Jane Howarth, 54 from Manchester, was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer in 2015. She has been taking niraparib for nine months. This is her story in her own words...
“Every night I swallow two pills to control my advanced, recurrent ovarian cancer. The cancer I am told is now incurable. The pills bring with them some side effects; I am nauseous, fatigued, prone to infections. I’m not going to get better and I’m definitely not going to ‘win’ the war against cancer. And yet, I carry on taking the pills. And I carry on taking them because they are working – the cancer has stabilised and is likely to stay stable for many months, maybe longer. Nine months in, the side effects are becoming relatively manageable. And this gives me hope.
When I was first diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer in 2015, my first words were ‘but I’ve got children!’ My daughters were 11 and 14 at the time. I was terrified of the effect that my illness and treatment would have on them. The survival statistics were shockingly low. The children’s resilience was incredible - through the massive surgery, the complications, the life events missed through months spent in hospital, the debilitating chemotherapy. When the cancer recurred a year later that resilience was severely tested. The chemo was harsher and even more debilitating and this time there was no remission. The impact on the children’s emotional wellbeing was huge, as it was on my husband and my 84-year old mum. Hope seemed in short supply.
But since September 2017, I have been prescribed niraparib because I am fortunate enough to be part of an expanded access scheme. For this, I am beyond grateful both to my consultant for requesting it and to the drug company for providing it. So, although I am in treatment for my cancer, I am not in hospital. I am not subject to the unpredictable, rollercoaster of chemotherapy or the build-up of side effects. I am at home, stable, safe. I am there with my older daughter as she goes through her A-levels and university applications. I am there with my younger as she navigates adolescence. I’m not physically well, but I’m present. We can make plans – short term plans yes, but plans none the less. I hope and believe that these months will stand my children in good stead far, far into the future.
My life may not be prolonged. But to me, it is not the quantity of life before I die, but the quality of that life, that matters most. Hope, if not for long life, for the quality of the present moment. And the moment after that. Hope for my children. And that’s invaluable, and I believe it should be the entitlement of every woman courageously living with this devastating disease.”