Real Life

I’m risking my life to be a mum

Brave Maryse Dinan (24) of Hamilton said no to further cancer treatment in the hope that one day she’ll hold her own baby in her arms. She tells her story to New Zealand Woman’s Weekly.

oy specialist smiled at me and said, “I think you’re one of the strongest people I’ve met.”

I didn’t feel all that strong – just relieved that I’d finally made the toughest decision of my life – choosing not to have radiotherapy to treat the rare form of cancer I’d been diagnosed with.

I had agonised for a week before making my choice. Saying yes to radiotherapy would bring on early menopause and end any chance I had of becoming a mother. Also, the treatment could only be used to fight the cancer once so I wanted to keep it in reserve in case the cancer ever returned.

Cancer was the last thing on my mind when I came off the Pill two years ago and began to have problems with my periods. First, they stopped for a couple of months and then, when they started again, they wouldn’t stop. I just bled and bled.

I was losing such huge amounts of blood, I was worn out. My doctor told me I needed to have a blood transfusion and the day I went to get blood for the first time, I arrived at the hospital in a terrible state. I was dizzy, my heart was racing and my face was white. I could hardly walk and felt like I was drunk.

Blood transfusions helped but something had to be done to fix whatever was causing the bleeding. An ultrasound showed a lump in my uterus so in April 2004, after four months of continuous bleeding, I had surgery.

The doctors told me I’d had a large fibroid – a muscular tumour that’s usually harmless. What I didn’t know at the time was that mine contained abnormal cells.

After the operation, I thought, “Great, no more bleeding. I can get on with my life.”

A couple of months later, I flew to Japan, where I planned to teach English for a few years. I did some travelling from there and, in April last year, I was on a trip to China when I started to feel unwell. I was breathless and had sharp pains in my left side.

When I got back to Japan, a lump was found. I was pretty freaked out but I thought it would be another fibroid. I decided to go home to Hamilton to get it seen to.

It was not good news. I had a large tumour, about 20cm by 12cm, on my left ovary. I was in shock.

oy dad had died of cancer two years earlier and I was terrified of the disease. I spent the next few days in bed, crying and trying to get my head around what was happening.

oy family was shocked. My mum, Mary-Therese, had already lost not only my dad but also my sister, who drowned eight years ago. I have seven brothers and it was hard telling them.

When the surgeon opened me up he found three tumours and removed them. I began to bleed heavily and the doctors couldn’t stop it. It was so bad I nearly died.

After giving me a big blood transfusion, the surgeon rang my mum and asked permission to take out my uterus. It was the only way they could stop the bleeding and save me. oum told them to do what they had to.

I was upset when I found out what had happened but my ovaries were left in place, thankfully.

The diagnosis was a rare cancer called leiomyosarcoma, which affects about four people in every million. The doctors were very puzzled as it usually affects women over 70 and, even then, is still very unusual.

Leiomyosarcoma is a very aggressive and dangerous cancer but my surgeon was confident he had got it in time. Radiotherapy was recommended in case any cancer cells were still around. But I was told radiotherapy would only decrease my chances of the cancer coming back by 15 percent and if the cancer did recur, I wouldn’t be able to have radiotherapy again.

I know by not having it now I am taking a risk but I want to have something in reserve in case I get ill again. Also, the radiation would make me infertile. My ovaries are still producing eggs so I still have the slim chance of having a baby using a surrogate. If I went through menopause I would have no chance.

It’s been a tough couple of years but I’m trying to stay positive. At the moment I’m full of energy – I’m working full time and having lots of fun.

I also know that many Kiwis gave blood to help me get through this so I want to say a big thank you to them. I don’t know what my future holds – but at least I’m here to find out. As told to Donna Fleming Photograph by Nicola Topping

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