Christine Bellis

What were the main challenges?

The shock of losing my ovary

In February, I had an appointment with the specialist to talk about the three cysts that had found. My Mum and I sat together as he explained that due to the size of the cysts, there was some concern. In March I had surgery. Two weeks later, on my lunch break at work, I received a call from the surgeon asking me to see him that afternoon. ‘It’s probably nothing’ I remember him saying.

The cyst had come back border line stage I ovarian cancer. He was referring me to a gynaecological oncologist to discuss my diagnosis. Soon after, I was officially diagnosed with stage one ovarian cancer. He proposed to remove my left ovary and tube and the last two cysts.

At the end of March, I lost my left ovary. I was heartbroken. I was 22 years-old! How could all of this happen in the space of two months?

Questioning my fertility

At the time, I worked in a day-care. I have always wanted children. My boyfriend and I had regularly discussed it, planning for at least two years’ time. Now I was being told to start now?

My boyfriend and I went to meet with a fertility specialist who explains that my right ovary was badly damaged from the surgery to remove the other two cysts. This makes it hard for the egg to be fertilized. In other words, incredibly difficult to fall pregnant naturally. The specialist then talked about my only remaining ovary being removed and what my options would be. Harvesting my eggs, fertilizing them and freezing embryos. Having a sister donate her eggs and using them. Using a donor egg. Adoption. I don’t have a sister so that one was out! We decided on harvesting. I could then consider adopting if harvesting was unsuccessful.

Feeling overwhelmed

I was feeling so overwhelmed by all the information that I had never had time to process and broke down. I felt hurt, confused, scared, and worried. I asked my boyfriend why he was still around, as he could leave me at any time to find someone else who didn’t have all these problems. He hugged me and said ‘I love. I’ve been here all this time – why would I leave now? I’ve been so blessed to have the love and support of my family, my close friends, work colleagues and my boyfriend. He has been my rock.

What worked best for you?

My support group

I will never forget the first time I want to my support group. The women’s faces dropped when they realised I was there for myself, not to support someone else. One woman said, ‘You’re the same age as my granddaughter’. They couldn’t believe how young I was. I didn’t let that stop me. They’ve supported me, and I’ve supported them over the years. They are the most amazing group of ladies you could ever meet. It’s made me stronger and more confident.

I’m one of the lucky ones

In 2013, the cancer had actually started coming back, I got bloating and pain again. I recognised the symptoms quickly this time and I contacted the gynaecologist oncologist. Within a week of me seeing him, the second ovary was gone. When it came to losing the second one, I’d had had a year to prepare for it – I knew it was going to happen so it wasn’t as bad as the first time.  I’m now officially in remission and I’m on permanent HRT. I call this my ‘anti-bitch pill’. My hormones are now fantastically balanced.

I’m one of the lucky ones, they caught my ovarian cancer early. I may have lost my ovaries, but that’s a small price to pay to be alive.