Hi, I’m Rebecca.
I am a wife, a mother and I love being with my family. I love days out, walking and basically doing anything where we can all be together having fun. I am also a Christmas addict; its my favourite time of the year! I have built a busy Instagram account, @loh_lifestyle where I talk about homes, life and women’s health. As well as my social media page, I run a social media manager company and I’m a part time HR Officer. I’m always busy but I believe in life we should grab every opportunity with both hands – and as woman we are amazing and can do it!
I’m such a normal person, but one that seems to have lots of Issues. I had my first child at 21, and my second at 30. I was a single mum for many years and I think it made me appreciate everything a little more. I have never been ashamed of being a single parent because, like everything I have experienced in my life, it has made me who I am. I met my husband when I was 29, and it really was love at first sight. Goodness we are not perfect and it took me ten years to get him to marry me but we got there! I do however sometimes feel that the woman he met is not the woman he’s now married to. My journey in the twelve years we have been together has been a stressful one. I would love to have spent more of our thirties happy and carefree but it just didn’t pan out like that, which I suppose is the same for many people. Still, I’m thankful everyday that he was able to find the strength to stand by me.
We had our son a year or so after meeting because my biological clock was ticking. That became clear when I had my first experience of cysts late on night in my pregnancy, with one bursting behind my womb. I was laying in bed in agony and felt something go “bang”. I was told for two days that I was having an ectopic pregnancy. Looking back how I didn’t lose my baby I will never know, but our bodies are amazing and our son was born. Unfortunately he had his own medical struggles, and we have spent every year of his life so far in and out of hospitals. As many working mums will know his health always came first, probably to the detriment of my own, and definitely to the detriment of my career.
The beginning of my health issues
Since this birth and during this period I continued to have many issues and I spent many nights in agony with my stomach. Every time I asked for medical advice I was always told it was due to the stress and anxiety of taking care of my unwell son. Never at any point was there a discussion of fibroids or endometriosis and strangely, even though I had experienced them during my pregnancy, burst cysts. Even though they had caused me to be hospitalized, there was no action taken to check if I had more.
I explained that I had suffered with stomach pains for years and years, in fact longer than I remember. I just feel so sad about all the time that I have lost to pain. Anyone that experiences pain on a regular basis will understand how much it effects not only you but your family. Each year it seemed to be getting worse and worse, but each time I approached a GP about it I was told it was an infection, stress, anxiety or IBS. Being able to put your trust in the medical professionals you are turning to is key, and I wanted to trust them. Looking back this experience left me realising I was probably a bit naïve to put all trust in the GPs to give me the right diagnosis. The reality is they are general practitioners of medicine and can’t possibly be specialists of all medical areas. They have routes to follow to diagnosis and unfortunately in my case the symptoms I was presenting led them down the wrong route initially.
Instead I was offered antidepressants and counselling, even though I explained that I felt the anxiety was medically not mentally driven because of the exhaustion and pain I was often finding myself in. I flatly refused to take antidepressants. Life was tough but I never once thought I was depressed. Yes, I was a woman with a lot to handle: I had a poorly child and a job to hold down, but I was not depressed. At one point everyone, my doctor, family and even my previous employer, thought I was simply not prepared to help myself, but I knew my body and I knew something was wrong with it.
I continued to suffer with bloating and pain with no relief or diagnosis. In 2018 I was on the final countdown to my wedding and that year it had seemed worse than ever before. In the two months leading up to my wedding I started experiencing a sharp, stabbing pain in my side. I went back to the doctors many times to be told it was a water infection or it was in my mind. I kept going back because I started to think the pain was my appendix and I was petrified it would burst on my wedding day. In August 2018 I did get married but I bled and was so worried about my white dress. It got to the stage that I couldn’t sleep because the stabbing pain was so bad that I knew it was something serious.
My journey to diagnosis.
The journey to my diagnosis is probably the hardest thing for me to talk about. I am still traumatized by the weeks leading up to my operation and the experience I went through. My diagnosis breakthrough came when I saw a newly qualified doctor surprisingly enough. Unlike the experiences before, she really listened to me. I cried with relief that someone was finally prepared to listen. If you understand self-fulfilling prophecy, you will know that the more someone tells you something is in your head, you actually start to believe it; well that was me.
We discussed my medical history, and the doctor realized that my mother had had ovarian cancer at a young age. She decided to do a CA125 test, a blood test that measures the amount of cancer antigen 125 in your blood and tests for early signs of ovarian cancer. The doctor told me she wanted to be thorough and look at all options. I don’t think I will ever forget this doctor and how she helped and listened to me.
The next morning I got a call at work saying the test had come back with very high levels and I needed to go into the surgery. When I heard the words ‘indicator of cancer’ something changed in me immediately. I was put straight on the two-week cancer pathway, which was a whirlwind of appointments and tests. I remember the internal exam I had to have and how I had obviously Googled it prior (I know, bad move). I told myself if it showed anything but a complex cyst, I would be fine. I was however so conscious I had been in pain for a long time and, if it was ovarian cancer, my chances were probably slim.
During those two weeks, I didn’t cope. The fear I felt still scares me now and I believe I probably have PTSD from it. I wrote letters to my children. I sat on my husband’s knee one night and sobbed like a baby. I can honestly say I thought I was going to die and I was no where near close to being ready. People around me tried to reassure me and told me not to worry, but how are you supposed to do that? I felt completely alone; no one could understand.
Finally, after internal scans and MRI scans I sat in the consultant’s office yet again crying while he discussed his findings. I had complex Ovarian cysts and in combination with the high CA125 this could indicate cancer. There were two options: 1) wait a few months and see if anything changed or 2) remove the ovaries and tubes. Option 2 was the only way of knowing for sure.
I asked what was the safest option. I also asked what he would say if it was his wife. He said the safest option would be to remove the ovaries and tubes given the family history and what they could see. To be honest if he had said remove your legs I would have agreed; I just didn’t want to die of cancer. The fact I would go through menopause was mentioned for all of three seconds. I was told I would go through surgical menopause and would need to use HRT. It sounded simple enough, I thought. At the time all I wanted to know was that I wouldn’t die of cancer. The menopause to me seemed so inconsequential. If I had known how life changing it would be I do wonder whether I would have given more thought to keeping one ovary. The reality is that would have left me with a ‘what if’ that at that time I just couldn’t risk.
I do think if I had at least been given more information and been better informed on what to expect from going through menopause I would have coped so much better. If I had been introduced to support groups or platforms like Megsmenopause my menopause journey might not have been so traumatic. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I don’t have time for regrets and have learned to live in the here and now.
The very next day my doctor rang me with a date for the operation for the following week. The fear was like nothing else. I felt there was no one around me that could really understand what I was going through. I struggled to talk to or ask questions of the doctors and instead turned to the internet, finding a Facebook support group. Finding that groups was the start of me truly understanding what was happened to my body. The support and love I received will stay with me forever. Never underestimate the power, strength and support that comes from leaning on someone who has been through what you are going through. It’s been absolutely invaluable to me. It’s how I learnt to take my life in to my hands and has led me to this point of wanting to support others.
Part 2 to follow…