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Francine’s difficult but necessary choice

Monday 24 May, 2021


Francine was just 31 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She wasn’t ready to face her mortality – or sacrifice her fertility.

“I faced questions I never thought I would need to worry about at such a young age,”

said Francine

Although Francine has always lived a very healthy lifestyle, she was diagnosed with aggressive stage 3 ovarian cancer. She was rushed to have surgery the very next day to remove both her ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus.

“I lost so much. I lost my chance to have kids, my hair, my confidence, and part of who I was,” she said.

Today, Francine is so grateful that she is alive and enjoying life with her husband, Ian – six years since she was first diagnosed with cancer. Although she appreciates every new day, her life will never be the same. Francine may never be able to accomplish one of her biggest dreams – starting a family.

“People are just expected to appreciate that they are alive and well, which I definitely do. But people fail to acknowledge how long it actually takes to feel ‘normal’ again, and all the sacrifices you have to make to be able to be alive.”

“For a long time, I just decided not to talk about or think about it because it can be quite painful. It’s hard to imagine the sense of guilt I feel knowing that this is happening to us because of me – not because of my husband.”

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Although Francine had emergency surgery following her diagnosis, there was still time to store her ovarian tissue beforehand thanks to Dr Gook’s work. But sadly, for many patients, such as those with leukaemia and ovarian cancer, they cannot safely have their ovarian tissue implanted.

“Unfortunately, because there are other cases in the ovarian cancer community where they’ve reimplanted the tissue and the patient developed cancer again, it’s no longer an acceptable practice.”

“It’s really limiting because we not only needed to find a surrogate – because I don’t have a uterus as well – but we needed to find an egg donor.

“We were able to find a wonderful woman last year willing to donate her eggs to us. But this is still tough as I also lost the genetic link with the baby,” explained Francine.

“It is difficult to deal with old friends and colleagues at my career stage having families, while for us it is so much more complicated, and I don’t know whether it will ever be possible.”

That’s why Francine is so passionate about Dr Gook’s research and her determination to give control back to young women, girls and gender diverse people facing cancer.

“I think it’s essential that we have women like Dr Gook who are willing to push for the right of other women to have children and be fertile. We do need a champion to do this for us.”

Francine feels that being able to reimplant her ovarian tissue safely would mean so much to her.

“That would be really amazing. I think for me, it would be life-changing to be able to have the genetic link – even if I can’t carry the baby.”

Donate $1,000 to become part of the 101 Women Against Cancer giving circle. You’ll help fund one year of Dr Gook’s research that gives control back to young women and girls facing cancer.

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