Just over a year after surgery saved her life but left her unable to give birth, Victoria Eames is taking her first extraordinary steps towards having a family.
A devastating cervical cancer diagnosis following a routine smear test turned the 33-year-old Castleford dancer’s life upside down in October 2014, prompting doctors to remove her womb to prevent the disease spreading two months later.
The hysterectomy appeared to have crushed any dreams of a family until best friend Jenah Colledge pledged to act as a surrogate for Victoria, who was able to keep her ovaries, and her partner James Lobley.
Following a year of regular check-ups that have confirmed she remains cancer-free, doctors have given the couple the go-ahead to start IVF treatment next week.
An embryo will be created from the couple and implanted into Jenah, who would hopefully then carry the baby and give birth before signing the child over to its biological parents.
Victoria, who runs the Leeds-based entertainment company Pastiche Europe, explained that the chance of having a family of her own is both moving and unnerving – given that there is only a one-in-four chance that the IVF will be a success.
“It’s a big day to start talking about it and it’s really exciting. It’s my birthday on the 27th so it’s a nice little early birthday present,” she said. “It’s about preparing yourself to think that it might not happen but it’s also amazing that I’ve got the opportunity to try.
“Jenah is an amazing friend and through everything she was always there on the phone and she still is.”
For Jenah, a 31-year-old student who worked with Victoria as a dancer, offering to help as a surrogate is her simply doing what a best friend should.
“I’ve noticed that a lot of people have said it’s a selfless act and my response is that I don’t understand how nobody else has offered,” she said. “To me it’s just a human thing, it’s not a big deal to me. She’s my best friend.”
The news that Victoria can go ahead with IVF comes after a traumatic 18 months for both Victoria and James, whose ability support his partner was hampered after he was involved in a car accident last year.
The hysterectomy had a huge impact on Victoria’s body, leading to months of physical recuperation while trying to come to terms with a six-letter diagnosis that threatened her life and still looms large.
Now back working hard to develop her entertainment company which sends dancers to events all over Europe, she feels that the shockwaves of her personal encounter with cervical cancer are yet to fully sink in.
She explained: “I think, to me, it’s still not hitting me the most and I’ve still got that to come.
“The whole thing of not being able to carry a baby is still to come. It’s going to be strange not being with Jenah when she’s pregnant but at the same time it’s my way of still having a family.”
Her partner James, who underwent surgery after being a passenger in a serious car accident last year, hopes that the IVF can spell the start of a positive future.
He said: “Since we realised we couldn’t have kids anymore it made us realise how lucky people are – you never know what you’ve lost until it’s gone.”
Taking emotional and physical hurdles in her stride has become the norm for Victoria ever since her diagnosis.
Just three months after her hysterectomy, she hosted the first Kind Hearts Give Back ball which raised more than £10,000 for charity last March.
Despite her upcoming IVF journey she is now organising her second annual ball at New Dock Hall on March 6. It will raise funds for Cancer Research UK, the Leeds Cancer Centre at St James’s Hospital where she was treated and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.
“Cancer opens your eyes to a lot of different things,” Victoria added. “I’m doing my fundraising because it would be selfish not to.
“For me it’s a way of dealing with what happened but if you can stop someone else hearing the words that I did then it’s all worthwhile.
“I didn’t have any symptoms, nothing, and I got another chance, so if we can do something that’s great.”
She continued: “I’m always saying take time for your health, you don’t know what’s around the corner. We’re living life to the full now.”
For further information on Victoria’s charity ball visit kindheartsgiveback.co.uk.