Age at interview: 34
Diagnosis: Medically-induced Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) (following borderline ovarian cancer treatment)
Age at diagnosis: 33
Background: Louise works on a casual basis in the retail sector. She lives with her partner and child in a regional town, and is from an Australian background.
About Louise: At 32, Louise had her right ovary surgically removed because of a borderline ovarian tumour. Cysts were found on her left ovary. Wanting a second child, she and her partner tried IVF, but Louise’s periods stopped and she began experiencing hot flushes. She was then diagnosed with premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) and her left ovary removed following changes to the cysts. Louise and her partner are now trying to have a baby with donated eggs.
More about Louise: When Louise was 32, she was diagnosed with a borderline tumour on her right ovary. She initially had the tumour removed, and then the entire ovary. At the time of the surgeries, cysts were discovered on her left ovary and she was told it ‘didn’t look healthy.’ Louise and her partner were advised that if they wanted a second child, they ‘didn’t have long.’ Unable to conceive ‘naturally,’ they decided to try IVF.
During this time, Louise’s periods had stopped, and she was experiencing hot flushes and feeling irritable. Confused as to what these symptoms meant, she recalled researching online if it was possible to have hot flushes during pregnancy. However it was not until Louise started IVF that she learned the reason for her symptoms and difficulties conceiving.
On the basis of blood tests (Anti-Mullerian Hormone and Follicle-Stimulating Hormone), and a lack of follicle growth after her first round of IVF medication, Louise was diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). An ultrasound then revealed ‘changes’ to the cyst on her left ovary and she was advised to have the entire ovary removed. Although it was ‘good to know’ that having her second ovary removed would reduce her risk of cancer, the diagnosis was also ‘gut wrenching,’ as Louise thought it meant she would not be able to have another baby.
However, Louise’s gynaecologist advised her that she would be a ‘good candidate’ for donor eggs. Louise and her partner decided to pursue this option and following her second oophorectomy found an egg donor. Their first embryo transfer ended in a miscarriage, but they are hopeful of success with another embryo.
Louise explained that because she was undergoing IVF again, her gynaecologist prescribed oestrogen-only Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) after her oophorectomy, and the fertility doctor increased the dose for the embryo transfer. HRT has helped reduce Louise’s hot flushes, as has cutting down on sugar and processed foods.
Reflecting on her experience, Louise said she wished there was more ‘scientific’ information about premature menopause after cancer and more support groups. She cautioned other women that sometimes you don’t get ‘the whole story’ from other people’s experiences in (un-moderated) online forums.
Experiencing cancer and premature menopause have shown Louise how ‘loved’ she is by her partner and how ‘caring’ her family and friends are. For Louise, the journey of premature menopause has been ‘connected’ with her experience of IVF and she said she has been mostly concerned about her fertility. For now, she is focused on trying to have another baby.