Interview 120

Ovarian cancer diagnosed in 1994 following acute abdominal pain. Treated by surgical removal of ovaries and womb followed by chemotherapy.

One Saturday morning she woke up with a pain in her stomach which she assumed was just a stomach bug, and decided not to take too much notice of it. The pain worsened and she contracted a fever. Her husband called the doctor who advised her to go to the hospital as soon as possible. She was initially misdiagnosed with a bowel infection and put on an intravenous antibiotic. Unfortunately her condition did not improve. They later misdiagnosed her with appendicitis and she underwent a laparoscopy. When she woke up from the surgery she soon realised there was something not quite right when the nurse informed her she had undergone a hysterectomy, and that the doctor would be around shortly to speak to her. She felt confused and assumed the nurse had got it wrong. She was later told by her doctor that they had found a tumour during the laparoscopy and had to perform a total hysterectomy. Three days later it was confirmed that the tumour was cancerous. She was shocked as she had had no prior symptoms and no history of ovarian cancer in the family but accepted the news and just wanted to get on and make the best of it. She didn’t see the point in getting upset as it was something she couldn’t change. She found it more upsetting to see how her diagnosis was affecting her husband as he had found the news difficult to digest and was quite ill after her diagnosis. She did not know anything about ovarian cancer and cannot recall being given any written information after her diagnosis and was never referred for counselling, although she had a very good relationship with her oncologist. She was proactive in asking questions but didn’t know enough to ask the questions she would ask now.

She was unwell for a few days after surgery but had a steady recovery. Her GP was pleased with her progress and she had a lot of support from family and friends. Although they were happy with the success of the operation her doctor felt that she would need chemotherapy as they thought the tumour may have burst and were worried that some cells may have been left. A week after surgery she started 6 sessions of chemotherapy at monthly intervals. On her first session she felt worried as she did not know what chemotherapy was and was uncertain of what symptoms she might experience. Although the doctor tried to reassure her, she felt that she did not have enough information. She spoke to another woman on the ward who was on her fourth treatment and felt comforted. After her first and for all following treatments, she felt tired and nauseous for a couple of days. She also plunged into menopause where she experienced terrible hot flushes but they would only be momentary and manageable. She had never planned on having children and was pleased to be at an age where it didn’t really matter. She said it might have affected her more if she had been younger.

She told close family and friends but didn’t want people to feel sorry for her. She explained that the word cancer; frightens people and they tend to think negatively. If asked or if it came up in conversation she would talk about it but she felt it was not something just for everyday conversation, she didn’t want to dwell on it and was back at work within 3 months.

She still finds it hard to believe that it happened as she had never had any previous health problems. She had been happy with her lifestyle before and didn’t feel that she needed to make any changes after having cancer. She used to think she was indestructible so this experience sort of knocked; her a little bit but it did not change her or affect her as a woman. Her husband has been a great support and their relationship is the same as it was before. Since her diagnosis she joined Ovacome, and became a phone-a-friend to support women and share her experiences so they can know it is not the end. She got through it and plans to enjoy old age.

She was told that the particular type of ovarian cancer she had had made her unsuitable for HRT,…

Age at interview 59

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 50