I never planned on becoming a cancer survivor because, like most people, I never planned on having cancer. When you're a young woman, breast cancer is the last thing on your mind. The disease is still mainly associated with older women. I was 35 years of age when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of September 2004 and about to learn that cancer is no respecter of age. I underwent breast surgery followed by an intensive ten-month regimen of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
I initially fought against undergoing chemotherapy because of my fears that chemotherapy would impair my fertility. For me, the difficulty in making the emotional decisions regarding fertility and cancer treatment was compounded by what I perceived to be a lack of easy to understand, readily available information - and information, crucially that was appropriate to the Irish context. All the information I obtained came from UK or US sources and this added to my confusion. I made a promise to myself that if I ever did get to figure out the answers, I would do whatever I could to make accurate, accessible and easy to understand information available in the future to women like me who face a diagnosis of cancer while they are still of child bearing age.
A year on from my treatment, I became an active member of EUROPA DONNA and, with its backing and the help of a team of experts in the fields of embryology, oncology and nursing, I set about the task of gathering together up to date information on fertility and parenthood options relevant to women in Ireland. Last October we published an information booklet entitled Breast Cancer and Fertility which is the first comprehensive guide of its kind for women of child-bearing age in Ireland who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. This is now available at breast cancer clinics and direct from EDI. My goal now is to become a more educated and effective advocate for breast cancer and in particular the issues facing younger women.