Mel Greig: When the choice of having children is taken away from you

I remember growing up as a little girl watching movies and thinking how I couldn’t wait to have my own little family one day.

To have the white picket fence with a baked pie put on the window sill to cool down. The kids would run through the door and I’d tell them to wash their dirty little hands before they could sit down for dinner. It was such a vivid vision of how it would play out, even to the point of the checked blue apron I’d be wearing and my drop-dead gorgeous mechanic husband.

Imagine if you didn’t have a choice over whether you could have children or not. Photo: Supplied

But sometimes we don’t have a choice in how our lives work out. Many of us go through divorce or are unable to conceive.

What hurts the most though is when you don’t even get a chance to choose. Due to my endometriosis I don’t get to say to a partner six or 12 months into a relationship, “Let’s try for a baby”. That is never a sentence that will come out of my mouth.

Doctors told me three years ago I had a one percent chance of getting pregnant naturally, but now at the age of 36, there’s zero chance it will happen naturally. Motherhood is a choice that has now become non-existent to me. I’m ok with the fact that I won’t have children, but it would have been nice to have a goddamn choice in the matter.

Still, I’m one of the lucky ones. At the age of 27 Jessica Gilchrist was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Jessica’s story

“I was told I had Adenocarcinoma cervical cancer, the rarest one.

I had two options and they both brought me to tears and meant complications with having children. After the first surgery I was told the cancer had been found in my lymph nodes. This meant that I couldn’t ever give birth and I had to go through six weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. At this stage I was exhausted, emotional and seriously ready to give up.

Jessica was diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma cervical cancer and eventually underwent a radical hysterectomy. Photo: Supplied

My next operation was going to be a radical hysterectomy. My partner and I had just days to discuss children. We both wanted to have children, so our only option now was IVF and then surrogacy. This was just another challenge I had to start processing.

During the initial consultations with my IVF doctor, they said I would get around 15 – 20 eggs from my ovaries based on my age and wellness. After an eight-day cycle, I went in for my egg collection. I got four eggs in total. My heart stopped when I found out. My entire body started to shake, I had never had anxiety before, but I think I had an attack. I am not even sure my nurse knew what was happening with my body. The disappointing news just kept coming. I spent that entire day in bed crying, I couldn’t move, eat or drink and I just wanted to be in a dark room.

The next operation was in February 2016 when I underwent a complete radical hysterectomy, meaning at age 27, I was also going to be going through menopause, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy.”

Even though Jess is grateful to be alive, she too in a moment of passion will never be able to say to her partner, “Let’s try for a baby” – and it’s a cruel fate.

No doubt cancer is the biggest evil of them all, from robbing people of their choices to taking their lives. A few days ago, it was three years to the day that I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer, all she wanted was to stay strong enough to be there to see her grandchildren go to school and that was a choice that she didn’t get to make.

Jessica and many others sought treatment and support from the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in Heidelberg, Victoria. As well as funding research breakthroughs, the ONJ Centre provides access to world-leading wellness and supportive care, giving patients hope and helping them and their families during cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

At no age are you ever prepared to hear those awful words “You have cancer” and for those that do, they feel a sense of confusion and angst in not understanding what it truly means or what support is out there for them. That’s why Olivia Newton-John’s work with the ONJ Centre is vital to all of us.

Their Wellness Walk and Research Run is being held on Sunday 16th September. If you’ve ever wanted to do something to help people that don’t have a choice on their diagnosis, this is your chance to help raise awareness and to help find a cure.

Find registrations and details here.

Everybody deserves the right to make their own choices in life.

If you’re experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression contact Beyond Blue or PANDA for support.

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