"When I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer I was scared about the implications for my fertility"

10 July 2017
Louise Temperley ovarian cancer story

Louise Temperley was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in August 2011. She shares her story and her journey to motherhood.

"I was 31 when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Following successful removal of the tumour and my left ovary, I was advised by my consultant at The Royal Marsden to have a hysterectomy, removal of the other ovary and chemotherapy.

I declined this because I wanted to preserve my fertility. In the following months I underwent a course of ovarian hyper-stimulation at The Chelsea and Westminster hospital, with a view to obtaining and freezing embryos for implantation after I had had removal of the other ovary, and chemotherapy. Six embryos were obtained and stored.

In March 2012, my consultant decided that as I was well, and still keen to preserve my fertility, she was happy not to pursue the option of chemotherapy. My husband Guy and I were advised to see if I could become pregnant naturally over the next few months.

By December 2012 I hadn’t achieved a pregnancy so we embarked on embryo transfer, which unfortunately was unsuccessful.

In March 2013, as I wasn't allowed any further ovarian stimulation, we decided to opt for cycles of intra uterine insemination. After the third cycle, we were delighted to find out that I had conceived. Our son Joseph was born on the 8th April 2014; my birthday.

Unfortunately in November 2014 I had a recurrence of my cancer. This was excised at the same time as removal of the right ovary and hysterectomy. In December 2014 I embarked on six cycles of chemotherapy, which I completed in May 2015. Since this time, I have been well.

My ovarian cancer diagnosis completely derailed what I had expected to be the natural course of my married life. Guy and I had been married the previous year and were excited about the prospect of starting a family.

At the time of my diagnosis I was a midwife at Kingston hospital in South London. I loved being a support to women through pregnancy and birth; it was something I couldn't wait to experience for myself.

When I first received news of my diagnosis I was scared about the implications for my fertility. In those early weeks, my poor husband had to endure many frustrating conversations with me on the subject of whether I was going to be able to have a baby. I think this was actually a defence my mind created in order to deflect my attention from the more important issue of whether I was going to die.

"As the months passed and I still wasn't pregnant, I became increasingly anxious prior to any clinic appointment"

Louise Temperley

I knew my consultant was keen to remove my other ovary and I was worried she was going to insist on this being done. I was hugely appreciative of the fact that my consultant, in her conversations with me concerning my fertility, seemed to be totally accepting of my right to make this decision about my body and my future.

I never felt at any stage that this negatively affected her caring attitude towards me. Of course it never should have done, but perhaps a less caring doctor might have found my attitude irritating as it went against their wisdom and carefully considered advice.

In the summer of 2013, Guy and I were both overjoyed and surprised when a body that I had slightly lost confidence in was able to create a new life. In so many ways, the creation of a new life, in a body that had wondered whether it was going to have much life of its own, was the most perfect antidote to all the worry and difficulty that had gone before.

The fact Joseph arrived on my birthday as a wonderful and miraculous present made us all feel that someone up there was looking after us.

I took him to The Royal Marsden when he was six weeks old to meet my consultant. We all just sat in a happy silence for what seemed like ages, looking at the medically unlikely baby there on my lap. 

Because I am a BRCA2 gene mutation carrier, I’m having a double mastectomy this autumn. It feels like the right thing to do because I am now a mother. Once I am recovered from this operation, Guy and I will start the adoption process as we would love Joseph to have a sibling.

I am so grateful I experienced pregnancy and birth, partly due to the willingness of my doctors at The Royal Marsden to sometimes go along with my wishes, rather than theirs. Having my own baby has been wonderful, but Guy and I feel really positive about having an adopted child who we will love just as much."

Questions surrounding fertility are very common in younger women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. You can find out more abut this, and many other important issues, in our updated A Younger Woman's Guide to Ovarian Cancer.