LIFESTYLE
15/03/2015 11:47 GMT | Updated 18/03/2015 07:59 GMT

What Mother's Day Is Like For An Ovarian Cancer Survivor Unable To Have Children

Unless you've spectacularly cocked it up, you should have set aside at least a little bit of Sunday to honour your dear old mother.

We all have one - whether present, passed or absent but not everyone can be a parent.

Five years ago at the age of 31, Sarah Stickland was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after initially being admitted to hospital with suspected appendicitis.

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Sarah Stickland

"A doctor asked me if I was pregnant and I said 'no' and thought that was a bit rude. He said he could feel something in my abdomen and it felt like there was a baby in there and he didn't want to operate," she says.

After further tests doctors identified two cysts, one on each of her ovaries. One was 9cm in diameter and the other was 17 cm.

"They were huge. The pain had been caused by one of them becoming twisted and there was blood leaking."

Sarah was told she would probably lose her ovaries. Not surprisingly she burst into tears.

"The first thing I thought of was that I couldn't have children. The doctor must have thought that I was going to refuse the surgery because of this and she said, 'well, it's either that or you'll die’.”

"I thought thanks for clearing that up but can you just give me five minutes to grieve for the fact that I'm not going to be a biological mum. That's all I wanted."

Sarah now faced a six-week wait while doctors determined if the cysts were cancerous or not.

She said: "I was sent to the same cancer unit as my sister who had cervical cancer and I though oh. My whole family was on edge.

"I had moments where I though about the worst case scenario but mainly I just wanted to get to the next step. I thought about what it would do to my family.

"They already endured it once but what will happen this time. This is all a bit shit."

Sarah was eventually told the cysts were not cancerous. Even better news came after surgery when she was told surgeons had managed to save one of her ovaries.

"I thought wow, I can have children."

Story continues after slideshow...

But her joy was short-lived. Two weeks later she was told the cysts were in fact cancerous. Not only that but another tumour had been found in her womb.

She would have to undergo a full hysterectomy.

"Then it sunk in that I wouldn't have an ovary," she says.

"I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to carry my own baby but at that time it wasn't the end of the world because I knew there would be other options.

"I didn't rule out being a mum. I still haven't ruled it out.

The options available for a single person in Sarah's position are limited. Surrogacy is out of the question, as you have to have one genetic parent.

Adoption is difficult as couples are usually favoured. Sarah actually went quite far down the adopting route but was scared out of it when told she would most likely end up with a child aged four or five probably with learning difficulties.

She says: "I want to nurture them and instill my values and my morals in them and I want them to have a good upbringing and I can make sure they do have that. But by that age they are already developed and already have a name"

Obviously if Sarah met someone her circumstances would change to her benefit but even dating is affected by what she's been through.

"When meeting someone new, at what point do you tell them that you can't have children?

"Do you tell them on the first date because at my age people are more likely to want to settle down? Or would that scare them off because you thinking about children already? I don't know..."

Then there are the physiological effects. After a hysterectomy a woman will experience early menopause and lose her libido.

She says: "It makes you feel less like a woman. I don't quite know who I am and what I should be wanting.

"I was always very sure of what I wanted in a man or a partner. Now that that's gone, everything becomes more of a thought process and you have to think properly about what you want.

"Also, you do feel like you're half a person, kind of damaged goods in a way, somebody who wouldn't be someone's first choice."

Despite everything, Sarah remains optimistic even around Mother's Day.

"I love Mother's Day. Obviously I've still got a mum and I'm looking forward to celebrating how brilliant she is and it's really exciting this year because my sister's a mum for the first time.

"Her and her best friends feel guilty around me and that's what I hate. I don't want people to feel guilty for having their children around me or having families but I do think I get a lot of that.

"When I hang around with my best friends and their families they're always apologising and it's like no, I love it, I feel like part of your life.

"I don't ever want people to feel guilty about loving their kids."

Despite the vast number of cancer charities in the UK, Sarah feels that support for women in her situation is lacking. Ovarian cancer is far more common in older women most of whom will already have had children if they so wanted.

"One of my friends has trouble conceiving and she's going through IVF. There's nothing wrong with her but she just hasn't been able to have children. And she gets quite a bit of support from doctors and councilors.

"I don't understand why she gets that and I don't because yeah she's going through the trying to pregnant process but the outcomes still the same, me and her want to have children and I can't.

"She has a hope at the end of it and I want to think that I have too. I haven't given up. I may have a cutoff point when I'm 45 and I’ve not had children. Maybe then I need to give up but it's still a hope."