK that had operated on me three times previously for peace of mind.

Three months of consistent bleeding and feeling fatigued and being prescribed iron tables to combat what was becoming quite severe anaemia meant that I’d decided that I needed  to be looked after by my mum, take a rest from work and to speak to my specialist in the UK about my options there.

I had my first appointment with my specialist at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, which didn’t go as planned. In light of all my results and scans I was told that I would have to have a hysterectomy if I wanted the fibroid removed, I was in utter shock, I hadn’t envisaged this at al!

He explained that as the fibroid was now over 20cm, they wouldn’t be able to save my uterus. To say I was devastated would be a massive understatement. None the less, undeterred and with my health and fertility top of mind (I was only 27!) I decided to pay for a private consultation and second opinion with another gynaecology specialist in Manchester to secure a second opinion. Man am I glad that I did. It wasn’t cheap – it was about 450 pounds for an hour appointment, but the result was absolutely priceless.

I was told that he would be able to save my uterus and that he would remove the cyst (and had removed larger) and was confident that I would be able to conceive after the procedure. The only element that I was unsure of what that I had to be put into an early menopause, that would be temporary (three months) but that preventing the production of oestrogen would shrink the fibroid, thus making the saving of my uterus more likely.

I opted to go ahead and had the injection to put me into a premature menopause that very same day.

It was December and my 28th birthday was looming and my first Xmas and NY in the UK for five years… my friend Lorna and I decided to escape to Paris for a long weekend on my birthday weekend to leave my reproductively-challenged troubles in the UK and let our hair down.

Le paris

It was amazing and just what we needed, I’m a big believer that you need to have a positive attitude, as your state of mind can affect everything else so much more than you know.

As I mentioned, I had the injection for the early menopause before I left, which did come with all the symptoms – loads of fun for a 28 year old…

  • Hot sweats
  • Mood Swings
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Sleepless nights
  • Fear of the unknown

I’d love to say that the injection worked, however after returning from Paris, securing myself a great new job in Manchester and starting to look forwards… a scan revealed that rather than the fibroid shrinking, it had in fact grown. Bloody typical! I’d collapsed on the tube in London and has been rushed to hospital, where they found that I was very poorly.

It got to the point where I just wanted the fibroid out of me and was willing to face the recovery. I was becoming increasingly fatigued with the daily blood loss, the anaemia and my growing uterus (which now resembled a six month pregnancy).

I was booked to go into the hospital in April and my pre-op was booked on the Friday before. I had many pre-ops previously, so wasn’t too phased. However I was shocked to discover during this ‘routine’ check up prior to an operation that I was so severely anaemic (a reading of 7.1, when a healthy HGP blood count level is 14). The nurse said that she didn’t know how I was still conscious! They wouldn’t let me leave the hospital and advised that I needed a blood transfusion urgently, I had a pint of blood that day, which did make me feel better.

However that wasn’t enough, as I had to have another two pints of blood on the day of the operation before they’d operate.

I was nervous on the day of the operation, but to be honest I was more excited about taking a step towards getting better and not having to deal with loosing so much blood every day and feeling so bad. It really was affecting the quality of my life.

I awoke from the operation and, despite feeling groggy, I was relieved that it was over and felt happy when the nurse told me all had gone as planned. I could still carry a child, result!

Apart from a little hiccup during recovery when I got an infection and the nurses were really worried about my very high body temperature, I was out of hospital and home with my mum in three days.

I was told that I couldn’t work for six weeks and the company that I was working for were massively supportive, they paid my statutory sick pay and kept my job open for my return in June.

I decided to make the most of my recovery and headed to Spain for four of the five weeks to stay with my mum at her villa in Spain.

mums

I looked after myself, didn’t drink, ate healthily and relaxed. It was heaven! The perfect place to recover. I had no complications and even felt up to attending my friend’s wedding in the South of France on the weekend before I retuned to work.

wedding

I ended up feeling very settled in the UK following my operation and decided to stay until the end of the year before returning to Sydney. I had a great year and loved being well and knowing that I again was moving forwards into the right direction!

 

 

The Big Freeze – The egg freezing dilemma

Facing IVF at any age, I would imagine is massively daunting, I was 21 years old with only ½ ovary and on my own for the first time in six years. My fertility doctor explained that I was one of the ‘rare’ cases in that I was actually fertile and that this posed an ethical dilemma. He advised that the funding had to be approved for me to undertake the egg freezing treatment and that it had to be justified in the case versus another worthy candidate, such as a cancer patient.

 

To try and make this clearer, he gave me the two circumstances and two possible outcomes that made it very difficult to choose – which, when it comes to NHS finding for none essential treatment is a must.

