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Cancer can kill you, but if it doesn't it can kill your dreams of having kids – and leave you in early menopause

AS if getting cancer in your 30s isn't enough, then there's the side effects to deal with.

They can be really brutal and throw your entire life upside down.

The sickness, pain and extreme exhaustion are tough.

But, cancer can destroy your fertility, put pay to any dreams you ever had of becoming a mum or dad, and leave you in early menopause.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

I had my kids early, so when cancer happened and I was asked if I wanted to freeze my eggs my husband and I jumped at the chance to say no, absolutely not!

He visibly breathed a sigh of relief as it put pay to the debate about having a third child.

My doctor asked if we were sure, if we wanted more time to think about it.

We reassured him, we were fine and we got a dog instead.

But, kids or no kids, having such a firm line drawn through your fertility at the age of 35 is a hard thing to grasp.

Cancer leaves your hormones racing – think PMS and then some.

My podcast pal Lauren Mahon, who co-hosts You, Me And The Big C with me and our wonderful friend Rachael Bland, is in a different boat altogether.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early 30s, and is now free of the disease.

But cancer hasn't just buggered off and left her be, she's now facing medical menopause at the age of 33.

Our chat yesterday went something like this… "mate, I'm hairy as f***, how do you get rid of all the fluff"?

If truth be told, I have no idea if I'm in menopause or not.

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While it is considered a side-effect of many chemo drugs, it's not always a given – so you just have to wait and see.

I haven't had a period in three years, but that's because I have the coil right now, so I have no way of knowing.

But, so far I'm lucky, I don't seem to be showing any of the classic menopause symptoms.

My racing hormones are nothing in comparison with what Lauren is dealing with.

Everyday she has to face the consequences of her cancer – while her friends deal with the "normal" life of a 30-something.

Her mood is up and down like a yo-yo, she can't go anywhere without her portable fan in her handbag, and in her own words a XL bottle of lube is a must if sex is on the cards!

First she was told she had cancer, then she's being asked if she wants kids.

At the time Lozz jokes she didn't even have a fella, let alone any thoughts of wanting kids.

But, cancer jumped right in and put her fertility front and centre stage.

She had to deal with major life-changing decisions she never thought she would have to face – all at the same time as coming to terms with having cancer!

It's a mind f*** – and it's something neither Lauren or I ever considered when we thought of cancer.

MORE FROM DEBORAH JAMES My vagina is shorter and one boob hurts… the truth about your sex life after cancer

What makes it harder is all cancers are different.

Lauren's is a hormone-driven disease, which means oestrogen makes it worse.

Like lots of breast cancers long-term survival and preventing recurrence can be achieved by blocking the key hormones that stimulate the cancer.

In Lauren's case that means shutting down her ovaries and tricking her body into not producing oestrogen anymore.

Yes, it will hopefully mean she lives – and that is absolutely the main thing!

But, it comes at a cost, one that can be very hard to process, especially at such a young age.

What happens if she wants kids? Does she turn her ovaries back on and risk her cancer coming back?.

She's had her eggs frozen, but knows it's not a guarantee.


Common symptoms include:

• hot flushes – short, sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest, which can make your skin red and sweaty

• night sweats – hot flushes that occur at night

• difficulty sleeping – this may make you feel tired and irritable during the day

• a reduced sex drive

• problems with memory and concentration

• vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex

• headaches

• mood changes, such as low mood or anxiety

• palpitations – heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable

• joint stiffness, aches and pains

• reduced muscle mass

• recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)


Lauren and I are at completely different ends of this spectrum, but the point is we all have different experiences.

Like sex and cancer, the most important thing is that we share them, so we know we're not alone.

When it comes to cancer, living and treating the disease is absolutely the number one goal for us all.

We'd all taking living over not, that goes without saying.

But as treatments get more advanced and more people (hopefully) live longer with cancer, it's vital to talk about the long-term side effects.

Kids or no kids, it's OK to feel angry, hurt and bitter at the affect cancer has on your fertility.

While you are happy to be alive, it's natural and OK to feel sad about the fact you might not have kids.

It's yet another part of life after cancer to face, the important bit is knowing you're not facing it on your own.


I asked my friend Olivia Rowlands, a fellow bowel cancer patient, to share her experience too…

My name is Olivia and at the age of 29 I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer.

I have just spent the last 10 months going through 12 weeks of chemo, five weeks of daily radiotherapy, having my eggs harvested and three major operations.

Why did I need my eggs harvested? Good question, because it never crossed my mind when I was told I had a tumour growing in my backside that I’d have any fertility issues!

Basically, the radiotherapy that I was about to start would ruin my uterus .

This meant I was told back in December when I was coming to terms with the cancer that I also had to deal with never carrying my husband and my baby. Heartbreaking.

But I had bigger issues to deal with – staying alive, and to be honest, it was actually a nice distraction from the cancer… we were starting to create our family.

Just a slightly different way to how we had originally planned!

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to try a new operation called ovary transposition.

They were going to try and move my ovaries slightly higher so that they weren’t zapped by the radiotherapy.

This would mean, that in the future I could still produce eggs, and continue to maintain my natural hormones to prevent me from going through early menopause.

Chemotherapy puts you into a state of clinical menopause, which often stops after six months.

I will find out in January if I’m going to continue going through menopause, or if it is just clinical menopause and these symptoms I am currently having are going to stop.

How do I feel about being infertile, and going through menopause at 30? That’s a difficult question.

I’m angry at the situation and I’m frustrated that it took two years for a diagnosis, cause if this was caught earlier, I wouldn’t be faced with menopause and infertility at 30.

The symptoms that menopause cause are not what you want at the start of your marriage, hot flushes and lack of sex drive (to name a few!).

You think after you’ve finished cancer treatment, that your lives go back to normal. That just isn’t the case.

The treatments stops, however, so does the support network you have from the medical teams, and it can be tough.

My new book F*** You Cancer is available to buy now – and gives a brutally honest view of what cancer is really like – buy it here now

Deborah's book F*** You Cancer is out now, and is available on Amazon

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