So, how did I come to the decision to have my ovaries removed?
Yes, you heard that right. At 37, I made the decision to have my ovaries removed… I went into hospital and had the old egg factory shut down for good! It wasn’t quite as straight forward as that, so let me explain what happened.
I remember back in 2012 there being a lot on the news about the cancer gene BRCA1 and BRCA2 which are the genes that are recognised as the breast cancer gene. For a while there had been a lot of talk about how you could get tested if your family had a history of breast cancer and when I thought about it, this meant me!
My mum, whilst in her 40’s, had pre-cancer cells identified after a breast reduction operation – they were found in what the consultant took away (more details in my boobs blog). My Nan had breast cancer, as did her sister. There was only one other sister (my great Aunt) that had so far escaped.
For those carrying the gene, there was a very difficult decision to make considering whether they had surgery, or whether to have more regular check ups dependant on their chance of the gene turning into cancer
For me there was another reason why I wanted to look into this. Mum was fighting ovarian cancer and there is a clear link between breast and ovarian cancer. There was no way I would want to put myself at risk, especially with ovarian cancer being called ‘the silent killer’ due to its lack of symptoms in the early stages.
So, having made the decision to get our family history checked out, I went along to the GP who made a referral to the Genetics Department at the hospital. What followed as a consultation to talk over my family history and an explanation of how our genetics work, what the process was, time frame etc. Then, with my mum’s agreement, they would need a blood sample from her to determine if she had the gene.
I then went onto see a consultant to discuss more about potential results and procedures. We discussed my family situation, my desires for any more children (NO WAY!) and what I would like to do if the result came back positive and negative.
It was explained to me that if the result came back positive, I would know for definite and could make a concrete decision on how far I would want to protect myself against cancer in the future. If the result came back negative, it would mean that Mum didn’t carry any of the BRCA genes, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t carry another gene out there… they just haven’t found it yet!
Basically, I would be making a decision on either a definitely, or a maybe. After several months of waiting for the results to come back, the latter was the reality I dealt with.
I was given an option to leave things be, but as there were no routine checks for ovarian cancer like there are for changes in the breast, this could be leaving things to an element of chance. I was offered the option to have my ovaries removed on the basis that there might be another gene out there that my Mum could be carrying, therefore giving me a 50% chance of carrying it too!
After a lot of consideration, I decided to go ahead and have my ovaries removed. My whole family were behind this decision especially my husband (nothing to do with the fact that he dodged the vasectomy bullet, or should I say scalpel!). Whilst it seemed a drastic move, the consultant was happy to do it and happy to put me on HRT so I didn’t plummet into menopause at 37. I’d had all the children I wanted (two’s enough for me!) and there seemed no good reason to keep them.. the ovaries – not the children! I also wanted to give my mum (and my family) some peace of mind that I wasn’t going to have the battle she had… at least not in this part of my body.
So, by the summer of the following year (2013), I went into hospital to have my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed by keyhole surgery. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly, but it was the best one for me and I never had any doubts about what I was about to do. Oh, apart from when they started wheeling me along on the bed down to the Ear, Nose and Throat Theatre. My husband asked them a little concerned ” You do realise she’s having her ovaries out don’t you?”.
I was fortunate that the surgery went well, and apart from a small infection in one of the incision sites afterwards (and I couldn’t drink for a week!!) I made a quick recovery. The HRT I’d been prescribed seemed to hit the spot and gave me no problems whatsoever. But not everyone is the same, so this is something that needs to be considered very carefully and monitored.
I’ve never looked back since having it done. I must admit, it’s strange not to have any kind of cycle – and I still don’t know if I have one on an emotional level (my husband would say ‘YES’) but I certainly don’t miss them. When I’m 51, I will slowly come off of the HRT and allow myself to go into the menopause gently… like walking down a hill, instead of jumping off a cliff at age 37.
What sits well with me, without sounding morbid, is that Mum left this world knowing that I wouldn’t be going through the same battle that she unfortunately lost.
To find out more on ovarian cancer visit the NHS website;
Symptoms to look out are;
- feeling full quickly or loss of appetite.
- pelvic or stomach pain.
- needing to pee urgently or more frequently than normal.
- changes in bowel habit.
- extreme fatigue (feeling very tired)
- unexplained weight loss.
Until next time,
Love and hugs from TOMD xxx