 

So you have Patient A – They’re 25, they’ve been diagnosed with cancer and they have to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy to fight for their life and to ‘kill’ the cancer. The massive issue here is that, even though the treatment kills the cancer cells, it also kills the healthy cells too – including the reproductive ones i.e. her eggs. Now Patient A would absolutely need to use the eggs in the future, should she survive the treatment and cancer in her body. The ethical argument here is that she might not live to be able to use them

 

Then you have Patient B, they’re 21, they’ve already had two major operations to remove two very large Dermoid cysts that had ravished her reproductive system, destroying her right ovary and fallopian tube an leaving her with only ½ her left ovary. The massive issue here is that, Patient B is otherwise of good health and is essentially fertile, her ½ ovary is still releasing eggs. She might never need to use the eggs that she had frozen, but then again she could get another Dermoid at anytime, taking away her only chance to have her own biological child.

 

Dilemma indeed!

 

It was decided that Patient B was eligible for funding on this occasion, which turned out well for me as patient B was me.

 

I had the appointment to talk about the process and I had lessons how to inject myself (super scary) to harvest the eggs. I was then told what would happen when they took the eggs from my uterus to be frozen, I was advised that I would be put to sleep for the procedure, that shouldn’t take more than 25 minutes.

 

Injecting myself was quite hard at first, I had to psyche myself up the first time, but I have to be honest in saying that it got easier each time. After eight days I went to the doctor to see how well my ½ ovary had performed… I was absolutely shocked, thrilled and excited to hear that the little trooper had produced eight eggs, I was like a proud mum, even at that point!

 

So there I was, 21, with eight eggs frozen (all of them were viable), ½ an ovary and my life ahead of me for the taking. I was told that the eggs would be frozen for 10 years at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, so I could go back to enjoying myself and focusing on my career.

The Big, Bad World…

So I’ve recounted my university years and the moment I realized I’d got my BA Hons degree in media, marketing and cultural studies, despite having to take almost half my first year off to recover from the operation to remove a Dermoid Cyst from my ovary.

 

We find ourselves at the time I was in the big bad world, ready to take on the challenges life had to throw at me (perhaps not quite realizing quite how literal that would be!).

 

As mentioned in my previous posts, in the elements of my life that I have control over I am completely driven by a desire to succeed – I’m resilient to a fault and don’t give up. It was this attitude that enabled me to secure work experience positions at my dream companies – heat magazine, FHM and Taylor Herring (a PR firm that managed the publicity for BBC’s The Apprentice).

 

I learned so much and the skills I picked up have proven invaluable in my career path to present day. The placements ended up going so well that I ended up being offered a freelance contract at Taylor Herring and a full time position at heat magazine – one of the many cross roads in my life. I often find myself wondering what might have happened if I’d have accepted the other option… but as I’ve said before, there is no point in looking backwards, so I give my head a wobble and concentrate on the path I did take to where I am today.

 

I decided to opt for the freelance contract at Taylor Herring, as in my heart I knew that a career in PR, specifically entertainment publicity was what I’d been working towards. The contract went really well, despite me feeling a little poorly, but not being able to put my finger on what was wrong.

 

It was when I returned to Manchester once the contract had finished that I had a routine ultrasound scan booked, when all became clear… and my world came crashing down once again. I had another Dermoid cyst, this time it was the size of a baby’s head and was threatening my remaining left ovary. To say I was petrified is putting it mildly, I had been with my then partner for five years and he had already been through the first time with me. I was so scared I’d lose him if I lost my ovary and my chance to have children (the doctors feared that if I lost my ovary, there wouldn’t be any ovarian tissue left to harbor any eggs) – petrifying at any age, never mind a 21 year old.

 

I was booked in for surgery within two months and even had a conversation with my then partner to give him a ‘get out of jail free’ card to say I’d understand if he wanted to leave me if I wake up and they’d had to take it away. He was adamant that wasn’t even a consideration for him.

 

I woke up from the operation drowsy, sore and disorientated and my first words were to ask if they’d saved my ovary, they said they’d had to take half, but that it was still viable to have children. I cried through happiness and relief and went back to sleep.

 

The recovery was 6-8 weeks and painful, but I had lots of support, which helped massively. After the recovery I managed to secure a job at a Manchester-based PR agency doing the PR for an international airline, which was an amazing experience to say the least. I was 22 years old and managing press famils with leading travel editors to the likes of Antigua and Moscow, just unreal.

Moscow

It was certainly a point in my life when I learned a lot about myself, my ex partner and I had gone our separate ways just before my first famil to Antigua, it was on the beach at sunset ironically listening to ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’ by the great Amy Winehouse that I realized I could do this.

