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Interview OV31

Age at interview: 44
Age at diagnosis: 38
Brief Outline: Ovarian cancer diagnosed in 1997 in the course of infertility treatment. Treated by surgical removal of ovaries and womb followed by chemotherapy.
Background: Civil servant, married, no children.

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Wonders about infertility treatment as a possible cause of her ovarian cancer.

Wonders about infertility treatment as a possible cause of her ovarian cancer.

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The drugs during IVF initially stop all hormone production and then re-stimulate your ovaries so there has always been a bit of  question mark over whether those drugs can actually play a part within ovarian cancer. And no matter how many doctors you ask you'll never get a definitive answer for that one and I don't think it's known. There is research ongoing at the minute to see if there is a link.  

I personally think that it may have been a link in my case although I also think that there may have been an underlying reason for those drugs affecting me because I was in a support group for couples who were trying to have children and having IVF and I know a lot of people and they've had IVF and yet I'm the only one that actually was then diagnosed with ovarian cancer. So statistically, you know, it may be linked but it's possibly still quite small, you know, quite a small chance of it.  

 

Dreaded her early check-ups because she feared they might reveal a recurrence of her cancer.

Dreaded her early check-ups because she feared they might reveal a recurrence of her cancer.

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Since that then I've had regular check-ups. I know at the start the check-ups were very difficult because, try as you might, you do tend to be maybe in a more negative frame of mind. And I would have dreaded having my blood taken or having a scan because I just thought I can't cope with, if something comes back. And I go now for my check-ups without that same dread because I think again it's something that with time you tend to deal with better. So initially those check-ups were terribly difficult, they're now not that difficult really, although you still would certainly have the doubts, the fears, the anxieties and so on.  

 

Was initially refused by an adoption agency because of her cancer but succeeded in changing the...

Was initially refused by an adoption agency because of her cancer but succeeded in changing the...

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After, about a year after the chemotherapy, maybe not just as long as that, we decided that we would go back to the adoption route which we had tried before and obviously because we were having fertility treatment we couldn't advance. So we thought 'well we'll go back to that route and see what happens'. 

The decision then to try adopting children really just came once, you know, we'd sort of come to terms and dealt with cancer and the fact that I wasn't going to die and so on just then. We thought well maybe we could think about this again, and so we went back and unfortunately when my medical information was put to the panel we were rejected.  

While I initially accepted it then maybe another year down the line I started to think 'This is the only negative thing in my life, nobody else seems to have a problem with the fact that I had cancer, I don't, my husband doesn't, friends and family don't. You know I'm sort of back to normal and work and, you know, people are treating me now the same as they ever did. Why have we been turned down because I was diagnosed with cancer?'  

So we decided then that, an opportunity came when I saw an article in a local newspaper covering a similar type of story, that I would contact this journalist and let her know what happened and we went public. And after that we were contacted by our local MP who decided that this maybe wasn't very fair and contacted the particular health Trust. And we went through an appeal procedure, we met the Chief Executive and my medical history then was gone into again, and a few years down the road the decision was overturned and it was, the policy was changed that anybody diagnosed with cancer applying to adopt children in that particular area would be free to go forward five years after diagnosis.  

So I reached my five years six months ago, the medical information has gone to panel again and we've been given the go ahead to start the assessment, which that's the stage we're at the minute.  

 

Was very active before her illness but now does even more sport and exercise.

Was very active before her illness but now does even more sport and exercise.

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Well I was always a very active person and I would say as a result I have probably become even more active because I get such a buzz from being active. Before I had cancer I would have played hockey, squash, as I was growing up, going to aerobics, and I always walked the dogs. After cancer I took up running, I took part in a few women's runs, the 'Run for Life' for the charity, running at that stage just three miles, increased that then to take part in the relays for the marathon in [town] running six miles. I took part in a women's run again for charity in London, and took part this year again in the marathon, not the whole thing now, just the six miles, five or six miles. I started to walk more than before and I think for a while I became nearly addicted to exercise. I found that it made me feel so good and again I felt that it was doing me so much good physically and psychologically that I find that now a very important part of my life.  

 

Attended a 'look good, feel better' beauty session to counteract the effects of chemotherapy.

Attended a 'look good, feel better' beauty session to counteract the effects of chemotherapy.

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And we were actually treated to things like hand massages, we had a day where some of the cosmetic companies put on a 'Look good, feel better' initiative and we were all brought together round a table to be given a little treat of make-up and how to make yourself look better when you had no hair, no eyebrows or eyelashes, and your cheeks were out to here with anti sickness drugs. And we had a bit of a laugh and something like that is great as well because it, I think certainly for females it helps if you can try and make yourself feel a little bit more confident, and I think may be we can do that with make-up where men can't, and maybe that helps to give us back our self esteem a little bit.  

 

Had no difficulty resuming a normal sex life after treatment and felt the experience had...

Had no difficulty resuming a normal sex life after treatment and felt the experience had...

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Well my husband and I had to go through six cycles of IVF. IVF in itself is something which can cause a bit of tension between a couple because you are on an emotional roller coaster during that treatment. And prior to having IVF I think the actual fact of trying for a family and looking at temperatures, times of the month and things like that, that can cause some tension as well between the couple.  

However whenever I was diagnosed with cancer obviously that put an end to all of that and after my physical recovery from the hysterectomy my husband and I resumed a very normal and very happy sexual relationship and emotional relationship. And I would say, if anything, having been through the trauma of infertility, of IVF, of being diagnosed with cancer and all the emotions that come with that, and all the fears and anxieties, our relationship has strengthened because we came through it all together.  

 

Described the consequences of her decision not to tell her family she had cancer until after her...

Described the consequences of her decision not to tell her family she had cancer until after her...

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I decided not to tell my parents and I decided not to tell my sister and my brother because I didn't know what to tell them, I didn't want them to have the worry that we were having. And so I, I spent a weekend of trying to be quite jolly, which was extremely difficult. Not being able to eat anything and just pretend that I had a tummy upset. I did say that I had to go in for a minor op that Monday, just a small gynae problem, and was very relieved when Monday morning came and went into  hospital.  

When I do look back on how I spent the Saturday with my mum and didn't tell her, I don't know how I did that. And I had to put on this front of being my normal self. And obviously the conversation would have revolved around certain things which I knew this new diagnosis was going to have a terrible impact on, and yet I still, you know, decided that I wasn't going to say anything. 

And I had a phone call, I had a phone conversation with my sister and that was very difficult, you know, I just, at one stage I just wanted to tell her, and at another stage I thought 'no, I'm not going to tell her until I know exactly what I have to tell her' because I just knew the impact that it would have on them.

 

Benefited from keeping in touch with other survivors through going to a local self-help group.

Benefited from keeping in touch with other survivors through going to a local self-help group.

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I have kept in touch with some of the people that I was in hospital with because we joined the same support group when in hospital, and while it was very important then emotionally, our meetings now maybe revolved more around life outside of cancer and getting together for a chat and a laugh and sharing common interests or going out for meals at special times. But knowing that underneath it all we all share the same experience, we all have an understanding of what it's like to be diagnosed with cancer and go through the treatments and the effects that it has on your family and friends.  

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