PUBLISHED ON: 27 March 2020

When Anikka was diagnosed, she worried about her fertility. However, she has since gone on to start a family, as well as a business that helps other women like her.

Anikka and her little boy

I was initially misdiagnosed

I was diagnosed in 2011 when I was 33. I didn't have a specific lump, but my left breast was swollen. All my life, I've always very breast aware as my mum died of breast cancer when I was young. I immediately went to my GP and got a referral, but was actually misdiagnosed for a few months and told it was mastitis.

It wasn't until I kept going back - as it kept getting bigger and bigger - and finally broke down in tears that I was given a biopsy and then told it was breast cancer. 

My immediate reaction was fear. I was terrified I was going to die. I felt that I was following in my mum's footsteps.

I was told I couldn't have children

Immediately, my life was turned upside down and my future became a big black question mark.

I had just moved with my husband to the countryside, as we'd only recently got married and had planned to start a family there. I knew nobody and felt very isolated. I didn't have children, so didn't have to worry about how they would cope, but I did worry about my sister and my husband. My sister found it very hard, as we are each other's only immediate family left. My husband also found it difficult watching me suffer as I went through treatment, but he is a very positive, upbeat man, and his attitude helped both of us.

The day following my diagnosis, I saw a fertility doctor to talk about fertility preservation. Unfortunately, following conversations with my oncologist and the fertility specialist, it was decided that delaying my treatment for a round of IVF to freeze embryos was too risky and I started chemotherapy three days later. This was another blow. 

I tried to stay positive and read lots of stories of people who went on to have children following their treatment. However, following my last chemotherapy, I went back to see the same specialist who ran a series of tests and told me that they indicated that I had been left infertile and that I would never be able to have children. I was devastated. 

I don't really know how I managed the news. I cried a lot. I had counselling. It was so hard as all of my friends were having children. 

My business helped me cope

Part of how I coped is by throwing myself into my business. 

The idea for the company came from when I was diagnosed, and my friends and family sent me bunch after bunch of flowers with messages of well-wishes. It was obviously wonderful knowing that I had so much support behind me. I was also sent flowers while I was in hospital that I never even got to see, as flowers are banned on most hospital wards. Later, my friends said they hadn't known what else to send. 

I realised that it's natural for people to want to send a little something to show they care, but at the time there was nowhere to buy appropriate gifts and cards for people going through serious illnesses. So I set about creating a site doing just that - notanotherbunchofflowers.com. I started with cancer care packages, gifts that are welcome in hospitals and general get well gifts, but quickly grew to include thoughtful gifts for all occasions from new mums to seasonal gifts.

Connecting with others also helped

I also coped by going on one of the London Younger Women Together courses. I had just started chemotherapy and was feeling scared and alone and overwhelmed. The course was the best thing I could have done. Connecting with other young women going through the same thing immediately made me feel less alone.

We cried, we laughed and we could talk openly about our worries and fears. The sessions were incredibly helpful too. I actually ended up transferring to the surgeon who led the seminar on reconstruction and to the consultant who led the seminar on infertility. The sessions were very informative and also quite reassuring. I have, and will continue to recommend the course to anyone else I know who gets diagnosed at a younger age. I know that some of my gift recipients have also gone as a result of my recommending the course and found it incredibly beneficial too.

I feel blessed

Then, three years after being told I couldn't have children, I got some news. Because of a complication due to my Tamoxifen, I ended up seeing a gynaecologist in London. She said that the tests I had following my chemotherapy wouldn't have been valid so soon after my treatment, so I took them again - and this time I was told that there actually was a chance that I could have children. 18 months later, I had my baby boy!

He has just turned three and makes my heart swell and makes me laugh every day. My husband and I feel so blessed.

At present, I am still taking Tamoxifen. I don't love it. I suffer from hot flushes, brain fog and weight gain, but I would never risk not taking it. I have to do all I can to be here for my little boy.

 

If you're concerned about your fertility, you can read our information on fertility, pregnancy and breast cancer treatment.

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