Janet's ovarian cancer diagnosis came as a shock – particularly as she'd had a full hysterectomy with the removal of both ovaries over 30 years previously. Here she talks about her 'one in a million diagnosis, defying expectations and why she's living proof that you can live well with ovarian cancer…
When I chat to people they are surprised to hear that I have cancer. I don't know how a person with cancer is supposed to look, but it's not what everyone thinks it is. I'm going against people's expectations; I'm proving that you can live with cancer.
One in a million
My diagnosis was a one in a million chance. I'd had a hysterectomy over 30 years earlier, in which my ovaries and womb were removed, so doctors thought ovarian cancer was impossible. After all, how can you have ovarian cancer if you don't have any ovaries? However, after my diagnosis the doctors explained that very rarely shavings of the ovaries could remain after a hysterectomy. It was these tiny particles that developed ovarian cancer.
Just before I was diagnosed my granddaughter turned 21, and along with my daughter we decided to go to Paris for the weekend. While we were there I experienced some serious trouble with my bowels – completely unexpectedly. I knew something was wrong. I went to the doctor when I got back and was referred for an internal exam. A second referral brought more tests and I was eventually diagnosed with diverticulitis. I had a special machine fitted, which helped to control my bowels. All was fine for a bit.
My daughter got married a year later and around that time I had a terribly painful fall. I was in so much pain that I went to the GP and they sent me straight to the hospital for an X-ray. My GP also sent me to have my pelvic floor tested to see if the nerves had been damaged. The doctor asked to send off some biopsies and eventually I received a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
The doctor explained that it was inoperable and incurable, but I could have chemotherapy. I called a family meeting to tell everyone. We had a glass of wine and I made a toast to me living with this disease, not dying from it. My 'cancer buddies' really helped. These are my three confidantes and if I'm having a down day and can't talk to my husband, I call or text one of them and they give me support. They come and visit me and take me on days out. It's wonderful. I would recommend anyone with cancer to do this; it's been such an amazing support system for me. Three years later I've finished my chemotherapy and am doing very well.
I decided to tell my story because people don't know about ovarian cancer. I also think that because it's a gynaecological cancer people get embarrassed to talk about it. We all have bodies, we have the parts for a reason, and I don't think there’s any reason we should have taboos or embarrassment about these things. We should talk about gynaecological issues, ovaries, wombs and all of these other things much more.
My husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary recently – we didn't get a reception for our wedding in 1967 – so we had a huge party to make up for it! We decided to ask for donations for Target Ovarian Cancer for our wedding anniversary. We raised about £600 for the charity on the night, which was wonderful. I was so happy to raise the money, because I want to be able to help other people to not go through what I'm going through. I want the money to go towards giving the gift of life in the form of more ovarian cancer research.
I'm 72 and I've had a blessed life. I've been all over the world and have wonderful children and grandchildren. Now I want to share my story so other people might hear it. It might save lives.