Kristine was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013 one month after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Kristine was been unable to access Avastin after it was taken off the Cancer Drugs Fund list just one month before she experienced a recurrence. Sadly Kristine died in 2016 holding on just long enough to be at her daughter's wedding.
In July 2013 I was 53 years old and working in a very stressful community mental health team. I was told I had breast cancer, and the lump was going to be surgically removed, followed by radiotherapy and hormone treatment, with the surgery planned about two weeks ahead.
I had been feeling unwell since the beginning of the year. With hindsight I had many of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, but just about everyone who I sought help from put these symptoms down to my age and the fact that I am on long term warfarin.
I could feel a mass
Whilst I was waiting for the surgery, my tummy seemed to have gained a life of its own, growing bigger, more uncomfortable, and I could feel a mass. I quickly arranged a GP appointment, but was advised to ask the breast surgeon for advice about the mass. Clearly this breaks all protocols and procedure, but I was scared.
On the day of my surgery I asked the question and, quite rightly, she said that my GP should have made a proper referral. She was professional and caring, and she examined me. The breast surgery went ahead, and she arranged an ultrasound for my tummy a few days later. As the results showed a large ovarian cyst, all breast treatment stopped, and I was admitted to hospital to have the abdominal fluid drained and to have a biopsy of the cyst.
One month after being told I had breast cancer, all alone in my side room, the consultant arrived and told me I had aggressive ovarian cancer, stage 3c. I would need surgery and chemotherapy; I would be reviewed after three chemotherapy sessions and I could access Avastin at the end of my treatment through the Cancer Drugs Fund.
My scan confirmed it had returned
The cancer was removed and I completed the chemotherapy with an optimal outcome. I asked at the end about the Avastin (in January 2014), but I was told that I didn't warrant it now because of the good outcome, and my consultant said it would be better to save it in case I needed it for second line treatment.
I managed to stay well then for a year, but sadly my CA125 crept up and in April 2015 my scan confirmed it had returned. Devastatingly, Avastin was removed for second line treatment from the Cancer Drugs Fund only one month before I received this news and I now cannot access it.
I have since had chemotherapy again with partial response and an allergic reaction on the fifth chemo. I asked about Avastin, but my consultant does not think I will be able to have it. Despite everything, however, I am remaining positive. I’ve been referred to the Royal Marsden, and I am holding out hope that I’ll be able to get onto a trial one day. I spend time volunteering for Target Ovarian Cancer at their station collections, and I would urge any woman newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer to not give up hope – there are a lot of us still out there!