My Two-Time Battle with Breast Cancer and Forced Menopause
By Kaz Foncette
I never thought that I’d be forced into menopause twice before the age of 34.
I always thought that by the time I hit a certain age, I would be ready to have kids and would ultimately be in control of every single aspect of my life: planning my career, buying my first home, and booking my next beach holiday.
But life had other plans for me: Breast cancer. Not once, but twice.
I was first diagnosed with Breast Cancer when I was 31, back in 2017. I had just celebrated my birthday and threw an awesome house party to celebrate, but I remember feeling constantly tired that night. To be honest, I felt tired for the better part of a year prior, and It was exactly 8 weeks after blowing out those epic candles surrounded by the people I love that I got the news that would change my life forever.
I was diagnosed with a hormone negative cancer. That meant that I was able to have fertility treatment to freeze my future children. It sounds mad saying it like that, but I did it and I’m grateful that I was able to have the peace of mind of freezing my embryos prior to starting chemotherapy.
I’ll probably never know how much chemo affected my eggs and reproductive system, but according to my oncologists, the monthly injection they would have to administer to me alongside chemo would preserve my fertility by only 25%, so I chose to preserve my fertility ahead of time.
The next few months were filled with endless nights of sleep deprivation, constant hot flashes. weight gain, and forgetfulness. Before I knew it, 7 months had passed and the last injection had run its course. Then, it was time to wait for a period.
It was approximately 6 months later that a spec of blood appeared on my underwear. I was happy. I was shocked. I was happy because I knew my body was trying to get back to normal and shocked because it meant that I could possibly be a mom without needing any clinical help in the future.
All those years of painful crippling periods and moments of hoping they’d stop altogether seemed ridiculous now. I wanted to have a period so desperately that I appreciated every bit of cramps or bloatedness I was feeling.
I went into remission in September of 2018, and I finally began trying to piece my life together—my life as an individual and my life as a married woman. I went back to work, cultivated my new love for writing. Whatever challenges the world wanted to throw at me, I was ready to face them. But not cancer again.
In January of 2019, a few weeks after telling the world it was the start of a brand new beautiful year, my worst nightmare came true: my cancer had returned. I was broken. I was devastated. I was scared. Processing it this a second time was even harder than the first.
I was told once again that my fertility would be compromised and that chemo was in the cards, along with that monthly injection that would force me into yet another early menopause.
I had to be ready, ready to face the fact that having chemo again within two years of the last would potentially wipe out any hopes of natural conception. How do you prepare for that type of news?
Coming from a Turkish Cypriot family, kids are an extremely common conversation amongst women. No matter who you are, no conversation is off-limits. Women will ask and pester you about when you are having kids, because “that’s what marriage is all about.” They will tell you once you’re cured of cancer that you should consider having kids as soon as possible as if you haven’t suffered any trauma at all.
People assume that your body and mind bounce back right away, but the truth is, they don’t. They assume your life will pick up right where you left off and that somehow you will immediately be ready for kids, just because you’re a woman.
I am still in the midst of chemo now, stuck in forced menopause and have just reached over the halfway mark of treatment. I’m sweating as I write this, and having a window open for the better part of every day isn’t fun, but I’m pushing through the heat.
I know that I will come out of menopause yet again, but I don’t know what life has planned for me, or when or if a period will ever come back again.
I live my life on a day-to-day basis now. I’ve learned to accept that. I don’t plan anything further than a week out, and I no longer give in to the pressure of what society tells us life should be about or what sequence it should be in. Right now, I’m just focused on surviving and hoping for the best.
Kaz Foncette is passionate about changing the conversation surrounding cancer and helping women like herself who are living with cancer. Kaz is the founder of Wigs For Heroes, a charity that offers women on low incomes (who are receiving cancer care at North Middlesex University Hospital in the UK) grants for wigs. Kaz began Wigs For Heroes in June 2017, a month after being diagnosed with breast cancer aged 31 and after she had been told that a free wig was not available to her. You can find her on Instagram here.