Interview 154

Ovarian cancer diagnosed in 1997 following frequent urination and feeling that all was not well. Treated by surgical removal of ovaries and womb. Recurrence treated with chemotherapy.

Aged 50, she felt that she needed to urinate more frequently and had some stomach bloating, but did not feel unwell. Her GP sent her for an ultrasound and cysts were discovered in her ovaries. She was operated on and had her ovaries, uterus and part of her bladder removed, and was then told that she had ovarian cancer. She felt taken aback; at being diagnosed with cancer, but did not require chemotherapy and felt she had had a lucky escape.; Three-monthly check-ups were conducted, and 18 months after her operation she was told that the cancer had returned, this time near to her kidney. She had two courses of chemotherapy (carboplatin and Taxol). The chemotherapy was administered every three weeks, for six sessions – this was delivered by a six-hour drip. She found this very frightening but thought of the treatment like bleach, cleaning the unpleasant things from her body. She found the nurses to be kind and supportive, and the ward had a pleasant feeling to it. When she began to lose the hair on her head she decided to have it shaved off. She had a wig but felt more comfortable wearing scarves when she went out. She found losing her eyebrows and eyelashes difficult. She found that the chemotherapy gave her a metallic taste in her mouth, nausea, and tingling sensations in her hands and feet. She wrote poetry and verse about her experiences, and found this very therapeutic.

She was self-employed and found carrying on with some work when she felt well enough was beneficial. However, she found that feeling tired and needing to rest more gave her time to think about the meaning of life. She found counselling useful, to be able to talk to someone outside of her family about how she was feeling. Her mother’s church pastor called regularly to see her and she decided to start attending church. Her outlook on life changed, and she started noticing things that she had not done before. She realised that every moment of her life was of great value, and re-assessed her priorities. She decided to give up work and pace herself, as she finds she has less energy than she used to. She feels she is now more compassionate and loving, and spends much more time with her family. She paints and draws and enjoys creative writing, and is involved in a cancer support group and as a patient advocate. She also treats herself to massages. She still has three-monthly check-ups and it is now four years since she completed her chemotherapy. She feels that having cancer changed her, but in a positive way that made her have a greater sense of what she values in life.

Before having ovarian cancer she took life and material wealth for granted; she has now found…

Age at interview 55

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 50