For Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2021, Ovacome member Katie wanted to raise awareness of the impact of an ovarian cancer diagnosis for all those whose lives are touched by the disease. As well as sharing her own story, Katie wanted to share the stories and perspectives of those who have supported her throughout her diagnosis and treatment - in their own words. In this post, Katie's friend Amy, who she met through the Ovacome Friday group, share her story.

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When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer suddenly it felt like I was losing the familiar life that I knew.

I felt helpless, overwhelmed, scared and a deep sense of dread that suddenly my life was in danger. My future plans felt ripped from beneath me. What now? Where do I turn? I felt so isolated and alone.

My road to diagnosis had been a long one. Months of bloating, needing the toilet all the time, losing weight, migraines, brain fog and fatigue. What was wrong with me? Why did I feel like this? I just wanted someone to help me and make me better.

When I was referred urgently to The Royal Marsden I immediately felt in safe hands. I knew things would get better and I had hope. I met my surgeon Mr. Butler and his team and I instantly knew that I was going to get the help I needed.

Surgery followed. It was an overwhelming time.

Sometimes when I think about it, I’m still in shock that I went through all that. The care I received from staff at The Royal Marsden was just incredible. The staff felt like a security blanket.

I met Dr. Banerjee at an appointment to discuss my chemotherapy. I felt so safe — things were going to be ok. I felt so nervous and anxious about starting chemotherapy but the team explained everything to me — I’m in awe of their kindness, patience and expertise.

The staff at The Royal Marsden helped me in so many ways. I was offered holistic therapies alongside my treatment and the care I received impacted positively on both my physical and mental health and how I coped with treatment.

I kept as active as I could throughout my cancer treatment. I didn’t want cancer to take away who I was. I found it healing walking in nature. There is something about how nature carries on regardless that I find both relaxing and energising.

I have met many wonderful and inspirational people since my cancer diagnosis.

Having cancer treatment made me feel vulnerable and I joined a support group where I could attend monthly meet ups to share experiences and support each other.

Through this group I applied to be a model for the Ovacome Touch of Teal gala — an event which raises awareness of ovarian cancer and provides a fantastic opportunity to be beautifully confident when cancer has taken so much away. Meeting up with other ladies showed me that there is a future beyond cancer.

My treatment caused sickness, hair loss, joint pain and fatigue. It was so hard. After 15 months, attending the hospital twice every 3 weeks, counting each treatment down, I was finished. I had been looking forward to my treatment ending. I imagined all the destinations I wanted to visit — no more rolling 3-week treatments. No more cannulas. Freedom!

Then suddenly the pandemic hit — lockdown happened.

There were many parallels to cancer. Suddenly the activities I had planned became stay at home, a ‘new normal’, frequent handwashing, fear of catching a virus. There was a huge sense of loss. What do I do now? I felt vulnerable, anxious and isolated.

One thing that has been the most valuable to me since my cancer diagnosis is the people I have met and friendships I have formed. During lockdown when physical meet ups were not possible, I was able to connect online with other ladies who had also received a cancer diagnosis.

The friends I have met have been so supportive and have helped me through the difficult process of adjusting to my life when my treatment ended. I needed to connect with people who could relate to how I felt.

Cancer caused me anxiety and sadness. I felt grief from losing my fertility and future plans. Physically I experienced a lot of side effects and struggled with life following surgical menopause. I was able to share every step of what I was going through with other ladies and feel listened to and understood. It made me feel safe.

Through the friends I’ve met I’ve also felt encouraged and supported. There is a great sense of collectiveness when there is a shared understanding of going through trauma.

Cancer changed my sense of identity.

I could no longer be a mum due to losing my fertility. I had to rethink my employment choices as I had a range of side effects from treatment. This included ‘chemo brain’ which means I find processing information difficult; I struggle to find the right words to say and organising information.

My energy levels have changed and I experience fatigue from tasks I would previously have been able to do. Trying to negate all of this during the pandemic felt overwhelming.

By speaking with other ladies and forming friendships I started to process what had happened to me and also gained inspiration to try new activities. I was inspired to take up sewing and started embroidery which I enjoy. I took part in organised group events including a craft club and information sessions. I felt motivated to continue with my Masters in history and also recognised when I needed time out to just be.

Cancer changed everything in my life and I currently feel that I am going through a healing process.

I am working through the trauma from the diagnosis and associated losses. Despite this I have also gained so much. The friendships I have formed have been an overwhelming source of support.

I can be serious and share the difficulties but equally I can laugh and feel great joy. I feel I am stronger through being vulnerable and open and my life is richer from the people that I have met. I can look into the future with acceptance and hope.

Cancer and the pandemic have shown me just how important friendships are. They are the glue that holds everything together.