Our support events are a great opportunity to meet other women with ovarian cancer, and find out about the latest news in treatment and research. Sandra explains how Being Together days have helped her learn to live in the present…
“I’m sorry, but it’s peritoneal cancer.”
I stared at the oncologist. It was cancer and it was incurable. I felt like I was in a bubble – I just couldn’t believe what he was telling me. Despite my shock, I refused to be negative. Alright, so they couldn’t cure it. I’d settle for them being able to control it. I thought, “right, I’m going to be positive about this”.
I was completely in the dark about the symptoms of ovarian cancer. The first I knew about anything being wrong was at the end of 2012 when I became short of breath. Concerned, I rang my doctor for an emergency appointment and was immediately sent to A&E. I was told that I had fluid in my right lung and that I would need to remain in the hospital until it was drained. No one had said anything to me about cancer, so when a doctor walked in and mentioned lung cancer, I was totally astounded; I couldn’t believe it. After two weeks in hospital they sent me to the oncologist. It wasn’t lung cancer. Instead, I was diagnosed with incurable peritoneal cancer.
I had great faith in the NHS, and I was determined to be as positive as I possibly could be.
During this time, my family really rallied around me. They helped me get to and from every treatment – even in the heavy snow. Everyone was just so wonderful and supportive. I had so many relatives and friends that I ended up emailing everyone regular updates to let them know how I was.
Initially, I was treated with carboplatin and paclitaxel. Fortunately, the chemotherapy worked and the disease reduced enough for me to undergo surgery. After undergoing a radical hysterectomy, my surgeon referred me for intraperitoneal chemotherapy as part of the PETROC trial. The trial was somewhat uncomfortable because I had had a port inserted in my side. I couldn’t wear wired bras as usual. During treatment the bed had to be tilted back and forth, but I persisted. In May 2013 the oncologist told me I was stable. I continued to have checkups every three months and then every six months. I am still seeing the oncologist but four years on I feel enormous relief to have got this far.
Coming from North Wales, you don't often get the chance to meet other women with ovarian cancer who live nearby. Going to my first Being Together day in Liverpool gave me the chance to meet up with women who live in the same town as me. It was lovely to meet other women with ovarian cancer, and we went on to form a support group. When we heard that Target Ovarian Cancer would be holding an event closer to home in Wrexham, we all decided to travel up together.
Being Together also helped in the sense that, before my diagnosis, I used to worry very much about all sorts of different things. I spent a lot of my time worrying about things in the future. At the Being Together day I got to take advantage of therapy workshops and learnt all about living in the present. Now I don’t keep things ‘for best’ anymore; I just wear stuff. I go to craft club and quilt sewing, and I get out to visit the children and grandchildren on a regular basis. It actually feels nice not to have to worry so much.
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Three quarters of women with ovarian cancer say they do not get the support they need. Together we can make sure every woman receives the support she needs. Join the TAKE OVAR.