I lift the phone and call my mum. This is her first day back to work after my treatment. Its only two days since I had my end of chemo party and now this! My mum answers her phone and I relay the conversation I have just had with Dr McIlhenny. She says two simple words "oh sh*t".
I've made my way to the hospital, it's all so familiar by now. I go through a silent checklist in my head. Depressing waiting room- check, same Ulster Tatler magazine I've read possibly five times- check, mum and Keith are here- check, sick feeling in my stomach- check, sweaty hands- check, well I'm sure you get the idea!
I'm called into Dr McIlhenny's office, she explains that my recent blood test shows a dramatic increase in my CA125 level's (the markers they use from your blood to check if anything sinister is happening). She wants to perform a simple internal scan to see if she can spot any tumours etc.
So off I go behind the screen and strip from my waist down, I wrap myself in the familiar flowery sheet. I never know if I should keep my socks on, I suppose they look a bit silly, a bit like men leaving their socks on in bed, oh well, I decide to keep them on for luck.
I jump up on the bed and put my feet into the usual stirrups, I have asked my mum and Keith to wait outside, there are some positions I don't want my mum to see me in and this is one of them. I strain my neck to see the screen as the scan begins, I have no idea what I'm looking for- Oh my god, I think I have just seen something, it's definitely a tumour, I put my hand over my mouth and gasp, I'm writing my will in my head, picking my coffin- Dr McIlhenny looks at me quizzically, "I've seen it" I say, "it's another tumour isn't it"?? "Ciara, pet, that's your ovary" she replies!!
Ok, maybe it's better if I just close my eyes and think of England.
After the scan has finished I get dressed again and the nurse calls mum and Keith back in. "Ciara, I can't see anything in your scan", I'm relieved for a split second until she follows it with, "but taking into account what happened with your breast cancer I am not prepared to take the chance, your breast cancer didn't show up in the MRI scan, I don't want the same thing to happen here, I want to admit you for a radical hysterectomy".
Well I wasn't expecting that! Ok so I knew after I had Poppy I wanted another baby, however my consultant advised me not to have my eggs frozen before I had my chemo as it would postpone the beginning of my treatment. I decided to leave it to chance, I was young when I had my chemo and my consultant was hopeful that my body would make a full recovery. I even had my periods whilst going through my treatment so I also felt that another baby would be an option, but my bubble has just been well and truly burst. In my head I am gutted, but the worst thought for me, worse than no more babies is having more chemotherapy.
My decision is pretty much made on the spot, if a radical hysterectomy is what I have to do to keep myself well then I will do it.
I am scheduled for my surgery in January, I am dreading it. I have spent Christmas celebrating with friends and family, the fact that I am still here feels amazing but I also feel pretty bitter at the hand I have been dealt.
As soon as I was told about my hysterectomy I rang my sister-in-law Jenny, who is also one of my closest friends. Jenny and my brother had two kids at the time but she was booked in to be sterilised. She comforted me by saying "Ciara we both have two kids, we weren't meant to have any more, at least we can be not pregnant together", we laughed about the fact we could drink copious amounts of wine etc.
Ciara with Poppy after the operation.
Ciara with Jake after the operation.
Three weeks later Jenny goes for her hospital appointment - She tells me she is having her scan when her consultant tells her that they cannot sterilise her as she is four months pregnant. Bless her she is so upset, she keeps apologising but I am only delighted for her.
I have been admitted to a plastic surgery ward as the gynae ward has no beds available. I am in a bay of 8 people, my idea of hell. These people are in for minor ops and I am here to have my ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix and womb removed. I try not to make eye contact with any other patients; I am not in any form to make small talk. I am told that I will be first on the list in the morning so will probably be in theatre at 8am. The nurse kindly gives me a sleeping tablet and I drift off.
I am woken at 6am for pre-meds and then doze back over. By the time the porters come to take me to theatre I am pretty out of it. Mind you I still manage to cry the second I see Dr McIlhenny in theatre. I break down and tell her I can't believe I am going to do this, it's all so final. She is so patient with me and tells me if I have any doubts I don't have to do this, but I tell her my mind is made up. So off I go to sleep.............
I have woken to the most extreme pain I have ever felt. I have been cut nearly hip to hip, and can barely move a muscle. It doesn't help that I am allergic to certain painkillers and refuse to take morphine as it makes me so sick; I am basically braving the pain on a paracetamol drip.
Anytime someone comes to visit me I burst into tears, I even think the nurses are unsure how to take me, they probably think I am some sort of escaped mental patient, each time they ask me if I need anything I break down, they are used to dealing with people having moles removed not hysterical women so they pretty quickly get me a space in the gynae ward which I am so thankful for.
In the Neely ward it is all women, most are in the same boat. The nurses are amazing here; I immediately feel at ease, these nurses don't bat an eyelid when I cry.
My recovery is slow from this operation; I am in hospital for 5 days. I'm glad to get back home to the kids but am able to do very little except worry about my pathology results and hope there are no surprises in store this time.
I have spent the past two weeks imagining getting my results, I have prepared myself for more chemo, knowing my luck it's going to happen. My friend is round when my mobile rings, Dr McIlhenny starts to talk to me, my friend is looking on eagerly for some hint of what is being said, I break down in tears and sob until I can barely speak, my friend looks at me with pity in her eyes and mouths at me "you will get through this", she in fact does not realise that Dr McIlhenny has just told me there was no trace of cancer in any of the pieces that they removed, she has just told me that I will not have to have any more chemo or treatment and the words that I always wanted to hear are being said......
This is the first time in my life and probably the last I will ever buy a bottle of Bollinger. I have friends and family round that night and we all celebrate.
Ciara & her kids as they are today
So there it is; my story and my journey with cancer. It has been a very challenging experience but I have got through it. I have had numerous correction and reconstruction surgeries since then and am scheduled in for more. Obviously the most positive thing coming out of my cancer experience is now my job.
I design and make headscarves and headwear for people going through chemotherapy. I have my own website www.headscarvesbyciara.co.uk and also see people via appointment.
I have met and will continue to meet some amazing people through my job and I truly love what I do. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my story with so many people and have been delighted by the amount of people who have been following my blog so far.
Every comment that people post is greatly appreciated. I still have many stories to tell about my experience but from next week I am going to start to cover topics related to cancer. In these blogs I hope to provide you with useful hints and tips for people going through cancer treatment. My topic for next week will be the dreaded hair loss.
If anyone has any questions to ask or anything they would like me to cover please leave a comment below.
If you would like to contact me directly please indicate this in your comment and it will be passed on to me and not published on the site.