My Ovarian Cancer Journey
I was also asked to tell my Ovarian Cancer Journey, as a OCA team leader.
I danced a lot and I was working part-time at my husband’s dental practice. I went to the gym twice a week, had a full life with my two girls, travelled and did voluntary work.
We were celebrating my husband’s 60th birthday in July, when I was diagnosed on 6 August 2013 at 58 and on Friday 6th August 2021 now 66 still cancer free.
Like so many other women, I didn’t have clear symptoms. The only symptoms I had was a severe backache and some stomach cramping.
It was a dull ache, and I’d been gardening a lot so I initially thought I must have hurt my back.
I was using a heat pack, then I’d take some painkillers and it would disappear then come back again.
I eventually knew there was something that wasn’t right.
I made an appointment to see my gynaecologist, who had done quite a few previous gynaecological repair operations. I’d already had a partial hysterectomy, at first my gynae thought it was a rectocele. In early July, I went back to see him as I still felt the pressure and the backaches were excruciating I saw him again, after weeks of waiting & he said it was now probably diverticulitis and sent me off for an ultrasound.
I had the scans, then didn’t hear back from my gynae, when I rang, he hadn’t looked at them yet. The next evening the backache came back and I knew something wasn’t right. I then rang my GP and was told to come in he took one look at the scans, which showed a large mass, and asked if he could take some blood. He rang me up the next morning and said my bloods showed a marker called CA 125, which can be an indicator of OC. My GP then spoke to my Gynae more scans and ultrasounds. I then saw a oncology gynae surgeon and three days later I was in surgery.
It was after my surgery that my world changed forever. It was a whirlwind – I just thought, I can’t have this, because I used to have everything checked, I was very diligent with mammograms and blood tests and looking after myself.
With ovarian cancer, they don’t know the stage until they’ve gone in and done the operation. I didn’t get the full results for five days. You’re in your own little realm, with your mind working overtime.
We found out that my cancer was stage 3C. During the operation, the surgeon also took my omentum as a few cells were found there and lymph nodes from my groin.
Then I started 18 weeks of chemotherapy, taxol & carboplatin, the week we moved into our new home all my friends rallied around putting my bedroom together and the kitchen I was very humbled. I also had a friend that came with me every appointment, which was a blessing.
I can't thank the chemo nurses who become friends, they see you at your weakest & best. I was very lucky I really didn't get many side effects from the chemo or maybe I just filed it away in my brain.
The toughest part was when my hair started to fall out in the second week of chemo. I was in the shower washing my hair, and it just started to come away in my hands. That was when it was like this is real, I cried a lot in the shower.
At one point during chemo, I had Neutropenic Fever and needed a blood transfusion. I just felt a bit woozy, and had a temperature. That was a little bit scary, My taxol chemo was reduced after that and like so many other women think its not going to cure the cancer if reduced.
A diagnosis of cancer is when your brain goes into overdrive with all the negativity, at time all I could focus on was dying, not seeing my girls married, not being a granny or just growing old.
I always worried when treatment was over and you do your bloods 3 monthly & 6 monthly, That five-year figure – that stays in your brain all the way through your treatments.
Those couple of days before you get the test results, the little worry starts coming in. It’s the unknown, as your body’s betrayed you once . You’re never the same person.
Even now, when I get my bloods done yearly, I still get nervous, because it can always come back.
I had genetic testing which was negative, I was the only person in my family to ever have cancer, so I was a random.
I feel blessed everyday and have now continued my voluntary work.
What I discovered:
You take each day as it comes. You live day-to-day. If you feel like staying in bed all day, stay in bed, you don’t have to do 50 million things a day, your body has been through a lot and Chemo takes its toll so be kind to yourself and rest when needed.
When you have cancer, you do start to lose yourself. Putting my lipstick on was something I could point to and say, “There’s a little bit of me.” It brightens your face up. Throughout treatment I kept my normality with running the practice and the household at my own pace.
It was hard and an emotional roller coaster of doubt, fear, anger and resentment. I found speaking to a psychologist who specialized in women's cancers gave me the tools to handle my emotions. She also gave me some coping methods I have passed on.
I also learnt to meditate together with practicing mindfulness, which calmed me especially through Chemotherapy and still practice both. The greatest gift I gave myself was coming to terms that I am not the same women that I was and to be content with my life and be kind to yourself.
A lot of people think they’re helping you by saying things like cancer only happens to good people and platitudes like that, I know that they mean well but most just don’t know what to say so give them some grace. But you don’t need negativity! We are stronger more determined and courageous we speak our minds, we have been through the storm.
Never feel your alone this Forum is here where we can share our stories and support one in other. It’s non-judgmental and supportive. You can connect with other women who have walked in your shoes and can relate especially to the gambit of emotions this Cancer brings. We are all here together for each other. Especially with the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.
Stay strong, stay safe