My ovarian cancer has come back

My Cancer Has Come Back 

Mother comforting daughterSome people find the news that cancer has returned more upsetting than the original diagnosis. You may still be recovering from your initial treatment or you may have hoped that cancer was far behind you. Some people find that their mind ‘freezes’ and others experience strong emotions such as intense fear and worry. Everyone is different but no-one wants to be back here again.

Dealing with the news

It can be very difficult to take in specific information at this time. You may find you forget a good deal of what you are told, so never feel afraid to contact your clinical nurse specialist or doctor to request or to ask for any details to be written down.

You may be anxious to begin treatment immediately or you may want to take time out to consider different options. In some situations your medical team may choose to delay treatment. You can read more about this in our Treatment section.

A small warning for those of you who use the internet – much of what you read about ovarian cancer can be shocking, and statistics can paint a very grim picture. It is important to remember that there are many different types of ovarian cancer and different women will respond in different ways. Sometimes this is based on stage and grade and sometimes on factors that we don’t yet understand. Try to hang on in there. You are an individual, not a statistic.

Sharing the news

The way in which you receive the news of your recurrence may affect how you share this news with others. If family or friends are with you then this may happen naturally. For women who receive the diagnosis when alone, sharing the details can feel an extra burden, especially if you are unsure of quite what it means. There is no right or wrong way to share these details, or what you choose to share. You may wish to wait a few days before you tell others, or to restrict the information to close family or friends, or to ask someone close to you to let others know on your behalf.

You may have found from your initial diagnosis that people around you can react in very different ways. Some people may be wary of raising the subject with you, while others will want to talk about nothing but your condition. Don’t be afraid in either case to let people know when you do, or don’t, want to talk. You may find that people around you attribute labels such as ‘brave’ and ‘courageous’. They may tell you they could never cope as you have. The reality is we all cope in our own way with what life throws at us. However you feel about this, good or bad, be kind to yourself and acknowledge that initially at least, responses from others will vary but will likely be well intended.

Sharing the news can help you to make the necessary arrangements for support during treatment. It is the first stage to enlisting the help of those close to you. Preparing for lack of energy or other side effects can help to make this time a lot easier.

If you live alone and without family close by, you may find this time particularly challenging. Travelling to and from appointments and having low energy levels can make life difficult. Even if you value your independence, asking others for practical help such as running errands, assisting with lifts or shopping can be invaluable. You may find that many people are happy to help in this way including friends, colleagues or neighbours. You may want to seek practical assistance from your local community or faith group during this time. These groups are often used to providing support for others and operate a rota to support those travelling to and from hospital. You may also find that your local council offers services which can be useful during this time. Check with your local hospital information centre, clinical nurse specialist or GP to find out what services are available to you.

There is an increasing awareness today that cancer affects your mind and emotional wellbeing as well as your body. Some people may become depressed or suffer from anxiety. When we feel this way it can seem impossible to explain these feelings to others or to ask for help. Often people think that they ‘shouldn’t bother’ their nurse or GP about their feelings. It’s important to look after yourself emotionally as well as physically so please do let people know if you need some help.

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last reviewed: January 2012
next review: January 2014