When Tracey was told she had ovarian cancer she was torn between wanting more information about her diagnosis and the fear of what she might learn. Here she talks about how Target Ovarian Cancer helped her to access the right kind of information, and why her diagnosis has inspired her to find something she's passionate about…
A cancer diagnosis makes you reach out to people. After I got diagnosed, I went on Google and ended up frightening the life out of myself. Luckily, I soon found Target Ovarian Cancer's website; it helped me access all the information I needed.
The first time I really noticed anything wrong was when I went to bed one evening with really bad pains in my tummy. After being up most of the night, I went to see my GP. He examined my tummy and sent me for bloods, which showed some inflammation, but I was told it was nothing to be concerned about.
Unfortunately, a month later I lost my mum. It was a lot to deal with and with all the stress I completely forgot about my tummy pains.
Fast forward six months and I was feeling fluey, weeing a lot and had constant pain in my side and my tummy. The pain was so bad that I went to an out-of-hours walk in centre. All I got for my trouble was a prescription for some antacids.
Later that week, I started wetting myself. This time I saw a different GP and she examined my tummy, told me she could feel something, and sent for a CA125 blood test and an ultrasound.
As it turned out, my CA125 was around 2600 and the ultrasound showed an 18cm cyst. From there things snowballed – it went from "you have a cyst" to "you have a lump" and then finally "you have a mass".
I was quickly scheduled for surgery. After the operation I was told there was nothing abnormal but that they had taken three lymph nodes for sampling. Then six weeks later I went back to the hospital for the results. The doctor pushed a box of tissues towards me and said, "You do know it's ovarian cancer, don't you?".
I was told the cancer had been cleared away but that I would still need chemotherapy.
After this shock, I met my clinical nurse specialist (CNS) who really helped. I have three kids – a daughter (27), a son (20) and my youngest who is only 13 years old. We're very close and it was hard telling him the news. I really wanted to help him get through it but he actually took it really well. I'm so proud of the way he's dealt with it.
Before starting chemotherapy I was so scared about losing my hair – I’m really proud of my hair, it took years to grow. I ended up doing a cold cap during chemotherapy. I read up on it a lot and spoke to a few women who had tried it before. My oncologist was also really supportive. Now I've finished chemo I've only lost about 10 per cent of my hair – just a few strands here and there. I'm so pleased I haven't looked ill – that's been really important for my kids.
I haven't worked since I was diagnosed. Before I got sick I was a receptionist, and although my job was kept open for me, I’ve handed in my notice. Recently I lost one of my close friends to ovarian cancer who I met during treatment. I want to take time to recover and come to terms with everything.
I've started my own support group on Facebook. Women go to the GP a lot and I think a lot of them are passed off. My message to other women would be that you've got to go to the doctor. I was lucky to eventually get the doctor to listen, but you need to go if you have something out of the ordinary. If you notice any signs of bloating, changes in your bowel or urine habits or even if you're just worried, make sure you see your GP and push for a CA125 blood test. After all, you know your body better than anyone else.