Ovarian cancer diagnosed in 1997 following indigestion and bloating. Treated by surgical removal of ovaries (previously hysterectomised) then chemotherapy. Further surgery to repair a hernia followed by more chemotherapy for recurrences.
She remembers feeling generally unwell, experiencing indigestion, bloating and loss of appetite, and got used to feeling under par.’ Antacid medication did not alleviate the symptoms, and her GP referred her to a gastroenterologist. She was told she had diverticulosis, but further investigations showed that she had masses on her ovaries. She was shocked to hear that her symptoms were actually related to a gynaecological problem, but in time found getting a diagnosis and explanation for her symptoms a relief. Her ovaries were removed and she was told that she would need chemotherapy, and received six sessions of carboplatin. She found anti-sickness medication a great help for the nausea she experienced.
She was in remission for two years, but then required chemotherapy again, and this was followed by another year in remission. Five years after her initial symptoms and diagnosis, she had symptoms once again, and was given Taxol as part of a clinical trial. She lost her hair and chose a wig, but found wearing scarves more comfortable. She also found there was a lot of camaraderie amongst the women that had lost their hair through treatment. She experienced numbness in her toes whilst taking the Taxol and did not receive the final treatment, but the treatment worked and she has been in remission for 18 months at the time of interview. She has follow-up appointments every two months where she is weighed and has blood tests.
She has a history of cancer in her family, and paid privately to be tested for a faulty cancer gene. It was discovered that she has this, and she encouraged her children to be tested as she feels that to be forewarned is forearmed.’
She found having her husband with her during appointments useful, as they would remember different things and be able to discuss the appointment afterwards. She has experienced tiredness both during treatment and after, but borrowed a wheelchair so that she could continue to do the things she wanted to do. She has tried some complementary therapies, such as art therapy, relaxation and beauty treatments. She is a member of a support organisation called Ovacome, and finds their magazine very informative. She has stayed in touch with a number of people she met through the group, and now volunteers as a telephone listener on their support line.
She does not make any long term plans now but tries not to put anything off, arranging short breaks and social events to look forward to. She eats food that she fancies and takes vitamin supplements. She found that her experience of cancer made her take stock, and she hopes that due to genetic factors, younger generations of her family will now have any symptoms investigated sooner. She found that not comparing herself with others, and resting when she needed, to be useful strategies. She found it helpful to talk to other people, but tried to remind herself that everyone is different in their experiences. She urges people not to ignore symptoms if they are feeling unwell, and to persist in getting symptoms investigated.