Chris stands in a garden smiling at the camera

Chris's story

Having dealt with several rounds of treatment, Chris talks about the power of positivity and why living with ovarian cancer hasn’t stopped her from doing the things she loves.

Ten years of having ovarian cancer has left its mark, but I know that’s the treatment rather than the cancer itself. I look at it as something I have to live with now. All my life, I feared the thought of ovarian cancer. But I’m still here after 11 years – and I’m fine!

Hysterectomy

I’d been going to the GP for some time with pain in my right groin and was being treated for mild irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I’d had a hysterectomy many years ago, during which they’d left my ovaries, and I kept telling the GP that I thought my stomach pain might be something to do with that. The doctor just insisted that I didn’t have any ovaries, which was so insulting. But the discomfort was in that area, and I knew my body well enough to know there was something wrong.

After a visit to a different GP – who also diagnosed IBS – I decided I was going to go to a civil service hospital to see if I could speak to a consultant. I’d worked in the civil service in the past, and it honestly seemed like the only option open to me. The doctor believed I had an ovarian cyst and removed my ovary during surgery. Two weeks later I was called back to the hospital and told I had stage Ic serous papillary adenocarcinoma. I was immediately referred back to the NHS and scheduled for surgery to remove the other ovary and my omentum, after that I had chemotherapy.

Recurrence

I knew from the start that stage Ic meant my cancer had already spread a little outside of the ovaries, and the oncologist explained upfront that I only had a small chance of the cancer not coming back. But it was still a surprise when just under three years after my initial diagnosis, during my final check up, I was told that the cancer had returned. Over the next few years, the cancer would go away and then come back many more times. The cancer has grown again over the last year or so but remained fairly stable. I’m currently having scans every six months to keep an eye on things.

Of course, 10 years of various treatments have left their mark. I’ve lost my hair three times – which doesn’t bother me too much – but I also get peripheral neuropathy and pain in my joints. It’s taken its toll, but I always try to look on the bright side. I’m still here after 11 years and ovarian cancer is just something I have to live with. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful family – including seven grandchildren – who look after me. Two of my adult grandsons are currently living with me and everyone in the family is happy because I’m not on my own.

Chris and her wider family pose for a photo in the garden

Optimistic

If my story can help just one other person, then I’m happy. I went to the doctor with symptoms many times but they didn’t put anything together at all. I am now determined to encourage awareness amongst GPs. Symptoms can be mild, and they can be symptoms of other things, but it’s vital that doctors send women for the correct tests to rule out ovarian cancer.

If I could pass one message on to other women like me it would be the importance of staying optimistic. Having ovarian cancer hasn’t stopped me from making the most of this past 10 years. I’ve gone on trips around the world, taken part in theatre group, and I’ve just joined an archery club! I make my own adjustments and get plenty of support, but I enjoy life. I think it’s important to give people hope. I want them to know there is hope after a cancer diagnosis.


If you’ve been affected by this story and would like to speak to a specialist nurse, you can call our dedicated support line on 020 7923 5475 or contact us: support@targetovariancancer.org.uk. We're open from 9am until 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.