Almost seven years ago I lost my mum to ovarian cancer. I still can’t believe that she is no longer here but my aim now is to raise awareness of this disease and try my best to help others who have been affected by it. It has taken me a long time to get to this point where I am able to share what happened but if  I can help just one person, it makes it completely worthwhile and enables me to continue her legacy by telling her story.

Losing my mum was hugely tragic and heart-breaking, it was the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my life, as my mum was and still is everything to me. I’m quite a private person but not only do I want to share this to talk about ovarian cancer and highlight the symptoms (which I think many women are uninformed about), I also think it’s important to address the grief that is experienced when you lose a loved one to cancer.

Mum was tired a lot, feeling sick and her abdomen was extremely swollen. She had no appetite, she would eat something and feel full really quickly, she suffered with constipation and she had pain in the lower part of her back. She also kept on having to go to the toilet to urinate more frequently than usual. She knew her body and she knew something wasn’t right. She visited different GPs a couple of times and was once told it was the menopause and another time that she needed to lose weight – but even being told this she knew that that wasn’t it. It is so important to trust your instincts and push the doctors to explore things further when you know something is wrong with your body. That’s exactly what my mum ended up doing as the symptoms weren’t improving and she was completely right to do so.

I had never heard of ovarian cancer but I will never forget when Mum told me that she was diagnosed with the illness. I had a summer job as I was about to start university and was told that I needed to leave work and go straight to the hospital. I had no idea what I was about to be told, but as I stood on the platform waiting for the train I felt uneasy and worried. I was desperate to get there as quickly as I could. Even now trying to remember things is still a blur, but it’s strange what you do remember and I know that it was a cloudy day and that I walked into the room to see my mum upright in bed with my dad sitting beside her. I sat down on the bed and Mum was talking to me, asking how work had been and talking as if everything was ok. I asked her what was wrong and what they had said and all I remember is her saying the work cancer. I burst out crying hysterically and just hugged her whilst she told me that everything was going to be ok.

I know this is such a cliché, but it didn’t feel like it was real. I still can’t believe how calm she was and how strong she was being but this was only the beginning of the strength I learnt she had within her. The reason that her abdomen was swollen was because fluid had built up. She explained to me that she would have the fluid drained and then they would assess the situation from there.

Mum then had to have a hysterectomy. I remember her saying to me that she wasn’t going to have any more children and that she had to do this for the doctors to be able to get rid of as much of the cancer as they could – but at the point where Mum was diagnosed, she already had stage 3 ovarian cancer. This meant that the cancer was advanced and had spread from the ovary and that’s why they needed to do surgery.

After surgery was chemotherapy. Mum wasn’t keen on dad or myself going with her to have chemo as she wanted her independence; she was the most independent woman and always did things herself. A couple of times I did go with her, and it made me so upset seeing her have to go through chemo: the sickness, the pain and losing her hair.

What really upsets me even more is that the cancer was relentless and so was the treatment. Chemo didn’t work and so they then tried trial drugs as this was the last resort. They tried different ones with different side effects but they still didn’t work. Mum was sent home for three weeks after treatment stopped and this was the worst point, because at this point she should’ve been taken to the hospice, who could have helped with the pain she was experiencing – but unfortunately this didn’t happen.

When we went to visit Mum that Saturday morning, things had changed. It was unbelievable how to previous day had been her usual self and now she had jaundice; she was yellow and her organs were shutting down. The hospice told us that she didn’t have long left. That day family and friends came to see her and by lunch time she was unable to talk and her breathing had changed. My aunt and nan left the hospice after 11pm and once they had gone, Dad and I settled down to go to sleep in the room with Mum. Dad was going to sleep on the fold out chair at one side of mum’s bed and I had a bed put up on the other side. When the lights were turned off, I lay there listening to her breathing and I know it was going to happen. I couldn’t sleep because I felt it in my gut. And then it happened.

My mum fought ovarian cancer for four years before she died on 15th April 2012, aged 48. She was the most determined, brave and courageous women I have ever known. The strength she showed throughout whilst living with cancer was inspirational and even though I told her numerous times a day how much I loved her, I wish she could know how much I admire her and how amazing she was. I hope I can continue to make her proud by raising awareness and money for those affected, educating people about the symptoms as well as helping those who are caring for a loved one with ovarian cancer.

Mum supported Ovacome by always wearing a teal ribbon and made me aware of the charity. It really frustrates me that people aren’t aware of ovarian cancer and the symptoms, but neither was I until it actually affected my life. It is so important to know the symptoms as it can affect any woman. When my team at work decided that we would come together to raise money for a charity, we chose Ovacome, as ovarian cancer has affected multiple members of the team. This was a surprise to me as our team is made up of 10 of us but this just shows how common ovarian cancer is - yet it’s spoken about so rarely. We managed to bring together additional colleagues and ended up with 16 of us (the biggest group of people who have run for a charity) partaking in the Winter Parks 10km run in Hyde Park. We also raised a huge amount of money, £5,470, for Ovacome. I am so proud to have been a part of this and so proud of the team for all of their support. It was an honour to run on behalf of Ovacome and I really hope that the money that we raised will help others diagnosed and affected by ovarian cancer.

When some you love is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, or any cancer, it is life changing. I always thought mum would be here, even though she was sick I never thought we’d lose her. Nothing prepares you for losing a loved one. They say time heals, but I have to disagree. As more time passes, I actually think the harder it becomes because you are living life and continuing on without that person. Life is never the same. One of my friends who also lost her mum from cancer once told me that one day there will come a time when more years will pass and I would’ve spent more time without mum than with her, and this makes me so sad but has always stuck with me. I am so lucky and grateful to have spent 22 years with my mum but as an only child and a woman now approaching 30 I really miss her and still grieve. So much has happened in the time she has been gone. I miss her all the time and think of her every day. Always be grateful for what you have, especially your health as it is the most important gift you can be blessed with.

If you take anything away from my story, please go to the doctor if you notice any of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Please educate yourself about it and please help to support Ovacome.