Just over a year ago, Zowie was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. The 28-year-old mother of two spent over three months in hospital undergoing a full hysterectomy, colostomy and three rounds of chemotherapy. Zowie recently returned to work, ran a 10k in her underwear to help raise money for Target Ovarian Cancer, and will be joining us at our Run for Mum event...
Running in my underwear was about me celebrating my body. I wanted to show that I'm unashamed of my scars and proud of my strength.
In June 2017, I noticed my belly button had turned purple. I went to the doctors in September, and was initially told it was probably a hernia. I waited six weeks for a scan, only to find out it wasn't a hernia and that I would need further testing. I had a CT scan in January, and from there it snowballed; I had an ultrasound, another CT scan, several blood tests and a biopsy.
In the middle of this, I went for my scheduled smear test, but they couldn't find my cervix. We later realised this was because my tumour was in the way.
Five long months passed before I was eventually diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. I was 28-years-old and had two young daughters. I had to have my womb, ovaries, belly button, omentum and a bit of my bowel removed – along with a 14cm tumour. I was also fitted with a colostomy bag and had to undergo three cycles of chemotherapy.
All in all I spent more than three months as an in-patient at the hospital. I dread to think how many more hours and days I could tally up with the time spent on appointments, scans, blood tests and chemo sessions…
Being away from my children for so long and being too ill to care for them was very tough – they've been my strength throughout this and I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for them. My ultimate goal is to raise the girls to be as unaffected by this as I possibly can. We go on a lot of spontaneous trips and I have a list of places in the UK I would like to go. Last summer we spent a lovely few weeks exploring Cornwall, and I want to make as many happy memories as I possibly can.
I think raising awareness is incredibly important. So many people I know, including myself, were completely unaware of ovarian cancer and its symptoms. I'm constantly trying to raise awareness on my social media and when talking to people. I honestly believe if the doctors I had seen were more educated about the signs and symptoms I wouldn't have had to wait five months to be diagnosed.
Before I was diagnosed I was quite proud of my body and what it could do. I was by no means an athlete, but I loved being in the gym and I loved running. Now I'm left with a belly covered in scars and no bellybutton – and yet, I am even prouder of my body now than I was before.
There have been so many times that I just wanted to give up, times when I thought that the consequences of cancer were going to take my life, but instead I'm finally well enough to go back to work.
My advice to anyone is to listen to your body. I was dismissed again and again because I was 'too young'. If you think that something is wrong, keep pushing until you find answers. You have so many professionals telling you what's best, but don't forget what's best for you.