A CANCER sufferer has become the first in the country to undergo a unique operation that will allow her to have more children.
When Julie Johnston was diagnosed with cervical cancer, she feared surgery to remove lymph nodes would dash hopes of ever having a child with partner Paul Thorne.
But medics stepped in and offered to perform a type of laparoscopic, or keyhole surgery, never before tried in the UK, meaning she would not lose her womb or uterus.
Now the 25-year-old, of Kirklea Road, Houghton, has undergone a total laparoscopic radical trachelectomy to remove the pelvic lymph nodes and part of her cervix.
But the procedure, carried out at Gateshead’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, means she is able to have more children.
Recovering at home after the ssurgery, Julie, mum to Taylor, six, said: “I did want the option open to have more kids, which is why I chose to have this operation.
“There was the chance that the uterus would have to be taken, but it wasn’t and now I’m lucky I’ve got one.”
The procedure also means Julie’s chances of relapsing are significantly less.
She added: “The surgeon said to me ‘your chances of getting cancer are less than for a normal woman now’.”
Julie, who was diagnosed in June, wants to tell other women that being told you have cervical cancer doesn’t have to be the end of their lives.
“I want to raise awareness in young lasses that there are people out there who will help them,” said Julie.
Julie’s consultant gynaecological oncologist, Ali Mettin, said: “We believe this is the first case of this kind in the country.”
Because the success of the procedure Julie will now be able to have children with Paul, 24, something which she says they have discussed doing.
Julie’s daughter Taylor is now delighted to have her mum back home and well.
“Since I came back she’s been quite clingy but she has taken it quite well,” said Julie.
“I said before I had the operation that we might see a difference in her because it’s been a bit of a shock. She has coped well, though.”
Despite only just getting on the road to recovery, the former Houghton Kepier School pupil is eager to get back to work at The Golden Fry Inn fish and chip shop, in Herrington.
“I haven’t got full use of my bladder right now so I have to self-catheterise,” she said.
“I’ve started walking about a bit which is something I think I’ve got to do.
“Hopefully I will go back to work as soon as Taylor goes back to school.”
Julie, who also helps cares for her mum Rose, 55, who has had a stroke, as well as dad Michael, 56, who has Multiople Sclerosis, said she was grateful to her parents, and sister Claire, as well as brothers Michael, Terry and Paul for their support during her treatment. Julie thanked Mr Mettin, at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Gateshead, for his help as well as her specialist nurse Yvonne Anderson and Macmillan Cancer Nurses who have been with her throughout the process.
Mr Mettin added: “We are grateful to Julie because she accepted to be the first patient for this procedure.”