A young hairdresser who dreamed of having a large family has spoken of the ‘impossible’ decision of choosing between her fertility and her life after a devastating cancer diagnosis.
Emma Evans, 28, signed forms agreeing to a hysterectomy after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
More than 75 per cent of her cervix was removed, making it extremely unlikely she will be able give her 13-year-old daughter Mya a little brother or sister.
Miss Evans, a hairdresser of Liverpool, who hopes shortly to qualify as a foster carer, says her experience has taught her to be brave when life presents heartbreaking choices.
She said: “Telling my loved ones that I needed a hysterectomy was a devastating experience. Everyone said that the choice should be an easy one to make – that it was obvious what I needed to do.
“I knew in my heart I had to make sure that Mya had a mum to look after her.
“At the same time, I’d always wanted several children, and to have to face the fact that I wouldn’t be able to was heartbreaking. I looked over the form for an hour, wondering what I should do.”
Miss Evans, who experienced a difficult upbringing, was determined to be an excellent mother when she fell pregnant at a young age.
She said: “I felt as if I was born for motherhood. Because of my background, I knew nothing was going to stop me being a good mum, and from a young age I knew I wanted lots of children.
“Mya’s father and I didn’t stay together, so I wanted to wait until I felt settled before thinking about children again, but I always knew I wanted more. Mya also started asking whether she could have a little brother or sister, and I kept telling her, ‘one day’.”
When she was 25, Miss Evans was invited to attend a routine smear test.
She said: “I was called back into hospital and then four days later I received a phone call asking me to come in the next day. I knew then that it was something serious.”
The first test had revealed that Miss Evans had severe dyskaryosis, prompting doctors to make further investigations. After a scan, doctors at the Royal Liverpool Hospital diagnosed her with cervical cancer.
She said: “It was a whirlwind. I was only 25 and I’d never been unwell before in my life. I didn’t feel poorly.
“I was sent to the Liverpool Women’s Hospital where I was given my options – hysterectomy, vaginal trachelectomy, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
“Although the doctors said they would try a radical trachelectomy, I was warned that a full hysterectomy would be the best option.”
Faced with the serious diagnosis, Miss Evans decided to agree to a hysterectomy in the hope that it would remove all the cancer.
She said: “It was a massive decision – the hardest that I’ve ever made in my life.
“I knew I had to be alive. I had to be there for Mya. But still, it took an hour of serious thinking before I signed the form agreeing to the hysterectomy. I saw the results of the MRI scan, laying out the facts of my cancer. That made me sign.
“The most devastating thing was telling the people I loved, and seeing their reactions. Some people said it was the obvious decision to make – that it was the only rational thing. But what hurt was that they didn’t know how tough a decision it is to make when you’re faced with it.
“Most of my other friends have got more than one child. To hear them tell me that I should accept life with just one child was difficult. It was a decision that I needed to make on my own, and it was a extremely tough one at that.”
Waking from the operation, Miss Evans was told in error that the surgeons had carried out the hysterectomy. Shortly afterwards she learned from an attending doctor that they had in fact been successful in carrying out a trachelectomy instead.
The procedure did not remove her womb, but still resulted in greatly decreasing her fertility.
She said: “The operation they cut away three quarters of my cervix.
“Now my cervix is full of scar tissue, which would make it impossible to conceive naturally. I don’t have proper periods, even though I had period pains. My fallopian tubes have swelled up, which also causes pain.
“As time’s gone on I’ve accepted that it is extremely unlikely that I’ll ever be able to have more children.”
The operation in October 2011 removed all the cancerous cells and Miss Evans is now in remission.
Since then she has attended regular check-ups and doctors have repeatedly recommended that she go through with the full hysterectomy to end the complications from surgery.
She said: “If I was told I had cancer again, I would do it, because I’ve got to protect Mya.
“But also, I know that having a hysterectomy would might cause me to slip into depression, which would be just as difficult for Mya to cope with, so I need to be careful about my decisions.”
Miss Evans hopes this to qualify as a foster carer this summer.
She said: “I grew up in the care system and I’m very close to my foster family now. I want to be able to support children in the same way I was supported.
“Mya is already looking forward to welcoming children to our home. She understands that I probably won’t be able to have more children, and she’s been very supportive. She’s extremely intelligent and aware, and she’s been brilliant throughout all of this.
“People ask me all the time, ‘do you want more children?’ Or ‘are you happy with one?’. Inside I plead them not to ask me. I can’t face the question. Outwardly, I seem fine, but inwardly the question is difficult to cope with.
“I’m proud of myself for coming through it. I don’t have any regrets about the decisions I’ve made – I was faced with an impossible situation, and I acted in the best interests of my daughter.
“It’s not been easy, but I’ve learned that although life is hard, it doesn’t have to knock you down for long. I don’t let my health challenges rule my life.”
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