TAKING a deep breath, model Rhian Sugden lay back excited on the hospital bed.
After a gruelling 17 days of hormone injections to stimulate her ovaries, the 33-year-old was waiting for her eggs to be removed as part of her IVF treatment.
It had been a painful journey for Rhian, who is married to ex-Corrie actor Oliver Mellor, 38, since learning earlier in the year she is unlikely to conceive naturally.
But Rhian was soon to be hit with another devastating blow.
She said: “When the nurse scanned my ovaries she found the eggs had stopped growing and had actually started to shrink. Just like that, the IVF cycle was cancelled.
“I was devastated and so frustrated I started to cry. All the stress, pain and hope Oliver and I had been through for the past three weeks had been for nothing.
“I’ve been trying to tell myself that we can go again, and this simply wasn’t our time, but it’s an emotional rollercoaster.”
One of the country’s top Page 3 girls for over a decade, Rhian had dreamed of settling down and having three children with Oliver. But after almost three years of trying for a baby, tests in April revealed her egg count was desperately low.
Doctors gave the couple just a two per cent chance of success with IVF. But they decided to go ahead, starting their attempt in September.
Rhian said: “When we first got the news that we had to have IVF I was in denial. Right up to getting my first hormone injection I was saying to Oliver to stop and wait as I didn’t want to believe this is what we had to do.”
Before embarking on the process, the couple celebrated their first wedding anniversary in Kalkan, Turkey, a year after they got married there.
Rhian said: “We had friends and family with us and had a brilliant time, but I got my period the day we were leaving and I knew that meant we had to start IVF as soon as we got home.
“We got the drugs delivered before we left and my fridge and kitchen cupboards are full of vials, needles, syringes and hormones. We landed at Manchester Airport at 3am and by 7am we were in the hospital for a tutorial on how Oliver should inject me.”
The couple’s first IVF attempt was funded by the NHS, but as no egg retrieval took place it was not classed as a full cycle. A second attempt next month will also be on the NHS. But if that fails then further cycles will set them back between £8,000 to £10,000 each time.
Rhian said: “I’ve done everything possible to make this a success, which makes it doubly frustrating. I’ve had acupuncture, biomagnetic therapy, I’ve seen a naturopath and taken so many vitamins and supplements.
“I’ve spent hours Googling and posting in internet forums to see what I should be eating and I’ve switched to a high-protein diet. I was warned the fertility drugs can cause mood swings and other side effects, but I wasn’t prepared for how much it would affect me.
“It made me go bats**t crazy. I felt furious all the time and I was dreadful in traffic. I could feel myself raging at other drivers.
“I would burst into tears at nothing. Even Oliver telling me one of my friends was coming over for a cup of tea put me into floods of tears. The thought of going through it all again makes me feel sick with dread.”
Rhian has set up Instagram account @rhiansovaryaction and blog storminanecup.com where she has been documenting her journey.
She says: “I found every conversation Oliver and I had would be dominated by it — he was the only person I could offload to. I didn’t want us to lose the spark in our marriage so I set up the Instagram account and blog as a place for me to share what I was feeling, and it’s been amazing.
“IVF can be a very lonely place. Lots of friends have got pregnant and they worry about telling me and how I’ll react.
“But this has made me feel less alone and part of a community of women who are all supporting and helping each other.” With Oliver away working for the pantomime season, Rhian is facing a second round of IVF alone.
She says: “Oliver’s been amazing and he really wants to be a part of it. He did all my injections the first time, he would make me a ginger shot every morning which is supposed to keep energy levels up and he put up with my mood swings without any complaint. I hate needles and I’m dreading injecting myself twice a day.
“When I feel really down I think perhaps we should just accept we can’t have kids and give up. But I pick myself up again and try to stay positive. I’m realistic in that I know that IVF might not work. You hear stories about people whose marriages are ruined and are left in huge debt after multiple IVF cycles, and I don’t want that to happen to us.
“If this doesn’t work, we do want to try another cycle, but after that we’ll stop and think about how we go forward.
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