Published: 06:00, 28 June 2020
| Updated: 08:08, 28 June 2020
When Amanda Bunce was told she had womb cancer she wept in the gynaecology department corridor, as her final hope of having a baby disintegrated, while around her parents-to-be left clutching ultrasound scans, gazing at the first glimpses of their child.
Soon after, the Tunbridge Wells paediatric nurse, 36, had her womb, ovaries and pelvic lymph nodes removed and she and her fiancé Ryno Glen, a shop manager, believed they were facing a future without the child they had yearned for for more than a decade.
There is, however, still a chance for the couple after Amanda's younger sister offered to carry their baby, donating her eggs and using Ryno's sperm.
Now, the pair, who live in Mount Ephraim and were supposed to marry on Tuesday, are desperately trying to raise £12,000 for private IVF treatment.
Amanda and Ryno, 38, met 14 years ago while playing an online Sims-like game. She lived in Wales with her family and was a healthcare assistant while he was based in Tunbridge Wells.
They spoke for six months before meeting and then soon moved in with each other, which Amanda described as a "huge gamble" that paid off.
"We wanted to be parents pretty much straight away, years went by and we tried and tried," Amanda said.
The couple had three miscarriages, the most recent one five years ago.
Throughout, Amanda tried to remain strong.
"We have had people pass away in our family and being a nurse I have always had to be the strong person, taking people's problems away. It was a coping mechanism, to say 'everything happens for a reason,'" she said.
Amanda's periods were painful and heavy, with some blood clots the size of a pear. At work one day, in the children's ward at Tunbridge Wells Hospital, she nearly fainted.
She was determined to find out why she was struggling so much to conceive.
"There are aspects of the day that stand out, walking into the room and seeing the doctor's face, how petrified she looked..."
Doctors booked her in for a womb biopsy, in February last year.
The phone rang 10 days later.
"She said 'we have got your biopsy results, please bring somebody with you to the hospital.' As she said that I broke down on the top of my stairs, I knew what was coming."
After a tearful night, the next day Amanda and Ryno sat waiting for their 4pm appointment. They were prepared to be told that Amanda was infertile, but the truth was far worse.
"There are aspects of that day that stand out, a lot of it's a blur, walking into the room and seeing the doctor's face, how petrified she looked, my partner was shaking," the 36-year-old said.
After the diagnosis, the couple stood outside the room while Amanda wept.
"Couples came out of the rooms with baby scans,I thought 'this is the last time I could come here with the hope I could have a baby' my whole life I have been let down by my reproductive system."
Amanda, who was signed off work, had an aggressive form of cancer which had spread from her womb to her cervix.
This was supposed to be an exciting time for the pair. In summer 2018, Amanda completed her degree in nursing from Canterbury Christ University and she finally had her dream career.
But the graduation ceremony, which took place approximately a week before her diagnosis, was marred with anxiety. Now the graduation photo is stuffed at the back of a draw, as she can't look at it without thinking of the pain to come.
The month she was diagnosed, she underwent a six-hour-long surgery to remove the cancer.
'My whole life I have been let down by my reproductive system...'
"They had to practically drag me to the anaesthetic room. I felt they were stealing my body parts, I felt violated," Amanda, who is now in remission, said.
Nicola Bunce, 30, Amanda's sister and herself a mother of two, from Wales, had watched as Amanda and Ryno struggled to conceive over the years.
The siblings may live in different countries, but are best friends and speak every other day.
She offered many times to carry a baby for her sister, but Amanda always said no.
"I always hoped I would never have to do that, I never thought I would have to go down that route," Amanda said.
After six months off work, with scars from the surgery and rounds of radiotherapy, Amanda returned to the hospital and was again surrounded by parents and babies, a reminder of what she had lost.
"A few months ago I held a baby up while the mum tied its shoelaces and it just looked at me and I had this overwhelming urge to hold it closer, " she said.
Over the phone, Nicola told her sister that her surrogacy offer still remained.
"I said 'I can't expect you to do it, it's such a big thing to ask of you and your partner'. She said she couldn't think of more deserving people to be parents."
"I know it's a bit of strange set up and most people would worry it would be a bit awkward but we're past that now. I know she will be very involved in the baby's life and I think that's made her more happy to do it.
'The thought of someone calling me mum give me a bit of hope that life isn't so cruel...'
"It will still be my blood and still be my partner's baby, " she said.
Amanda asked her sister if she will be okay with the physical toll of the pregnancy.
"She said 'I really don't care, I have watched my sister battle cancer and you have looked after me through thick and thick'. She knows it's our only hope."
The IVF treatment cannot be funded through the NHS, and will cost £12,000, but if a stranger was the surrogate, it would be around £20,000 - an unobtainable sum for the pair.
Finances are particularly tough as Ryno has just come off furlough and Amanda was on statutory sick pay at points last year, but the pair are hopeful friends will help make their dream a reality through an online fundraising page.
Amanda said:"My life has been forever changed, but the thought of still being a mum and someone calling me mum gives me a bit of hope that life isn't so cruel."
More by this authorKatie Heslop
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