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Shani's story

"I saw a consultant on the Tuesday, and was told then I had stage 4 terminal cancer. I have remained positive throughout."

We’ve put together some advice on coping with terminal ovarian cancer, and how it may be affecting your emotional and family life.

Take time for yourself

You know your ovarian cancer is not curable and you know it will limit your life. These are two aspects of ovarian cancer you may have been dreading, or perhaps have always known to be the case.

You have the opportunity to try and enjoy your life, live it to the full whatever that means for you, as much as you can.

You may want to:

  • spend time with the people you are close to, and take the time to spoil yourself a bit
  • travel, or take a trip you have been putting off 
  • plan things you want to do, and stick to it
  • if it works for you, try to take a break from your cancer for one day a week to start with, then perhaps a whole weekend

It’s ok and natural to enjoy your life right now.

You may be feeling tired and unwell at times, but setting small goals and letting others know your wishes can help you achieve what you want and give you a sense of normality.

Dealing with depression

Having cancer can make you feel sad, frustrated and angry at times. It is common for women in this situation to become very sad or depressed, no one will think that you are being weak or that you should be able to ‘cope’. 

If those feelings stop you living your life or make you feel so awful that you want to cry or hide most days, ask for help.

Your GP or nurse may recommend medication, counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which will give you skills and empower you to take back control at a time when there seems to be very little control to take.

You may find that going to a local cancer support centre or hospice and meeting others will help you feel able to cope or more like ‘you’ again.

How you might feelRelationships with family and friends

Family and friends can be a tremendous comfort and support, but you may feel torn between leaning on your loved ones and feeling that you are a burden to them. 

Even if you have a lot of support you may still be feeling isolated. This is a common experience for women with ovarian cancer, particularly when you know your cancer is life limiting.

  • It might help to make plans to do things you enjoy with others, such as a trip or outing that will bring you together.
  • If you can, talk to your loved ones about how you are feeling. Your family and partner will want to support you but may not feel confident about how to give you that support.
  • You may feel your family, friend or partner is trying to control your life right now, by ‘wrapping you up in cotton wool’ and trying to make decisions for you. If this is happening and it’s not what you want, then you let them know.
  • You may feel like you are looking after those around you, by protecting them from the reality of your situation or by being their counsellor. But you need support too.
  • A CNS from a palliative care team or hospice can support you through a conversation with your family by helping you to gather your thoughts and prepare some helpful phrases to use, or by being involved with a family conversation.
  • It’s important to share with your family ‘who’s who’ from the hospital team, to GP, to hospice and/or palliative care team. This will be one less thing to worry about if they need to get in touch with them, rather than you.

Communicating with your family and your medical team about what is important to you and what you want from your care is essential.

If you’re not getting support from those around you, you need to get it elsewhere, for instance from your clinical nurse specialist (CNS), a counsellor, your GP, or a combination of these.


It’s still ok to have sex. In fact having sex may lift your spirits and help you feel connected to your partner.

  • You may need to experiment with different positions that are more comfortable, and simple changes such as using a pillow or cushion under your hips when you are having intercourse can really help.
  • Don’t feel embarrassed to make suggestions to your partner and try things out – you will both benefit from this.
  • You may find you need more lubrication during sex than you used to need. Ask your GP or CNS for advice about this, or anything else you want to check out. You should be able to find a variety of lubricants quite easily on the shelves of the larger chemists.

Some of you may feel that sex is a no go area right now. If this is how you feel, it’s worth speaking to your CNS, trained in supporting women with these issues. It is very common to go off sex after surgery for ovarian cancer. Try not to worry too much, speak to your partner about your feelings if you can, and get some support.

Find out more


Looking-after-meThis content is primarily taken from our guide, Looking after me

Our expert guide aims to help you get the most from every day, while living with life limiting ovarian cancer. It offers insights into looking after yourself, understanding symptoms you may have, your relationships with others, and more.



Target Ovarian Cancer is an accredited member of the Information Standard Scheme. The information on this page has been developed following the schemes core principles.


Last reviewed: January 2015
Next review: January 2017