Knowing the symptoms of ovarian cancer can lead to an earlier diagnosis and help save lives. Angela wasn't aware of the symptoms but she knew something definitely was not right. Here she talks about how she faced her ovarian cancer diagnosis and how important it is to be aware of the symptoms…
Before my diagnosis I felt that something was wrong but I didn't know what. I had no idea about ovarian cancer – it wasn't on my radar. There are a lot of ladies out there that are unaware of how devastating the disease can be, and we still have a long way to go before ovarian cancer is in the public eye as much as breast cancer.
I had been aware for a little while that my stomach felt 'strange' but my first bad experience was waking up one morning with a very severe pain in my right side. I went to see an emergency doctor who diagnosed me with a urine infection and gave me antibiotics. This appeared to work but I was still feeling unwell so I decided to go and see my GP. She was wonderful and immediately did blood tests and arranged for an ultrasound scan that same week. My CA125 results came back with a high reading and the scan showed a large cyst, possibly on the ovary.
After that everything happened really quickly. It was a rollercoaster of scans and specialist appointments. During my CT scan they discovered another type of cancer, a neuroendocrine tumour in a node near my small bowel. I had a biopsy, which was inconclusive, so my consultant decided to go straight to operation and follow up with chemo.
I underwent a debulking operation and a very large cyst was removed – along with my ovaries, fallopian tubes and omentum. Another specialist removed the neuroendocrine tumour. I was then treated with six sessions of chemo: paclitaxel and carboplatin.
I think the thing that concerned me the most about my diagnosis was how I was going to tell my elderly mother. It sounds ridiculous, but due to her failing health I just didn't want to upset or worry her.
Luckily the gynae specialist nurses at my local hospital were great. I'm also fortunate enough to have a very supportive husband who was there with me through everything, good and bad.
At the time of my diagnosis I was working for a hospice charity. I was off on sick leave for nine months during treatment and although I eventually returned to work on a reduced responsibility role, I found it very difficult to continue. My experience had changed my whole outlook on life and I was in the fortunate position of being able to retire a few months later.
I believe it's very important to raise awareness of ovarian cancer and definitely the symptoms. It will be wonderful when all GPs have the knowledge and experience to detect and diagnose as quickly as possible.
The main thing I used to say was "I don’t have a choice, I have to face it and deal with it".
Four years on from my operation, I'm having check-ups every six months. Otherwise I am fit and well. My message to other women with ovarian cancer is to listen to your body and trust your medical team. It will take time to feel well again, but you can get there.