Knowing what to expect when starting treatment for ovarian cancer can help with reducing anxiety and fear, but what happens when treatment is over? When Zelda completed chemotherapy, she expected to feel elated. Instead she struggled with the fear of the unknown. Here she talks about how important spreading awareness is, the importance of counselling, and moving forward…
I never really felt unwell at all – although I did have some trouble with my bowels and I’d always had gynaecological issues. Then one day I went to work with a bit of a funny tummy and soon I was vomiting and had bad pain on one side of my abdomen. I had to get an ambulance to the hospital where a scan showed fluid in my ovaries. After that everything was very quick. Doctors confirmed that I had a tumour attached to my bowel and would need surgery to remove it. There was a few weeks’ wait until my operation was scheduled to take place and this gave me some time to digest the news.
Oddly enough, I didn’t find my diagnosis horribly scary and I didn’t have a breakdown when I received the news. I was very matter of fact about the whole thing. The toughest part for me was just feeling so naïve. I really had no awareness about ovarian cancer. I’d had gynaecological problems since I was 16 years old. If I'd known I probably would have gone to the doctor much sooner and I might never have needed to go through everything that followed.
I was also quite apprehensive about surgery. But in the back of my head I knew it was the answer to getting rid of it. Telling my family was tough but my husband was amazing. We had one day of tears then we said, “let’s get on with it”.
In addition to surgery I also had chemotherapy – carboplatin and paclitaxel. I was fortunate to have an amazing nurse specialist. But this diagnosis affects us all in different ways and at different times. I left my last chemo session crying and scared, wondering what was next for me. The next few months were really hard. I didn’t know how to go forward and felt like ovarian cancer was this huge threat, still hanging over me. I got help, and the counselling was tremendously helpful. I’m almost two years clear now.
I think everyone should know about ovarian cancer and the symptoms; young people should be taught in school.
Having cancer has had a huge impact on my life. Some friendships strengthened; others failed completely. I had friends I met going through treatment who later died. I want to tell other women to never feel alone. The fear of the unknown is the worst part – it’s natural to worry about what we don’t know. There's loads of support and help out there if you want it.