Interview 95

Ovarian cancer diagnosed in 1989 after finding a large abdominal lump. Treated by surgical removal of ovaries and womb followed by chemotherapy.

She first realised something was wrong when she noticed a lump in her stomach but thought it was one of those things that would just go away. She had also lost weight and started having heavier, long-lasting periods, which she felt was nothing unusual for her. She had attributed her symptoms to the shock and stress of a family bereavement. She had been meaning to see her GP for 6 weeks and eventually made an appointment. Her GP then referred her to a gynaecologist who diagnosed her with ovarian cancer.

Getting the diagnosis of ovarian cancer was very difficult, and she found it hard to take it all in at the time and tried to carry on as normal. She explained that it was difficult to believe as she had felt well. She found it difficult telling her family, as she did not want to worry them unnecessarily and decided to wait before she told them. She said that her husband was an invaluable support but that it had been an awful experience for both of them, as they were frightened and unsure of what would happen. She explained that she felt that her husband had been a victim to her cancer and he hadn’t been sure how to cope with it. She informed her employer that she would need to take time off, and found that colleagues were incredibly supportive. She explained that she had found it very helpful to speak to a close friend. She also found comfort in the hospital staff, who had been very informative and supportive throughout the whole experience.

She underwent a hysterectomy where both ovaries and womb were removed. After the surgery she felt extremely unwell and suffered with sickness, fatigue and constipation. She explained that although the operation had been successful, the follow-up test results had indicated that there were some abnormal cells and that she would need to undergo chemotherapy. She had found it difficult to focus on the information being given to her and wished she had been able to ask questions. She decided to tell her family after seeing her oncologist as he had been positive and encouraging about her progress. She felt that she could actually talk to them. She said that as she was able to be positive that she felt they would be able to be positive too. She felt that it was important for the people around her to know that she was going to get better. She found that when she shared her diagnosis she had very good support from family and friends but felt that she could have benefited from more emotional support during her chemotherapy. She experienced terrible sickness and nausea and entered into menopause as a result of her treatment. She explained that she had wanted a family but had already accepted that she would not have any children, and that she was able to come to terms with this a lot earlier because of the hysterectomy. She explained that working whilst undergoing treatment took its toll but that she was able to find a pattern that worked for her and was bearable. She said that you just have to be positive.

Having cancer was a life-changing event and an opportunity for her to think about her priorities. She feels she is very lucky to have got through it and come out the other side. She believes in the power of prayer, and felt amazed and humbled by the number of people supporting and praying for her. She feels that this positive support helped her through. She intended to change her life more but found that it can be difficult to reduce certain life stressors. She and her husband decided to do what they could and engaged in a healthier diet and have a fairly active lifestyle. She found that she was more aware of things and appreciative of relationships. She enjoys life, work and her family.

She has an optimistic outlook for the future and is happy to share her experiences. She feels that she dragged her feet before going to the doctors. Her advice to others is to go as soon as you notice any differences, no matter how subtle. She also believes it is important to stay positive and be optimistic, and to not be frightened to ask doctors to explain things in simple terms so that you are able to take in the information and diagnosis. Give yourself the best possible chance.

At first she couldn’t go to sleep without feeling for a recurrence of her ovarian cancer but then…

Age at interview 58

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 44