I always tell my girlfriends that if they feel anything unusual to go see their doctor. Get checked out.
This September it’ll be three years since I was told that I had ovarian cancer and needed emergency, lifesaving surgery. I was flabbergasted. At 33 years old I had a hysterectomy and thought my fallopian tubes had been removed, so I didn’t think it was possible. However, for me only my womb and cervix was removed, and the fallopian tubes and ovaries remained.
In January 2019, I made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. However, despite sticking to a diet, I was putting weight on. I’d have a small meal and feel like I’d eaten a five-course dinner! I'd also started to feel pain in and around my abdomen and went to see my GP. We believed it was gallstones and an ultrasound confirmed it was. After a few months though, the pain became worse, and the pounds continued to go up on the scales.
I was in the middle of moving cities for my husband’s job when I was transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge where the surgeon confirmed the gallstones. The surgeon then asked me to go for a CT scan. I wasn’t concerned. I waited for the results, and waited. Eventually I called up and I could tell they were hesitant to tell me the results, but they asked me to come in for a blood test – a CA125 – something I had never heard of. Again, I had no concerns.
I never thought it would be anything sinister, not in a million years.
My CA125 results came through, as did the CT scan which revealed I had a tumour. The next time I heard from the hospital they told me to bring my husband.
That day I went in, I still wasn’t worried. My husband, John, came with me and asked the question we wanted to know – what was the problem? I was told it was maybe endometriosis I would need a biopsy to confirm.
Coming round after my biopsy I was told it was high-grade serous ovarian cancer, stage III. A week later I had surgery where they removed everything that had a visible sign of cancer. This included the removal of my ovaries, Fallopian tubes, part of my peritoneum, gallbladder, omentum, appendix and they scraped all visible signs from other organs.
Seeing some of the statistics, I've been very frightened. When I was offered the opportunity to join a clinical trial lasting two years, I said yes as I saw that as guaranteeing me two more years of life. I started on a clinical trial, something I hope the generations of women to come will benefit from, including my six granddaughters.
I've been in and out of hospital during this time, undergoing treatment for fevers, a blocked bowel and neutropenic sepsis. I became really poorly with encephalitis due to immunotherapy. This was more debilitating than the cancer operation, I was in a wheelchair for months. But we all have war stories to tell, we’ve all been through the mill, but we all try hard to get on with living life to the full.
Living with cancer
My condition is stable but living with cancer has had an impact on my life in many different ways. I've lost friends, as they haven’t known how to speak to me about my cancer, but I've also gained lots of friends through joining patient groups and finding people who have a similar story to tell.
Ovarian cancer has an effect on those around you, my husband really struggled. No one ever asks how your partner is, everyone asks how you are, but partners are forgotten. The struggles of working away from home and a sick wife, my husband developed alopecia. Thankfully with a change of job he's happier now and all his hair has grown back. A community like this can be really helpful. It’s knowing that you’re not alone.
2019 changed my life completely. Before ovarian cancer, I was always on the go. I worked in the hospitality industry for years; I did shifts for the ambulance service and on my days off I'd drive around the Isles of Scilly being a taxi service for the folk there.
I may not do that anymore, but I'm doing everything that I can – I go mad for a hot tub, and love spending time with my husband, friends and family.
I have a different outlook on life and turned 60 this year. Every month I'm making sure I do something – whether that’s afternoon tea at the Ritz (courtesy of my hubby) or seeing friends and family back home in Scotland. I’m trying to squeeze in as many things as possible – and I’m loving it.
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