GET SUPPORT GET CONNECTED Your Voices Katherine What cancer were you diagnosed with? Stage 1B cervical cancer What age were you diagnosed? 33 What has helped you to thrive? Optimism. To diagnose cancer at early stages, is lucky. To be prescribed a bespoke treatment plan to cure it, is lucky. My body didn’t reject the treatment - I was very lucky. The experience of kindness from a team of medical strangers who are there telling you everything would be ok when you are still struggling to come to terms with your diagnosis – how could I not reciprocate their infectious optimism. Family. I got married the same year I was diagnosed. I haven’t had a chance to live up to my vows yet, and I held on to the curiosity of living a life with my partner to motivate me to survive this. I held on to my responsibility as a daughter to stay alive to look after my elderly parents and extinguish their thoughts that my cancer was their fault of inferior upbringing. I held on to hope that we could still start a family through alternative routes despite my infertility after treatment. My daughter is now 2. There was just too many things in life pending waiting to be accomplished. Katherine's Story Following a routine smear test and colposcopy procedure in Aug 2015, I was told my cells had turned cancerous with Stage 1B cervical cancer. A familiar word but not so much when it is applied to myself and I didn’t start to tremble until the doctor asked if I have any children. Many don’t realise one of the potential impacts of cervical cancer treatment is infertility. I opted for the Radical Trachelectomy operation to preserve my fertility because starting a family was so important to me. The operation successfully removed the tumour and any neighbouring lymph nodes but the surgeon was unable to get the clearance he wanted to remove tissue which may contain cells that might turn cancerous in the future – he predicted my cancer would return. My options were do nothing or have radiotherapy treatment. I had a fantastic MacMillan nurse, a very experienced radiotherapist consultant and a supportive husband that did all the rational thinking for me, as I was too distressed by the thought of what life would mean if I was unable to start a family and the physical pain of treatment. I felt I was going grey overnight. But l knew I had made the right decision to extend my life even if the decision I wanted was to start a family and risk the cancer that may or may not return. As I was tumour free, I was allowed some time to explore embryo freezing at an IVF clinic. We managed to freeze 5 embryos which we can use at a later date via a surrogate. In Feb 2016, I started 31 Radio 4 Chemo and 4 Brach. The month was a tiring blur and after 8 weeks of recovery, I started to explore the surrogacy process. It felt like taking an online degree in law and biology with limited access to a lecturer to verify our interpretation of the information. There were so many stages where I was close to giving up because the uncertainity led to much emotional stress. There is never a day I am not grateful for my recovery and the people I encountered who guided us in the right direction, plus a lot of luck. My daughter is now nearly 3 and we are proud to be sharing with her our parental journey and celebrating the little things of life.