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Interview OV32

Age at interview: 66
Age at diagnosis: 56
Brief Outline: Ovarian cancer diagnosed in 1994 following tiredness, pain, nausea and vomiting. Treated with bowel surgery then chemotherapy. Recurrence treated by chemotherapy prior to surgical removal of ovaries and womb. Second recurrence treated by more chemotherapy.
Background: Retired teacher, single, no children.

More about me...

 

Wonders if HRT might have caused her ovarian cancer.

Wonders if HRT might have caused her ovarian cancer.

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Just before I was diagnosed I'd been in a study on osteoporosis where I'd been put on HRT and I wondered whether there were any connection. I'd been on HRT for two years I think but no one has ever suggested that. I know it can increase the likelihood of breast cancer, and of course if my cancer is the sort that might be connected with breast cancer, I suppose it could. It's supposed to protect you against some cancers I believe, but I, no I don't know.

 

Was very sick after chemotherapy and needed to be hospitalised.

Was very sick after chemotherapy and needed to be hospitalised.

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And I went on to have one course of carboplatin. It was okay, I did alright, I was well when I went into it but I had a late reaction, and having had the treatment on Tuesday. On the Saturday I became so ill that I was passing out when I was being sick. I managed to phone a friend on my mobile and she said "Don't you worry I'll be there in twenty minutes," I couldn't get out of bed because I was passing out when I was sort of sick. 

And I have a neighbour who has become a very good friend and support who's a doctor, and she said "I'm going across to get him." Brought him, he gave me an injection and said "If this doesn't work in forty-five minutes come back and get me," and he said to me " I'm putting you, I'm phoning, I'm putting you back in the ward, I'm phoning for the ambulance, I'm telling them you're on your way, I hope you don't mind." So I said "Please feel free." So I went. And they were worried, he said "I'm glad they're going to see what happens when patients come back from the day hospital sometimes," as a GP no doubt he's seen some of, you know, these things happen. But then they can put more patients through and for most people it works very well. 
 

Talks about her family history and her concerns about being tested for a faulty gene.

Talks about her family history and her concerns about being tested for a faulty gene.

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I haven't been offered a test. I did mention it to my oncologist that when my sister was diagnosed, because she's eight years younger than I am, so it was quite far into my experience, and he said "Oh perhaps I should mention this." He did take a note of it but I don't know, with only the two of us perhaps it's not sufficiently interesting. As far as I know I'm the first member of the family to have, that we know inside about three generations, to have ovarian cancer, although it might have been misdiagnosed in, you know, perhaps because it shows up in different places. 

I know of nobody in my family until my sister who's had breast cancer, so the two of us have turned up, you know, in one generation.

So, you know, I, I think the idea of the genetic testing is an important one but of course it's not one which is recommended is it to sort of everybody because it can be, it could be a frightening, it's better to think 'well I've got a one in however many chances' than to think 'it's very likely' I think. 
 

Attended art therapy sessions to help her to unwind.

Attended art therapy sessions to help her to unwind.

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I go to art therapy, art therapy is a tremendous help and we find few people sort of come forward to that. I don't know if they're afraid of it, they think they can't draw or something, which is not what it's about, but it is wonderfully releasing and relaxing, and I've got a huge file of work upstairs. And that's one of things that has helped me possibly most because if I'm really uptight or if I've had huge doses of steroids, which sometimes has happened and I'm wired up, then the art therapy helps because I can get out the pastels or the paints and I can actually work on something and it defuses that feeling.  

 

Retired early on health grounds and received an occupational pension.

Retired early on health grounds and received an occupational pension.

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Have there been any other financial implications of your illness?

Not, I don't think so, no because it was so near, I was so near retirement. I suppose the only thing is that in fact I retired on grounds of ill health which meant I retired about two months earlier than, two or three months earlier than I normally would have done, but in a way that was because if I hadn't done it that way, if I'd gone onto my normal time there would've been financial implications in the sense that I would've lost out on some pay. And in the event I didn't. The bit of time you miss gets made up when it's on health. And but I could have done supply teaching after retirement if I hadn't gone out on health grounds. Actually I wouldn't have wanted to because as things are time is too precious to spend on that sort of thing. But it's quite useful, I mean it would've been quite useful money.

 

A social worker helped her to apply for Incapacity Benefit.

A social worker helped her to apply for Incapacity Benefit.

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Which benefits have you had?

I'm trying to think what it's actually called. I'm not sure what it's called because I, I mean I could go and look it up, whether it's incapacity or but it's something on those, on those lines. She actually completed the, brought  it up with me, said "Have you applied for anything like this? And I don't want to be embarrassing by talking about money but," and I said no I hadn't, I'd actually had forms at an earlier stage but had found it impossible to fill it in at the time because I was on treatment and my mind just was soggy, I couldn't concentrate. And then someone had told me that it was unlikely I'd get anything anyway because, so she said "Oh that's not true, it's not means tested, it's according to need and if you don't mind I'll fill it in for you." And, and she did and it was accepted.

 

Initially found it difficult to say the word 'cancer' but believed that doing so helped people to...

Initially found it difficult to say the word 'cancer' but believed that doing so helped people to...

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I did at first find it very difficult to, not to appreciate that I had cancer because I think I'd already guessed, it was finding out what sort. But I found it very difficult to actually say it. Once I'd said it, once I could say to somebody "I have cancer, I have ovarian cancer". Once you've said it half a dozen times it is the same as saying "I have diabetes, I have high blood pressure', whatever. And I try to do that, I try to tell people to actually say the word, to get other people to talk about it. And it's quite, once you do that, once you've broken that barrier I find it very encouraging and I would, and I do say that to other people, try to actually say it because it's not a dirty secret and in the past I think it almost has been.  

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