Despite worrying that her ovarian cancer will return, Penny explains why she’s determined not to let it stop her from making the most of her life…
For me, the most difficult part of having ovarian cancer was hearing that it will probably come back.
I first knew something was wrong when I started to feel bloated all the time. I just couldn't work out why. I gave up wheat, milk and alcohol, but nothing seemed to work. Eventually I decided to make an appointment to see my GP and fortunately my doctor knew exactly what it was. I went to hospital to have fluid drained from my abdomen and they confirmed that it was stage III ovarian cancer. I couldn't believe it! I was only 58 years old and I’d already been diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2009; it just seemed so unfair.
Over the next few weeks I had several drains. I was going all over Europe to see Alice Cooper gigs, and on the last trip the fluid entered one lung. I ended up in hospital for two weeks to have it drained and recover. It was extremely painful and on top of that I missed Alice's only UK show that year! I also had six months of chemo – carboplatin and paclitaxel – and then, because I qualified for the Icon8b trial, I was also given Avastin and Taxol. After 3 months of chemotherapy I had a hysterectomy and they cleared all the 'bits' left on my peritoneum.
After my diagnosis I decided to push for a genetic test. My mother had died from ovarian cancer, but because she was 62 years old when she was diagnosed, I was told that it was very unlikely she had the BRCA mutation. When I eventually found out I carried the BRCA2 gene, I was quite upset. The genetic link is a bummer for my three daughters. Knowing they might be affected is difficult.
Making the most of life
Symptom awareness is so important. I was baffled by my ascites for at least two months before I saw a doctor. I don't know whether it would've made any difference, but you never know.
After my initial diagnosis I got very glum for a few days, but then I decided that it was a wake up call. That’s why, a few months after treatment, I decided to retire. I just didn't want to waste any more of my life working. These days I feel very differently about life. I want to travel and see more of the world. Life is so precious, and I’m determined to make the most of the time I have left.