News & stories Personal stories Jo With hindsight, my first symptom was needing to rush to the toilet more frequently to pass water, but I thought at the time that this was due to my age, having seen advertisements on the TV for TENA Lady!! I first went to see a doctor when I started becoming constipated. I had no pain, no bloating, no feeling of being full at this point. She gave me medicine which then gave me diarrhoea and told me to come back in two weeks’ time. When I returned to see another doctor, they gave me medicine to stop this, which made me constipated! After another two weeks I saw yet another doctor who said I needed a colonoscopy, then waited to be referred to see a specialist, then waited yet another two weeks to have the procedure. By this time I was in awful pain, which felt like bad period pains down my left side. My menopause had been 18 years earlier. I told the doctor this but they dismissed it, saying “We’ll deal with that later”. I was told I would have to wait 7 weeks to get the results of the colonoscopy, as the haematology department was understaffed. However, due to intensive pain, I went back to the GP surgery and asked for a private referral for an ultrasound scan and strong painkillers, as I was lying in pain on my bed every day. The new doctor that I saw questioned why I had neither had a stool test nor blood test and gave me a blood test straight away. I waited 5 days for an ultrasound appointment. I realise now I should have gone to A&E, but knowing how stretched they are, I didn’t. The scan revealed a 10cm simple cyst, one which I was told had a 90% chance of being benign. I decided to have a private operation due to the amount of time I had experiences pain and how there was no visible sign of malignancy. However the biopsy showed half a millimetre of cancer on the surface of the left ovary. I had to wait 6 weeks to recover after the first operation (where the ovaries and fallopian tubes were removed). I was stage 3a and needed a hysterectomy and my omentum removed, as well as chemotherapy. I had 6 rounds of Carboplatin and Taxol every 3 weeks which I’m happy to say I tolerated very well with no vomiting or change in taste, just a little tiredness. My oncologist wouldn’t give me a baseline CT scan or genetic testing. She also told me after the 3rd round of chemo that I was cured, so I decided to go instead to a well-known regional centre, to which I travel 132 miles return. There they have been excellent and for the first time I heard an ovarian cancer oncologist say: “A woman knows her own body”. As my mother and aunt both were diagnosed with breast cancer in their fifties, I had asked for genetic testing when I had gone for my ‘Well Woman’ medical check every year since the age of 45 (21 years). I was told that only ladies who had relations diagnosed in their thirties to forties would be given the test. Finally now, I have discovered that I do have the BRCA2 faulty gene (which I had suspected). This helps the oncologist to decide upon my treatment. I also have 3 daughters who need to know if they have the faulty gene, which could not only affect them but also their daughters and sons (BRCA2 can be linked to prostate and pancreatic cancer). At the moment, nearly a year since the last chemo, I have no evidence of disease. After a gruelling 8 months post-chemo of fatigue, pains, CT scans, a colonoscopy and an MRI, I am back to playing badminton, walking, cycling, going to the gym and being sociable like my former self! At times I do feel down, which is only to be expected, but I feel at last that I can get on with what I want to do now without constant pain, fear and anxiety. These have diminished for me, but it does take time and everybody is different. I am left with bowel damage, having to take laxatives every day, but at the moment I feel great and have a lot to be thankful for. My advice is know your own body, don’t delay if you have any of the symptoms and ask doctors if they have considered ovarian cancer. Don’t delay, question, and ask experts such as Ovacome. Knowledge is power!