When Mary was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer, doctors told her she might only have a few months left to live. Four years on, Mary talks about the impact of her diagnosis and why – when it comes to cancer - she’s stopped asking ‘why me'...
I was only given a few months to live. Four years on I’m still here enjoying life. Thanks to new drugs and treatments, an incurable diagnosis does not necessarily mean you are going to die immediately. I want to encourage other women not to lose hope.
Looking back the first warning sign came when I started to lose weight for no reason. I was quite pleased and didn’t actually worry too much.
I’ve always had a problem with constipation, but things were getting more difficult. Numerous visits to the doctor reassured me, and I was just told to take more laxatives. Then, at the end of a wonderful holiday in Costa Rica, I suddenly collapsed with severe diarrhoea and dizziness and had to be taken home in a wheelchair. On my return, I went to my doctor for a check-up but even with my weight loss, she still seemed unconcerned.
Soon after, my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer, it was a shock and I didn’t have time to think about myself. Thankfully, after a successful operation he was okay, but I began to secretly worry about myself – especially as I was also having difficulty swallowing. I made several more visits to the doctor about my problems, but I was just told to take more sachets of Fybogel.
Finally I’d had enough. I asked to be referred to a bowel consultant and he arranged for a gastroscopy. My stomach was fine but he requested a CA125 blood test. This came back very high and after more tests and a biopsy from a lymph gland in my neck, it was confirmed that I had ovarian cancer. I was stunned. The doctor told me it was very serious and that if I did not have immediate surgery and treatment, I would not have more than a few months to live. I went into shock - I had no idea that I was only a few months away from death.
I underwent a total abdominal hysterectomy and anterior resection (removal of the left side of the colon) I was in hospital for 10 days. Since then I have had three rounds of chemo – two of carboplatin and taxol, one of caelyx and carboplatin and a year on Avastin. I’ve now just started on niraparib – so far, so good.
It’s vital that women – both young and old – are made aware of the ovarian cancer symptoms. That’s why, last year, I organised a fashion show in Broadway and helped raise £1300 for Target Ovarian Cancer. It was important to me that the women at the show were informed about ovarian cancer symptoms. A friend who is a doctor gave a short talk to the audience about how to spot early signs of ovarian cancer, and many of the women said how grateful they were to be told what to look out for.
Living in the moment
Since my diagnosis I’ve had a few ups and downs, but if I have a problem I try to put it behind me and get on with life. I try to live in the moment, but it’s hard sometimes to think about dying and leaving my family. I am coping and I try to carry on and keep positive. My family have been wonderfully supportive and I am hoping to go on trips around the UK and France this year. I’m also lucky to have a lovely husband who is great at looking after me. Sometimes I do ask myself ‘why me’ – but then…why not me?