For most young women in their 20s, motherhood is a distant concept, an abstract future responsibility that belongs in the land of 'When I Grow Up'. Children are something to be considered after careers are established, some time in your 30s or even 40s.
They are certainly not something to worry about in the heady days of your 20s, when the biological clock is as inaudible as the flash of a digital clock.
Twenty-seven-year-old Gemma Dowling from Loughshinny, Co Dublin, certainly hadn't started thinking about children, but found herself suddenly confronted with the decision when she was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkins Lymphona and a course of chemotherapy that could threaten her fertility.
The first indication that Gemma had of her cancer was a lump on her neck about this time last year. She didn't go to the doctor immediately, but mentioned the lump at a routine doctor's visit a few months later.
She was sent for an ultrasound, but was not in any way concerned.
"When you get a lump on your neck, they usually think it's glandular fever," says the bubbly young woman. The ultrasound was followed by a biopsy.
"The consultant wasn't worried. He said it could be a virus, it could be anything."
The results from her needle abrasion test (a sort of semi-biopsy) came back indicating glandular fever, but her blood result contradicted that.
"In the meantime, I had gone for a CT scan and the consultant saw that there were actually two lumps, one behind my breast bone, and my lymph nodes were inflamed, so he wanted to remove one of those. They took out the lymph node as well."
A week later, her pathology report came back and her consultant broke the news that she had cancer. That was six months ago. The shock was massive.
"I had been kind of convinced that it could be anything else – Tuberculosis, Glandular Fever, a whole range of things, and my bloods had all come back clear."
Gemma's shock was quickly allayed however.
"My consultant told me if you were to get any cancer, this is the one you would want. The prognosis for Hodgkins, even at stage four, is over 90pc – they're very successful at curing it. He rang my mother the next day and told her I'd die of old age."
Even with this sort of positive prognosis, it was a lot to take in and decisions needed to be made quickly. "One of my friends got me a booklet from the Irish Cancer Society. There was a section about infertility. I asked the oncologist if I should freeze my eggs, and she said 'yes'."
Had she not read the booklet, it's not something she would have thought about doing, Gemma admits. "Not even remotely. When something is being taken away from you, before you've even thought of it, you have to prepare for it.
"Chemo pushes you into a sort of menopause and while the chances of that happening to me are less than for others, it could still happen. Children are something I would think of in the long term, but I'm nowhere near that yet."
She went to the HARI unit to try IVF. The first time it failed. "After that, I went back to the oncologist and asked what are the chances of my losing fertility with this treatment.
"There was a less than 10pc chance of losing fertility. I wasn't as stressed the second time I did it, and it worked really well. I got eight eggs in the end."
Gemma opted to freeze her eggs, as her chances of conceiving and carrying to term are lowered, rather than freezing an embryo.
That wasn't an option for her.
"You can't do that unless you've been in a relationship for two years. It's a lot to think about."
How is she coping with having to deal with such massive and sudden decisions?
"You just get in and get on with it. They're frozen now, so you kind of just forget about it and get on with the chemo. When you're going through it, your mindset changes. Suddenly you think about things you wouldn't have thought about before.
"Even small things change. I happened to look into getting a mortgage. You can get a mortgage if you have cancer, but your life assurance might be tricky.
"Even things like your career change. I'm an accountant and I've been allowed to work from home.
"I might as well put a freeze on this whole year. Before, I would think of timeframes for going for promotions and I don't think of that anymore, but hopefully I'll be back to normal next year."
She's taken her lead from those around her also going through chemotherapy.
"They just get on with it. A lot of people have been very positive with me and I'm being very positive. It's just six months. If it was a long-term issue, it would have been way more devastating. "It is very shocking and it takes you a long time to get over it."
Naturally, she has low moments too. "In IVF, you have to go into the Rotunda every day. There has been one week where I thought, I wish this was over.
"I haven't been sick or unwell, but I was getting fed up with steroids and putting on weight which was getting me down. Your friends put it into perspective for you though."
One thing that has helped her to keep a positive attitude is the ARC cancer support centre. The centre offers a range of holistic services for cancer patients and their families, including reflexology, Indian head massage and a mindfulness course.
The support is designed to complement the medical treatment cancer patients are going through, not only with holistic treatments but with counselling support too.
All of its services are free and funded by charity donations.
'One of the nurses gave me a leaflet for ARC and I knew they did complementary therapy. I do acupuncture at home. My feet and hands are always really dry just after chemo. I'm thinking about putting my name down to get reflexology done and for the Indian head massage. It's just really relaxing.
"The guys that do the treatment are so used to dealing with cancer patients, they know exactly what to say. They can say some really comforting things. You're not thinking about your illness, you're thinking about changing your mindset."
For more information see arccancersupport.ie or call 01 830 7333