Della didn’t know many black people who had been affected by cancer. So when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 (and later ovarian cancer) she was determined to see more people in her community represented in national cancer awareness campaigns…
I want to educate people about ovarian cancer, especially within my own community. One of the biggest problems we have is linked to representation. We see white people all the time in cancer adverts and sometimes it’s easy to think that only white people get cancer. Before I had breast cancer 10 years ago, I had no idea about cancer, what it was or who could get it. I’m really keen to see more black people represented in cancer charities. We get cancer too. We should see ourselves in everything you do. It’s really important for me to have this representation.
I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2010. So when I began experiencing discomfort in my pelvic area a few years later, I quickly made an appointment with my GP. The doctor seemed to think that I might have some fluid in the area, but I didn’t think too much of that. My stomach kept swelling and I was very uncomfortable - I couldn’t wear trousers and was struggling to eat.
At this stage, I had visited the GP more than once, but he just recommended that I drink prune juice. Eventually I was given some blood tests, and when they got that result back, they told me to go to A&E. At the hospital I was told I had ascites – fluid in my stomach – and given a CA125 test. They thought then that it could be cancer, but they didn’t know what kind. It was only when they got the CA125 number back and saw that it was over 600 that they told me it was ovarian cancer. I’ve now had chemotherapy and I’ve just started taking olaparib. So far I’ve had no adverse side effects, I just drink loads of water and move more to avoid aches and pains. To know that there is a treatment plan in place gives me hope, and my latest blood test was really encouraging – my CA125 level is down to 35.
Since the coronavirus pandemic I’ve been shielding. I’ve tried my best to stay positive by keeping myself busy and not dwelling on the negative news on TV. I do a lot of online exercise for my mental wellbeing, like the yoga sessions offered by Target Ovarian Cancer as well as some dancing and skipping.
I want people to know that you can live a good life after a cancer diagnosis. I’m always getting stuck in, and I’m very passionate about representation of black people. I was on the ICE committee at my hospital when I had breast cancer, and since then I’ve been involved with Macmillan. I even did some press articles. Overall I just try to face the cancer, name and shame it, talk about it – and then when I’m done, I do things to take my mind off the situation.