After Pauline's ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment, she knew she wanted to give something back. Here she talks about her passion for fundraising and why her family is 100 per cent behind her - even if that means they never get to eat any of her baking…
Finding out wasn't a shock. In my mind I felt I had cancer, I just didn't know which kind. In a way, finding out it was ovarian cancer was almost a relief.
The two months before my diagnosis were almost worse than the eighteen months afterwards. I was just so ill - I couldn't even get downstairs. I saw two GPs, both of whom thought I had a blockage, so it was just laxative after laxative. I was bloated, looked about six months pregnant and had a lot of abdominal pain. Eventually I was rushed into A&E to my local hospital. They were horrified. They found tumours and I was then referred to the Royal Marsden cancer centre in south London.
I was diagnosed with stage II high-grade serous ovarian cancer. I ended up having two lots of surgery, chemotherapy, and blood transfusions. Along with this I had a stoma, but 15 months later I was well enough and fortunate enough to have a stoma reversal.
Target Ovarian Cancer
It was my daughter Tanya who first mentioned Target Ovarian Cancer to me. She was online and saw something about The Ovarian Cancer Walk. She asked me if I knew anything about it, but nobody had ever mentioned the charity to me before. We looked into it and decided to get involved.
Straight away, I think Target Ovarian Cancer appealed to us in a more personal and intimate way than other charities I’d supported in the past. The support here has been brilliant. Just being able to pick up a phone if you've had a really bad day and know someone's going to be there is great. Sometimes it's easier to talk to somebody that's not close to you. I can't speak for everybody, but from my experience, they've been amazing. I think the way they go about things reflects on how we want to come back and keep fundraising for them.
The walk itself was a lovely experience. There were about six of us, including my granddaughter Mia. I really enjoyed it. You're made to feel so welcome. So many people, strangers, spoke to us before we started, which was lovely. You're all there for the same reason. You see people with notices on their backs and you get tears reading their messages. It's quite inspiring.
Giving something back
Since then I’ve held coffee mornings, quiz nights, cake sales. I am running out of ideas now! I’ve done 'guess the weight of the cake', I've filled jars up with jelly beans so people can guess how many are in a jar. They're all the normal things and I love the challenge of finding something new to do.
Having been through treatment, I realised that I wanted to do more. We all need to act now to make sure the future is brighter for women with ovarian cancer. I've been there. I know what happens and I know how much money is needed to fund a new piece of research, or provide a half-hour support call to someone who really needs it. Yes, there’s still the fun side of raising awareness and raising money, but there's also a reason we’re all doing it.
I've been very lucky. My friends and family have always supported me with my fundraising. I think my family enjoy it, but I’m sure they sometimes think, “here we go again!” The number of times my poor husband has walked into the kitchen, smelt a cake baking and said “I suppose that's not for me, is it!?” They understand why I’m doing it and they support me 100%.
Sometimes you do feel a little bit awkward about asking for money and donations from the same people, but you just have to think, “Oh well. They can only say no.”
When it comes to a diagnosis, every minute is vital. Going back to the start of my illness, in those two months I'd have loved somebody to have done something a lot quicker.
These days I try not to think about the cancer. I try to be very positive and get on with life. I have a daily reminder because I was left with chronic truncal lymphedema, because of having all the abdominal lymph nodes taken away. But it's a small price to pay to still be able to sit here today.