When Gill was diagnosed with stage III peritoneal cancer, she knew immediately that there was one person who would understand exactly what she was going through. Here she talks about the importance of having the right support and how she’s helping to spread the word about the symptoms of ovarian cancer...
Being positive was so important to me. I’d already seen my friend go through ovarian cancer and I thought, ‘if she can get through it, then so can I!'
The first time I noticed anything wrong was when I started to have pain in my left side. I remember I’d made a lemon drizzle cake and I couldn’t eat it because the pain was so bad. The next day I went to a birthday party (more cake!) and I was still having trouble eating. Food seemed to make the pain worse.
I went to the GP with the pain and he said it could be constipation, but looking back, I think he knew what it could be. A few weeks later he sent me for a CA125 test and an ultrasound scan.
When I rang up to get my results, the doctor explained that my CA125 levels were raised and that this made it likely that I had something more serious wrong with me. I still didn’t think it was anything really bad, however the pain was getting worse. I was feeling full and hadn’t been able to eat properly for a while. I was also weeing a lot more regularly than before. These symptoms all came on so gradually. At that time, I was dealing with the death of my stepfather and the effect of this – coming to terms with his death and the extra work – was so stressful. I just felt tired and weary all the time. In hindsight, this could have been the beginning of the development of the cancer. I’d been feeling so unwell for so long that it just became the new normal.
Support & BRCA
After more scans, I was eventually diagnosed with stage III peritoneal cancer.
The oncologist explained that the cancer had spread quite far – it was like little dots of rice all around my abdomen – so I would have just six rounds of chemo. Fortunately, the cancer responded really well, and I was able to undergo a full hysterectomy. I also had infusions of Avastin.
I think the hardest part for me is the thought that it might come back. But throughout everything, my sister and partner have been fantastic, and I’ve had great support from one of my best friends who was also diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few years ago. She’s had treatment and chemotherapy and is doing well.
I’ve recently had testing for the BRCA gene. I’ve got two daughters and it’s really important for me to know about the test and the implications of a positive BRCA diagnosis. I’m getting my results next week.
Spreading the word
I didn’t know what the symptoms were before I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Now, I want as many people to know as possible. That’s why my friend and I recently held a garden party. We wanted to help spread the word in our local community.