You see, walking away from a relationship that we’d been in for six years, from when I was just 16, we were also giving up on fertility treatment that the doctor had recommended as a result of my last operation. Whilst I was still fertile, I only had ½ ovary, the risk of getting another dermoid was high. We were granted NHS funding for our embryos to be frozen… a pretty huge step to take for a 21 and a 23 year old.

 

It is decision that I don’t regret at all, walking away from that relationship was the best thing for both of us. We’d grown into two completely different people, even though we were walking away from something that so many people would give a limb for, it was the right thing for us. I was so lucky in the sense that I was told by my gynecologist that I was actually eligible to have my eggs frozen on the NHS.

 

Next up I discuss the moral ramifications or getting your eggs frozen and how I became one of the first and youngest candidates for egg freezing on the NHS in the UK.

The Backstory – Part 1

How’d I arrive here and what’s my story? A very good question! For the past five years I’ve been blogging about my life, whether recounting the many frogs I’ve kissed on the quest for Prince Charming via my dating blog: Dating 101 Sydney, or providing my insight into Sydney’s social scene via Sydney Social 101. It’s almost like the various stages of my adult life (specifically my 20’s) have been logged for all to see, with my absolute knowledge, permission and words of course – To say documenting my rises and falls and stacks has been eventful, cathartic and the most fun ever, is putting it mildly!

 

So now, I find myself here… 31 years old and I have just stepped into the next chapter of my every changing life! However, before I delve into the big reveal (which most of you can probably guess, or already know) here’s a bit of background as to why I’ve decided to add this chapter of my life in scripture and musings for the world to see. So hold on tight, I’m about to bare my soul and fears, hopes and dreams as I welcome you on the journey (and hopefully provide a little bit of hope and inspiration for people who find themselves in a similar or difficult point in their lives).

 

I’m going to do this in a much of a nutshell as I can as I know we all got lots to be getting on with (and man can I ramble on)… Here goes (deep breath):

 

I’ve always been a positive person (at least on the outside), I’ve been driven to succeed in my career, be a good person, treat my friends and loved ones as I would like to be treated and, when it feels right, to love unconditionally.

 

The elements of my life that I’ve had control over, I’ve worked relentlessly to reach (self) set goals and have always prided myself on achievements and experiences that have come as a result.

 

We can talk more about those at a later date, however for now I want to touch upon the events that I’ve had no control over. Specifically the times that I’ve felt scared and unsure of where the next step would take me, yet knowing that no matter what, those steps will keep plodding on forwards, not backwards, because you know what, there isn’t any point in looking backwards! I have continuously found that the world keeps turning; you’ve just got to hold on tight, go with it and not let go!

 

At 18, I had been in a relationship for two years and was due to travel to Australia in December 2003 (my first year of uni), I was so excited as it would be the first time I had travelled ‘Down Under’ since I’d returned to the UK with my parents having lived in Adelaide from 1988 – 1989 for 20 months.

 

As fate would have it, I would never get on that flight, as three days before I was due to fly I was diagnosed with a large dermoid cyst on my right ovary, the size of a rugby ball. Yeah that’s right a RUGBY BALL. I was told in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t fly and that it was highly likely that I would be lose my ovary as a result of the urgent operation required to try and save my womb – Heavy stuff for a 18 year old hey… Yeah you could say that!

 

I ended up having the surgery in the January and lost my right ovary and fallopian tube, and had another smaller Dermoid cyst removed from my surviving left ovary. I was frightened that it would affect my fertility in the future, but at now 19, it seemed so far in the future that I pushed it to the back of my mind and tried to concentrate on the positive – I had one ovary that was working and other than that I was perfectly healthy (if not with a huge scar documenting my war wound for all to see).

 

I’m not going to lie and say the recovery was a breeze, it wasn’t! The recovery was hard, I’d had a vertical incision from my belly button to my pubic bone and I had to take 8 weeks off university (which is less than ideal in the first year). Luckily I fully recovered due to the support of my family, friends and my then partner and had a very understanding tutor who allowed me to study remotely for my second semester – which I miraculously ended up passing… You see the things I had control over, I didn’t allow myself to fail.

 

Due to sheer grit and determination I managed to pass my second and third year and was absolutely thrilled when I ended up taking away a 2:1 BA Hons degree in Media, Marketing and Cultural studies from Liverpool John Moores University – I was thrilled. Despite a shaky start I was able to turn it around was ready to take the next chapter of my life by the reigns and steer it on the path I imagined…

 

Only my body had other ideas… Stay tuned for the next bump as I recount the years gone by as a monologue that gives context to my current situation and persevering piece of mind.