Amber's Story

"The thought of going into menopause scared me..."

Ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 31, and tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation, I knew removing my ovaries someday, was a must. My Mother died of ovarian cancer aged 44 when I was 12, and her sister succumbed to the cancer less than a decade later.

I had breast surgery, chemo, and radiation. Then I had more surgery: prophylactic on the other side.

I had a baby girl. I went through a traumatic break up and when I came out the other side knowing I would not have another child, I turned my mind to my ovaries. I ummed and ahhed for a few years, tried to navigate the maze of specialists and the public system. It never quite provided for me, and I took it upon myself to do my own research into ovarian cancer, surgery, and menopause.

The thought of going into menopause scared me, with my biggest fear being osteoporosis and increased heart disease risk. But the fear of losing my sex drive really frightened me too.

Surgery wasn’t an easy decision, who really wants to do that to themself? I went through many stages of feeling ripped off, there were periods of time when I was at peace with my decision, then I would second guess myself, do more research and change my mind all over again.

By the time I was 37 and my daughter was 3, I put myself on the public waiting list for a laparoscopic oophorectomy. I didn’t’ feel’ ready but I figured I had some time up my sleeve before I was called up, and I was told I could postpone it, if need be.

I’m glad I did go on the waiting list. By the time I got the call (about 5 months), I was almost blasé about it – well not quite – I was actually really excited. Weird! I was definitely at peace with my decision and had full acceptance around it.

So, I had the surgery; August 5th 2012. For the week before the surgery I felt nervous – my head was busy, mainly thinking about what menopause symptoms I would have and how awful they would be. I had decided not to take HRT, but I was scared about it.

I did short video blogs leading up to my surgery because it felt important. It felt like I was going to be a different person post-surgery and I was scared I would forget how I used to be.

The surgery itself went well. I had it through the public system and had one night in hospital. Within 36 hours I was not taking any pain relief.

The anaesthetic knocked me around - I had day naps for a week or so. I couldn’t lift my daughter straight away, but I was a bit naughty and did some housecleaning for my friend 7 days after my surgery. I had bloating and later a slight infection in one wound, but apart from that I was bouncing around.

All in all, so far menopause hasn’t been as bad as I had feared. I am 9 weeks post op now. I don’t particularly have hot flushes, yes I am a bit more irritable at times and possibly more forgetful. Yes my sex drive has gone down, but it’s not completely dead. I have had a couple of episodes of migraines and reflux that I attribute to low estrogen, but I am alive.

I am here for my daughter.

I am here continuing to love life as I always have. I don’t feel different; I feel great. I have a strong focus on my nutrition. I look after myself really well and believe it’s important to respect my body post-surgery and keep as healthy as I can, so my eating habits have changed drastically. I want to live a long life - despite this lack of oestrogen in my body.

I think the BRCA experience is a difficult journey, and it's so different for each person. We all have to make our own decisions. At the end of the day there is no right decision for everybody, and we make the decisions that we can live with. I have no regrets.

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