7 April 2015
Like many young couples, after Charlie and Kirsty Chisholm got married in June 2010 they immediately started trying for a family.
But six months after coming off the birth control pill Kirsty, from Kirkliston, still hadn't managed to conceive so she went to see a doctor. Initially she was told she was stressed but later was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. It was not until nearly three-and-half years after her wedding, when Kirsty underwent an operation to have her ovary removed, that she was diagnosed with a rare type of ovarian cancer - granulosa cell tumour. However, despite being told that she will need to have a hysterectomy, on top of losing an ovary and undergoing chemotherapy treatment, the 30-year-old accountant hasn't given up on her dream of having a family.
‘We're still hoping to have a family with the help of my younger sister Karen who has agreed to be our surrogate,’ she says. ‘She’s amazing; it's the greatest gift anyone could ever give.’
Mother-of-two Karen, 29, says she wanted to help her sister and brother-in-law after the years of heartache and disappointment they had been through. ‘When Kirsty and Charlie asked me to be their surrogate, I knew the answer instantly. They deserve their own family and I feel privileged to be able to help them towards their dream.’
‘I’m so fortunate to know someone like Kirsty. She has been so strong and fought an amazing fight.’
The cancer diagnosis came about after Kirsty was referred to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for fertility treatment and a doctor noticed an abnormality in one of her ovaries. Following surgery to remove the ovary, the surgeon came personally to break the news to Kirsty and her husband Charlie.
‘We were shocked,’ she says. ‘Just hearing the word cancer, time stands still. We spent the rest of the day going around the family having to tell everyone. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.’
The cancer, which was classified as stage 2C, had also spread to the pelvis area and Kirsty was referred to an oncologist for chemotherapy.
‘The regime itself was tough - I lost my hair and had to be admitted to hospital on three separate occasions,’ says Kirsty, who had six sessions of chemotherapy at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. ‘All the while I was surrounded by my family and friends as well as the hospital and Macmillan Cancer Support. My close family wore bald caps as we celebrated with a head shaving party and the holistic therapists at Ward 1 were a huge comfort during my treatment’.
Before having chemotherapy though, Kirsty underwent an egg retrieval where five embryos were created.
‘Ever since we got married we wanted to have a family of our own,’ she says. ‘I think knowing I had my embryos waiting motivated me to get through the chemotherapy. It was like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.’
Three of these embryos have already been used but haven’t resulted in a pregnancy and with just two left, Kirsty is hoping to delay her hysterectomy and possibly risk retrieving more eggs.
‘My oncologist has advised that a pregnancy or the drugs involved in IVF could theoretically trigger the cancer again so we may have some impossible decisions to make,’ she says.
‘The last few years have just been really tough. We're at the age where everyone is settling down and getting on with their lives and we have felt like time had stopped for us. There are no words to describe how it feels to be absolutely delighted for someone but also completely devastated for yourself at the same time. It's an emotional battle.’
‘While we were undergoing the fertility treatment my husband's father was diagnosed with cancer and as he finished chemotherapy, I was diagnosed. It has just been such a roller coaster for everyone’.
The one thing that has helped Kirsty through her treatment, is reading other people's positive stories.
‘They inspired me and I hope that people will read my story and be equally inspired. I'm thankful that the fertility treatment led to the discovery of my cancer and that my treatment has been successful. I want to help others as much as I can by raising awareness. It's important to know the signs of ovarian cancer at any age. Life is for living and I intend to grab it with both hands!’