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Julie discovered a family link to cancer

When Julie went to her doctor complaining of sickness and bloating, she had no way of knowing that her symptoms might be linked to her sister’s breast cancer diagnosis. Here she talks about family history, and why – when it comes to getting answers – sometimes the small details can end up being the most important…

When I went to the doctor with nausea and bloating, it never even crossed my mind to mention that my sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer at 41. I didn’t know anything about the link of family history. No one had ever told me.

Fighting for answers

I went back and forth to my GP so many times complaining of sickness and bloating. I was also weeing quite a lot. I mentioned to a friend of mine the issues I’d been having, and she told me to go back to the doctor. Looking back, I don’t really remember being that concerned; I just thought I had a weak bladder like my mum. I had no idea about ovarian cancer or its symptoms.

The doctor initially put my symptoms down to IBS. It was only when I visited a female GP after a year of symptoms that a lump was discovered on my right ovary. I went away assuming it was nothing to be that worried about. No one mentioned the word cancer to me.

A phone call

I was at home on a Friday night when I got the phone call. I was told outright that I had ovarian cancer. It was only then that they asked if I was with anyone.

After waiting ages to get my CT scan results, I was told that my tumour was the size of a grapefruit and that – prior to surgery – I would have to have chemotherapy to shrink it. Initially I had chemo, followed by a hysterectomy and then more chemo. Since then I’ve had a recurrence and I’m now on carboplatin.

I try to remain positive but sometimes it’s difficult with all the side effects. There’s a lot of fluid in my stomach and I’m often very tired. That means that I can’t always do the things I want to do. That can be frustrating.

Family history

Since my diagnosis I’ve had genetic testing to see if I carry the BRCA gene and whether that’s linked to my sister’s breast cancer diagnosis. These little details can be so important. Now I want to spread the word about family history. I also want more people to be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and for the disease to be better represented in the media. Breast cancer is always on the TV, so having ovarian cancer can often feel lonely. That’s why I’m sharing my story. I want other women to know they’re not alone.  

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