First published August 2018. Reviewed January 2022.

In 2010 I began feeling unwell: stomach cramps, tiredness, weight gain and continuous inconclusive smear results. I worked full time within social work and lived with my partner who I had been with for two years. In early 2011 I fainted at work due to stomach pains and dizziness, an ambulance was called and I was rushed to the local hospital where I was told my blood count was low. I was discharged with pain killers and told to make an appointment with my GP.

Early summer 2011 after three inconclusive smear tests I began to feel extremely tired and my weight was increasing even though I had joined my local weight watchers class and was attending the gym regularly. I felt my weight gain was the reason for my tiredness and thought that leading a healthy life would help. In August 2011 after a fifty minute gym class I crawled home with the most agonising pain in my stomach. I passed out in the middle of the night and was assisted back to bed by my partner. At 7am the next morning my alarm went off for work. I couldn’t move, I was terrified of what it could be. I called my parents who advised I get ready and go straight to the GP. My father came with me and I was rushed straight to hospital with a suspected ruptured appendix. Again I was given pain relief and I was told to prepare for surgery. After one hour of tramadol the pain was gone completely and the doctors were concerned that something wasn’t right.

I spent seven days in hospital receiving continuous tests. I remember one gynaecologist who seemed so anxious, I asked him: “do you think its cancer?”. He smiled and said, “we need to find something first”. I was so concerned by his answer, in my heart I knew something was seriously wrong. He called for a consultant and they both began talking quietly discussing what was on the computer screen. I was so annoyed, I was scared, why would they not tell me? This was my body, surely I had the right to know. I was put back onto the ward with no knowledge of what was happening. I took my mobile phone and called my mother. I told her what had happened. I was so emotional, I was terrified, I felt so alone.

The next day a consultant took me into a small room and explained that something had shown in the internal ultrasound. She couldn’t tell me what it was but I was told to “prepare for surgery, we have to remove it as soon as possible”.

'The of day my surgery arrived. This was another six days later due to emergencies coming in through A&E and that I had an MRSA infection which had to clear. I was taken to theatre and all I remember was crying hysterically that I might never wake up. I did, seven hours later; the surgery took longer than anyone thought and the “thing” they found inside me was a sixteen inch cyst. This explained the tiredness and the horrendous weight gain. It wasn’t that simple though. The cyst had attached to my ovaries, kidneys, bowel and liver; this placed even more doubt as to what was actually wrong with me.

I didn’t hear a thing for thirteen days. I thought I was fine, I was feeling great, I had energy, I wasn't tired, I had my life back. Day fourteen, the dreaded call came.

When the consultant saw me, straight away she told me: “you have cancer, we don’t know what stage or what kind, but we promise to do our best”. The look of shock on my parents face still haunts me; their only child had cancer. I asked the consultant straight: “could this kill me?”. Her reply: “I can’t answer that at this point”.

Then it hit me: I hadn’t lived my life yet, I wanted to get married, I wanted children, I wanted to buy a family home, I wanted to go further in my career. I was twenty-five, I had cancer and my life was there hanging in the balance of diagnosis.

It was stage 1c mucinous ovarian cancer, my life wasn’t guaranteed, treatments were discussed (six sessions of chemotherapy), more surgery and yet again another dose of MRSA to add to the mix. I was not experiencing the best of luck and this took a turn for the worse when at a meeting with my consultant I was told that to save my life I required a full hysterectomy.

This turned my world upside down; it was all my partner and I had spoken about. We were saving for a family home and had discussed marriage and children for our future. How could I expect him to stay with me, how could I place him in this horrendous situation, how could I take away his chances of his life’s wishes?

He stayed, he held my hand the whole way and for that he will never truly understand how grateful I was and still am to this day.

I had open surgery on Monday the 24 of October 2011. I had a full hysterectomy, my appendix removed and part of my bowel, liver and kidney removed.

I woke up in my room surrounded by my partner and parents, I was so glad to see them but they looked awful. My mum was grey and although she tried to hide it, I could see the tears in her eyes. My dad and I use humour to deal with difficult situations; he didn’t say much at all. My partner was devastated, I could tell by the sympathetic smile he gave me. I never really thought about how I must have looked to them, but discussing this now still brings tears to their eyes.

I moved back to my parents as my partner worked long hours and for the first few weeks it was best I had supervision. My dad became my strength. My mum is a saint, not only for what she did for me throughout that time, but for fighting through her own emotions and never truly showing them.

My partner was amazing throughout, he visited daily and I always looked forward to him visiting. I loved hearing about his day; it was normality. My friends? Well what can I say, they are the best. I’ve never truly opened up on my journey with cancer to anyone and I still haven't, I kept all my emotions inside as I was terrified to show fear and upset to anyone around me.

The dreaded chemotherapy date arrived, 2 December 2011. I attended Glasgow Beatson where Carboplatin and Paclitaxel were the drugs used. Eight hours of sitting in that dreaded chair. My veins failed, I took reactions, I felt so ill and I experienced agonising joint pain. The first chemo over, I took control of my life. I had been growing my hair, I have always taken pride in it, it was dark brown and half way down my back. I had a wonderful hairdresser who gave me a pixie cut. This made it easier a week later when I handed my dad the razor and said “let's do this”. I shaved it all off, every last strand of my hair was gone but not because cancer had done it, because I chose to do it first.

I had a gorgeous long dark wig, it was just like my own hair and no one really knew it was a wig. I put make up on every day, even though some days the pain was so severe I could hardly move. I laughed daily and made an effort as best I could to socialise. I’m not going to lie, my experience with chemo was not good, it made me so ill and I suffered a lot of pain throughout the months.

I received a newsletter from a consultant, it was Ovacome. This became a little secret haven for me, reading the newsletters gave me hope of full survival and getting me back to being me. I joined the chat room and although I didn’t write much I got so much inspiration from others. These women were spectacular individuals with such an amazing outlook on life.

The six sessions took me into spring 2012. I returned to work and tried to get my life back. I waited on the results. I was cancer free. I couldn’t believe it. The consultant stated that I would be monitored for five to six years but I was free from cancer and I had to live my life to the full. That was easier said than done and I had a lot of hiccups along the way. My identity, my self-belief, self-worth and confidence were impacted so much more than I ever knew. My relationship suffered, everything seemed so difficult, especially now I couldn’t have children, but this only made me more determined to fight for it. In October 2012 my partner proposed, making me the happiest girl alive, we had overcome so much in our relationship and this felt like a fresh start for us both. In October 2014 we got married in front of all the amazing family and friends who held us up and helped us fight throughout my cancer battle. I returned to study in 2014 and this year (September 2018) I shall (hopefully) qualify with a BA honours in Social Work.

There was always something missing from our lives and we knew exactly what that was. One option was taken from us but others weren’t. We began our adoption process in 2016 and on 6 February 2017 we brought home our gorgeous two daughters aged 18 months and 28 months. Our life was complete, never did we imagine how much our girls were meant for us, they give me a reason to fight every morning, they give me motivation to succeed, they have shown me love I never thought I would feel and they have brought my husband and I closer than ever. In July 2017 we moved into our forever family home and that was made a double celebration when I was given the full all clear with no return to my consultant.

Ringing the bell and walking out of the hospital that day was the first time I really felt proud of my fight. I always felt I had got it easy compared to others, I always felt my story wasn’t good enough to be told, I always felt that my story wasn't valid for anyone but me. I’m telling my story because my fight with ovarian cancer was real, it's part of who I am and it's something I will never forget. Every story is worth being told because out there is someone who can relate to the emotions, the struggle, the fight and the fear that we all go through.

Photo of Lyndsey and her partner