Heartbreak Decision: Children or My Life; REAL LIVES When Joelle Hill, 36 and from Shirley, Began Suffering with Extreme Fatigue She Thought It Was All Part of Being a New Mum. but She Was Eventually Diagnosed with Cancer - and Left Facing a Heartbreaking Decision
WHEN I started to lose weight a year after my son Douglas was born I thought "Great, I'm losing my baby pounds!" But then a friend said she thought I ought to go to the doctor as I was also suffering from extreme fatigue.
I'd just put it down to having a young child.
Then I started to struggle as Douglas became more mobile. I couldn't keep up with him.
The doctor checked me over and sent me for blood tests but nothing untoward came back, so I decided it was time to just get on with it.
But then I started to have more women's issues - including a bloated tummy and generally feeling uncomfortable.
Then one day when I was picking up Douglas he accidentally kicked me in the groin and it was really painful.
Within two weeks, my abdomen swelled up and I looked five months pregnant. I knew at that point there was something wrong.
The doctor referred me for CAT scans and a CA125 blood test, which came back as elevated.
It was thought I had an ovarian cyst. But when the doctors removed it and sent it to be checked over, it turned out to be cancerous.
It was such a shock and terribly upsetting.
At that time there wasn't much information and awareness about ovarian cancer. I did the worst possible thing and looked it up on the internet, which didn't paint a very reassuring picture. I was aware women my age could get cysts but I didn't realise they could get ovarian cancer.
I wasn't really aware of ovarian cancer at all.
There's more awareness now with different charities, such as the Eve Appeal, who support women who are diagnosed.
The doctors suggested the best thing for me to do was to have a full hysterectomy to see if it had spread.
Douglas had been six weeks premature and had arrived weighing just 3lbs. He was in neo-natal for a long time.
Having been through that, it wasn't a given that we were going to try for a second child.
So for my husband Robin and I it was an easy decision to have the hysterectomy.
We knew we had to act quickly and think about the child we had got, rather than any potential future children.
I also had six cycles of chemotherapy and lost all my hair and my eyelashes.
It was gruelling and each time, it got a bit worse.
But age was on my side and I was quite robust.
We had quite a belt-and-braces approach, knowing we had to fight 'the beast'.
It was hard looking after a toddler at the same time.
Robin and my mother-in-law were fantastic.
In some ways, I think Douglas helped me not to wallow in self-pity. He gave me a focus, a reason to get up and not be completely absorbed by cancer.
Children are physically demanding at that age but I wasn't capable of picking him up.
We tried to explain to him that mummy had a poorly tummy and that I would be losing my hair. We were fairly open with him without wanting to scare him.
Very early on, we went to get a wig and we introduced him to mummy's new hair rather than the shock of suddenly seeing me without hair.
He was OK with that. We also met other women going through treatment and I think he got quite used to seeing women without hair.
He still remembers it now and we talk about it when he asks why he hasn't got any brothers and sisters.
Harsher I think the impact of having a hysterectomy affects you further down the line when your friends are going onto have second babies and you're the one talking about menopause and HRT. …