Tay Shaw with her baby

It still feels like it happened to another person

Name: Tay Shaw
Date of diagnosis: January 2021
Ovarian cancer stage/type: Stage 1 Germ Cell Carcinoma

I am: the mother of an 18 month old girl, I was at the time of diagnosis the Sales & Marketing Manager for one of the biggest Women’s footwear wholesalers/distributors in New Zealand. I have since started my own online baby Boutique Mimi & Beau and am also doing postgrad with the goal of being a psychologist.

The cancer was found when: We were living between Auckland and Christchurch and I was having a lot of pain so going to after hours a lot. After further testing they found what they thought was a cyst, I was referred and later booked in for keyhole surgery to remove it due to the size. The cyst unfortunately turned out to be malignant.

It’s a very visceral experience to come home from the doctors with a cancer diagnosis and see your one year old playing without a care in the world. To see all of the moments you potentially won’t be around for flash before your eyes.

I’ve never felt so blessed and guilty simultaneously. To go through treatment with other people and see them suffer, to see family and friends lose their battles while I was getting better. It was a horrible feeling. I felt like because I was only stage 1 and was having a ‘positive’ response to chemo that I shouldnt share my journey because it was nothing in comparison to others. I regret that I didn’t document it more the good and the bad. Even just for myself. I carried on like normal but with more flower and meal prep photos. Living a mostly normal life 3 and a half days a week.

There were a lot of small but life changing moments, I didn’t end up getting my eggs frozen for a multitude of reasons all of which seem stupid now. It’s interesting because I was always happy with one child, but I would have liked the option.

My partner refused to accept I was sick he would always say you don’t have cancer, you’re fine, let’s go do this or that. That was his way of coping. On one hand that was great because I was so busy being busy that I didn’t wallow in my illness as I mentally and physically did not have any energy to do so. I didn’t really even think about it except for the day after treatment which originally would be spent curled up on the bathroom floor and later in my bed barely moving once they got the anti nausea medication right. I don’t think I’ve ever been so physically or mentally exhausted. I do wish in hindsight that I was able to take the time I desperately needed just to take care of myself and rest.

I still don’t think I’ve come to terms with the fact that I had cancer and that it will be something I have to deal with for a long time. Regular checkups are becoming the norm , and the sensation of being frozen in time whilst waiting for results is resoundingly familiar.

I kept waiting for it to hit me the operation, the chemo, patches of my hair falling out but it still feels like it happened to another person. All I know is that whatever obstacles I’ll face, I’ll overcome them.

How your donations would impact me: I was blessed in the fact that my cancer was found at stage 1 unlike many other women who receive a late stage diagnosis. I am a big googler and was astounded at the lack of research and information available to New Zealand women with the information predominantly being from US sources and not always applying the NZ health system.

Even with the minimal amount of information from New Zealand sources available there is a lack of information on different ovarian cancer types like germ cell carcinoma which I had and is more uncommon generally but most common in those under 30. Better resources and research would be hugely impactful for everyone experiencing ovarian cancer in NZ.

What I would say to someone else going through this: Take care of yourself, put your health first and don’t let anyone pressure you to fast track your recovery. If you’re a Mum, definitely make a plan as soon as possible with who’s going to help with pick ups etc and find a good babysitter who can be available at late notice if needed.