It has taken me a long time to sit down and try to put this story into words. There are so many reason why I have avoided writing this post. Firstly I have absolutely zero medical experience just my own journey.Which made me a little nervous about sharing medical information.
Secondly this story, while a part of my life and something the made me stronger, I kinda want to forget some of it.
Finally, I actually didn’t know how I was going to document this story. How was I going to detail what happened and not over complicate things? There is just so much to tell!
However, overtime even though I convinced myself that there was no point in writing this post, one thing rang true, this is a story that needs to be told. Not because it is Sinéad from The Beautiful Truth’s story, but because there is actually very little information online about having a baby after Thyroid cancer and an incompetent cervix! This is 100% not a woe is me story. This is a story of hope!
I suppose I will start with the easy part of this story.
In 2013, after feeling unwell for about 18 months and going through test after test, I found myself sat in a doctor’s office hearing the word cancer and my name in the same sentence. At 31 I received the diagnosis of a follicular carcinoma on my thyroid. I knew I was sick, but cancer? I was someone who ate reasonably well. I rarely drank and I was also relatively fit. Yet cancer is the great equalizer. It doesn’t care about your age, skin colour or personal situation. It hits you out of the blue and changes your life completely.
Thankfully my cancer story is one with a happy ending and after a complete thyroidectomy, Radio active iodine treatment and a little bit of TLC, I was given the all clear. However, even though I was cancer free, there was always one more question left lingering. Would I ever be able to have a baby?
For those of you that don’t know, the thyroid is a gland that lives just at the base of your neck, above where an Adam’s apple would be. The thyroid basically produces the hormones that regulate your metabolism, your heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development and bone maintenance. ( This description is from yourhormones.info). Basically the thyroid is a big deal and when it’s not right, it throws your whole body off kilter.
Following the removal of my thyroid, my endocrinologist, managed to get my blood levels correct very quickly. I got my energy back within a few months and I lost weight fairly regularly. However, my periods were never right. They were unpredictable at best. While it was not something I ever spoke about, this worried me, as how would I ever get pregnant if I didn’t have any rhyme of rhythm to my cycle. On top of that, a lot of reading online suggested that getting pregnant and carrying a baby to term after having your thyroid removed was extremely difficult. The rate of miscarriage was high.
To make a long story short, I asked my endocrinologist if there was anything I could do to improve my chances of getting pregnant. His words: ” Don’t over think things. Forget the science and just enjoy yourself!” We were pregnant not long after that!
If you’ve a thyroid problem or in fact no thyroid at all. Avoid the negativity that surrounds getting pregnant. Unfortunately people are more likely to share their sad stories online , than their happy ones. Since getting pregnant, i have heard of so many women surviving thyroid cancer and having large families with no issues at all.
So this part of my story first dates back to 2006 when after years of irregular cin 1 smear tests, I finally went for a colposcopy. My colposcopy found a number of pre cancer cells in my cervix. This is a common enough occurrence in women and while harmless enough, if left untreated they are likely to develop into full-blown cancer cells. The course of action for pre cancer cells in your cervix is a lletz procedure.
My first lletz procedure was completed in October 2006 under local anaesthetic. My consultant removed the area of my cervix that contained the pre cancer cells. Having one lletz is quite common and once you’re discharged, I was told there was nothing to worry about and just to make sure to get regular smears.
Fast forward to 2010 and one of my routine smears brought a borderline CIN2 result. After another colposcopy, there was a considerable amount of pre cancer cells discovered. This time I would have to go under general anaesthetic to have even more of my cervix removed. While not completely uncommon, a second lletz procedure was a little rarer, as one lletz usually does the job.
Following this operation, my consultant told me that if I was to get pregnant in the future, I would more than likely have to have a stitch placed in my cervix, so that I could carry a baby to term. At the time a baby was the furthest thing from my mind, so I parked that little bit of information until the time came that I needed it.
With the news of my pregnancy came my first visit with my consultant. I was a high risk case from the very beginning. Controlling your thyroid levels during pregnancy is very important. I am not sure of the ins and outs but I do know that I was at a slightly higher risk than normal. When I threw in the nugget of two lletz, my consultant decided, rather than chance it, he wanted to apply a stitch to my cervix. My cervix was too weak to hold tight on it’s own and would more than likely need a cervical stitch. Again a cervical stitch it commin, but many women have to suffer miscarriage before a doctor will make this decision to apply one.
I was told that for my procedure to take place, I would have to go under general anaesthetic at 12 weeks pregnant . Once under anaesthetic, my consultant would inspect the length of my cervix and see if I was a candidate for a cervical stitch. Basically this meant he would put a little stitch near the bottom of my cervix that would keep it shut and stop me from losing the baby. Then when it comes nearer to my delivery date, the stitch would be snipped and I would go forward with a regular vaginal delivery. Unfortunately on inspection, my doctor discovered that I had very little cervix due to the extent of my second lletz and there was no way a stitch would hold tight until the end of my pregnancy. So plan b was implemented.
Plan b was what was known as a transabdominal cerclage. Basically, my surgeon cut me along the area of where a c section incision would be made. While a c section incision is about the length of your index finger, a TAC incision was hip to hip. The surgeon made such a large incision, as they needed to gently move the baby in the womb aside and place a tie or stitch at the very top of the cervix. This closes the cervix so that the baby can’t go anywhere.
I won’t go into too many details, but it was a difficult time. As I was pregnant the pain medication I could take was very limited and it took a good 6 weeks to recover. ( If you’re going through the same operation and want more details, please feel free to email me)
Thankfully my cervix held tight for the duration of my pregnancy. However, during my recovery I had a slight tear in my placenta. Basically a small part of the placenta tore away from the side of the womb. Why am I telling you this? The reason I am telling you this is because when you search partial placenta abruption all you see is bad news. I searched and searched in complete distress and couldn’t find a glimmer of hope. But there is hope. My doctor put me on bedrest for a few weeks and the small tear healed itself and was no longer an issue.
After a cancer diagnosis, a very invasive operation at 12 weeks pregnant, a partial placental abruption, 3 bleeds and a few scares, a very healthy baby was born on July 14th 2016 through c section. As I have a TAC (abdominal stitch) I won’t ever be able to have a vaginal birth and if I am honest, I am fine with that! I’ve seen one born every minute!
Since July my world has turned upside down in the best way possible. People tell you that you will be over come with love the second the baby is born and yes, you do feel love when they place the baby in your arms. However, nothing can prepare you for the love that follows. Each day you fall more and more in love with this tiny human. I can honestly say I have never been happier.
My TAC is still in place and will be until I decide that my last baby is my last. Then, once the baby has been removed by C-section, they will simply cut the stitch and that’s that.
I know this is a long story and I am sure there are many wondering why I told it? Google is full of bad news stories, it is so hard when you’re in the middle of a health problem to find a good news story. I hope that putting my story out there in cyberspace, that in the middle of the night, when women are frantically googling for information to help ease their fears , that they will find my story and know, that sometimes, there really can be happy endings.