By Melissa Meehan
Imagine being told you had three months to fall pregnant before facing a lifetime of infertility.
That’s exactly the news Chirnside Park mum Kelly Egginton faced, with son Patrick just three months old in her arms.
Pregnancy had already been a bit of a rollercoaster for Kelly and husband Luke – they had spent more than 12 months trying to get pregnant with Patrick and had found out they were pregnant with him during a visit to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
It was only months earlier Kelly’s appendix had burst while she was at work, later finding out what caused it to burst was a mucus producing tumour.
Weeks later she received a phone call from the doctors saying she needed to see a gastroenterologist and would likely need chemotherapy at Peter Mac.
“I went to Peter Mac and they pretty much said I needed to have an operation and hypec (a type of chemo) to mop up any tumour cells that had gotten into my abdominal cavity,” Kelly said.
“And at the same time they would do a bowel resection to remove polyps found in my bowel during testing.
“That was pretty confronting.”
“It was big surgery and we had been trying to get pregnant with Patrick for over a year by then.”
So Kelly set about asking whether the chemo and operation would affect her chances of getting pregnant.
And luckily, they said she would likely be on the waiting list for a while and it was OK to keep trying.
By her next appointment at the cancer hospital – Kelly was pregnant.
Patrick was born the following May and Kelly was back at Peter Mac within six weeks of his birth.
They began all the pre-operation testing, including scans that picked up she had two tumour masses sitting near her liver.
“So that was added to the list of surgery,” she said.
Again, Kelly asked about whether the procedure would affect her growing family.
She and Luke had never discussed how many children they would have – but coming from big families they always thought it would be more than two.
They were sent to the Royal Womens’ Hospital IVF clinic armed with questions – and were told the type of chemotherapy Kelly would need could gravely affect their chances of becoming pregnant.
“They said the chemo could destroy, or affect my uterus and ovaries,” Kelly said.
“It might ruin my eggs, my uterus all of that, they couldn’t guarantee that it would 100% be fine.
“So we had to go back to Peter Mac and they gave me the OK to try again for three months to get pregnant – but it had to be with full on IVF.”
So with a newborn in tow, Kelly and Luke started their IVF journey.
They went straight into a stimulation cycle but Kelly got pretty sick from that through ovarian hyper stimulation, which meant they couldn’t do a transfer in the first month.
They were able to harvest 14 eggs, 10 of them fertilised and three made it to day four for freezing.
She had her first transfer on 9 October 2017 and received a positive pregnancy test soon after.
But her HCG levels didn’t rise high enough for doctors to be happy, so she stopped medication and had in effect a miscarriage.
So faced with her final month, and two attempts that were unsuccessful Kelly tried again.
“It was a fair bit of pressure. Early on I was thinking ’this is good for my babies to be further apart?’, but as we got to the last month I thought to myself ’I’ll go back to Peter Mac if it doesn’t work and ask for one more month’,” she said.
“The second time – it was upsetting, I was quite upset about it but I had a cry and moved on.”
Kelly had her third and final transfer in November and was successful.
Lara was born the following July and Kelly was back at Peter Mac six weeks after she was born.
So with two kids under two, Kelly and Luke started another journey – her treatment and recovery.
By September she was told there was no delaying the surgery and she would need to have treatment before the end of the year.
“It was confronting, even though I knew it was coming, I had this new baby in my arms and we were talking about major surgery,” she said.
“It was always in the back of my mind that I was not going to be able to care for them, play with them, change nappies, put them to bed … but we were able to go to a Wiggles concert before my surgery.”
The operation lasted almost five hours and Kelly was in hospital for eight days.
It was a success.
They didn’t find any other disease either, a relief for Kelly who had consented for them to take away any organs affected by the cancer cells.
“The recovery was pretty hard – the operation was on December 3, 2018 and I started to feel OK between Christmas and New Year,” she said.
“It was hard.”
But Kellly says she couldn’t have got through it without Luke.
“He was amazing. I only saw him once in the eight days I was in hospital and then I went back to hospital for another four days because of fluid around my lungs,” she said.
“I didn’t see the kids which was hard but I knew they were being well looked after by Luke so I wasn’t worried about them.”
Lara was still very young, but Patrick was a little clingy to Luke when Kelly returned home.
It took him a little while to warm to his mum again after Dad had been the sole carer for so long.
Almost six months on from her surgery, Kelly is fighting fit and has been given the all clear.
“It was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster – but its just part of my journey,” she said.
“I don’t feel too emotional about it – but I think having two kids sped up my recovery and that was great.”
For now Kelly will continue six-month check-ups at Peter Mac and hope the surgery and chemotherapy has done its job.