By Tui Benjamin
A first-time mum left infertile by cancer didn’t have a period for SEVEN YEARS – but claims she was told by doctors this was normal.
Married mum-of-one Rebecca Ponton, 31, only had one period in the eight years after her son Cooper was born and failed to get pregnant again.
The retail assistant claims she visited her GP more than 10 times about her fertility problems but was told delays were normal and to keep trying.
But when Rebecca was eventually referred to a gynaecologist she was shocked to be diagnosed with uterus cancer and told she needed a hysterectomy – meaning she can never have another baby.
Rebecca, from Bayswater, Victoria, Australia, said: “12 months after Cooper was born we decided we wanted to try for another baby.
“For eight years I never had a period but every time I spoke to the doctors they just told me not to worry and said it was fine and to give it time because it would happen eventually.
“When it got to seven years I put my foot down and said ‘you really have to do something, there is something not right with my body’.
“I was referred to a gynaecologist and they told me I had blocked tubes and did an operation to unblock them – but instead I found out, aged 30, I had cancer of the uterus.
“One regret I have is not pushing the doctors much earlier to get it checked out. I went to my GP 10 times or more and I just believed them when they said everything was fine, even after so long.
“But we had been looking at having a baby through IVF and doctors told me this could have spread the cancer and resulted in my death.
“There are so many women out there that don’t get the chance to have a baby at all and we are very grateful we did have the chance to have Cooper.
“But I had always wanted a second child, so to have that dream shattered was hard.”
Rebecca and labourer husband Matt Ponton, 31, decided to start trying for another baby 12 months after eight-year-old son Cooper was born in 2009.
The retail assistant had never had regular periods since she first started them age 14 due to having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) but in the eight years after her son’s birth only had one single period lasting two days.
Rebecca claims she visited her GP surgery 10 times while she was trying to get pregnant before eventually being referred to a gynaecologist in Melbourne in early 2016.
There she underwent a routine operation to unblock her tubes – but instead, in August last year, she was diagnosed with stage one uterine cancer.
Rebecca was put on medication but this gave her severe side effects such as bleeding and abdominal pain so the only option was to undergo a full hysterectomy in February this year.
The 31-year-old doesn’t know how long she had the cancer for but doctors told the IVF she had been considering wasn’t an option as this could have caused it to spread rapidly.
Now the only chance of a brother or sister for Cooper for Rebecca and Matt is surrogacy, which is costly and legally difficult in Australia.
Rebecca said: “Ever since I started getting periods they were never regular. I was always told this was due to my PCOS.
“But from when I fell pregnant with Cooper I only had one period in those eight years.
“I felt like I really had to push to get a referral, but how long do you wait?”
Rebecca is now sharing her story as she does not want other women to go through the same experience and said they should push their doctors if something doesn’t feel right.
The mum-of-one said while she is grateful she had the chance to have Cooper she is heartbroken she will never be able to have another baby.
Rebecca said: “I am grateful I have my son; millions of women do not get that opportunity and we are happy the way we are.
“But if someone had listened to me all those years ago maybe something could have been done earlier and it is still really hard to think about the fact I could have had the chance to have another baby.
“Some days my son still asks me ‘when am I going to have a brother or sister’ but he has started to realise now that won’t happen.
“I think if after 18 months of trying you are not getting pregnant push to get checked out – do not wait as long as I did.
“Don’t listen if doctors tell you to ‘give it a bit more time’ – that bit more time could turn into cancer.”
Rebecca and 26-year-old sister Lauren Van Der Ven, from Rowville, Victoria, won a $25,000 AUD holiday to Wavi Island in Fiji after judges were touched by Rebecca’s cancer battle.
The sisters, who also lost dad Marty to lung cancer in January this year, are jetting off later this month for what will be Rebecca’s first trip outside Australia.
Lauren said: “My sister deserves a holiday like this – in the past 18 months we have gone through an unimaginable amount of chaos and destruction.
“A holiday of this magnitude is what our family needs to end the trail of loss we’ve been through.”
A spokesman for Bairnsdale Medical Group, Rebecca’s GP surgery, said: “Unfortunately the practice is not able to provide comment as this would compromise patient confidentiality.”
Lauren and Rebecca also received 10 tickets to win a custom Fiji villa. For more information on how to enter the raffle go to www.winafijivilla.com.
FACT BOX: WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF UTERINE CANCER? (FROM CANCER COUNCIL VICTORIA)
– The most common symptom of cancer of the uterus is unusual vaginal bleeding.
– Some women also experience smelly, watery discharge and other symptoms include abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss or difficulty urinating.
– The exact cause of uterine cancer is unknown but factors such as being over 50, being postmenopausal, never having children, starting periods early or reaching menopause late can all increase a woman’s risk of developing it.