EMW11 (Naomi)

Name: Naomi
Age at interview: 35
Diagnosis: Medically-induced Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) (following borderline ovarian cancer treatment)
Age at diagnosis: 32

Background: Naomi lives in a regional town and works full-time in a family business. She identifies as Australian.

About Naomi: Naomi was first diagnosed with low grade borderline ovarian cancer at age 24. Her cancer returned twice after her initial ovarian surgery and she had two more surgeries over the next eight years, resulting in removal of both ovaries. Naomi’s menopausal symptoms have included hot flushes and night sweats, but she has found them manageable. Not being able to have children has been emotionally difficult, but Naomi now feels ‘more comfortable’ about this.

More about Naomi: Naomi was first diagnosed with low grade borderline ovarian cancer when she was 24. She underwent a first surgery and had one ovary removed, but her cancer returned when she was 29 and again at 32. Naomi had two more surgeries with the most recent one involving the complete removal of her second ovary.

After her initial diagnosis, Naomi was prescribed the oral contraceptive pill, as it was thought at the time that this would reduce the risk of her cancer recurring. However after the third occurrence, Naomi was told that her cancer was hormone sensitive and was advised to stop taking the pill. Looking back, she recalls her menopausal symptoms beginning before the third cancer diagnosis, despite her taking the pill.

Naomi’s symptoms have included hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. While ‘worse in summer,’ her hot flushes and night sweats have been ‘nothing totally unbearable’ and she now experiences them ‘very occasionally.’ To protect herself against the long-term health risks of early menopause, such as cardiovascular issues and osteoporosis, Naomi practices clinical pilates, takes a vitamin D supplement, and monitors her diet.

For Naomi, loss of fertility has been the ‘hardest part’ of ovarian cancer and early menopause as she had ‘always imagined’ having children. She explained that she was deeply affected emotionally after her initial diagnosis. Naomi felt as though ‘part of [her] womanhood’ had been ‘removed’ following her surgery, and avoided dating for several years. She still finds dating difficult because she is menopausal, cannot have children, and has ‘this cancer … that keeps coming back all the time.’ However Naomi is now thinking about other options for becoming a parent, such as surrogacy or adoption.

Naomi described her family as ‘really good and supportive,’ particularly her sister, with whom she can talk openly about the emotional impact of cancer and early menopause. She also works in a family business which has allowed her to return to work slowly and has been a ‘lifesaver’ in terms of financial security.

Seeing friends who are getting married and having children reminds Naomi of ‘something that hurts’ and has made her ‘withdraw a little bit’ socially. However, she is enjoying new friendships with some older women. Naomi described herself as an optimist, and although she is uncertain about her long-term health, feels ‘fairly positive’ about the future.