So much has changed for me since I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer three years ago. People used to regard this disease as a death sentence, but advances in medical science have given anyone with cancer cause for hope, and I’m heartened that new drugs and treatments are available all the time. I’d tell anyone diagnosed with ovarian cancer not to despair: women can go from dying of ovarian cancer to living with it, just as I am doing.
The important thing is to get diagnosed early because then the chances of recovery are far greater. Devastated as I was by my diagnosis, there have been many positive changes in my life because of it. My illness has focused my mind, for example, and made me live for today.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
I try not to sweat the small stuff anymore and to be at peace with situations out of my control and that I can’t change. I don’t stress about the past like I used to; I think most people would be happier if they lived in the moment, instead of the future or the past.
remember friends sending me cards and letters telling me they loved me when I was first diagnosed, but back then I was too shy and introverted to say the same back to them. As time has passed, though, I’ve learned never to be afraid to say, “I Love You.”
Being Together days
One of the greatest joys for me since my diagnosis was discovering the charity Target Ovarian Cancer, which works to save lives and help women who have been diagnosed to live life to the full. I have been to two of its Being Together days and they were absolutely amazing.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to be in a room with lots of other women, all with the same disease as me. Everyone knew how I felt; we talked about drug trials and compared notes on treatment. It was also great fun and so uplifting to feel less alone.
My two daughters
I’ve tried to be brave for my two daughters, who are a wonderful source of strength and support. I cherish them so much and I took them on a holiday of a lifetime to Canada, staying in the best hotels and doing every single thing we could think of – we all had the time of our lives.
I look forward to them visiting me at weekends and I’m happiest when we’re all together, baking a cake or spending Friday nights with neighbours in my village. It makes me so happy to think that whatever kind of doctor Freya becomes, she will have more understanding of what her patients are going through because she has been at my side on this journey. That can only make her a better doctor.
Kirsty is about to go to Australia for a year. I found out she’d decided not to go because of me but I insisted she stick to her plans. It’s important we do the things we want and that will make us happy. None of us should put things until later, in case there isn’t a “later”.
I’ve tried to impress on my girls that there should be few regrets, just good memories and enjoyable days surrounded by the people we love. I hope that I have taught them to always be kind and, since my diagnosis, to be less focused on the future. I urge them to stop worrying about things they can’t change and to have the courage to change things they don’t like.
As for me, I take each day as it comes. I like to spend time with my two dogs and three ponies in the local meadow, especially if the sun is shining. Simple pleasures like those always make me feel better about life.
Words: Mandy Appleyard, courtesy of Prima Magazine, September. Pictures: Angela Nott
Have you got an ovarian cancer story? Please share it with us by filling in the form here.
- Read 'A younger woman's guide to ovarian cancer'
- Read about ovarian cancer symptoms
- Find out about our symptoms awareness campaign