When Audrey went along to her first Being Together day, she was terrified. She had no idea what to expect. Would the event be sad? Depressing? Would everyone there be sick? Instead she made a new friend and says the whole experience filled her with hope…
When I was examined by my GP and told my CA125 was raised, I ended up in the Gynaecology ward of my local hospital. The consultant told me then that he thought it could be cancer, which was a huge shock. The only two other people I’d known with ovarian cancer had died very quickly after they were diagnosed. It was October at the time and I was wondering at this point whether I’d even be around for Christmas with my kids.
My symptoms began very subtly. One evening, I started to experience sharp pain in my tummy. At the time I thought it was probably just trapped wind and that it would eventually go away on its own. Although the pain lessened, it didn’t go away, so the next morning I went to the GP. The doctor thought the problem might be IBS, and told me to come back if things continued.
When the pain didn’t go away I went back to the surgery. At this point I was also starting to feel a little lump in the area. This time I was sent for some tests. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d been sent for a CA125 blood test. About five days later I got a call from the doctor asking me to go back to the hospital.
After my CT scan results revealed cancer I was quickly referred to a bigger hospital. My CA125 was high but not sky high. Although my tumour was growing, the CT scan had shown that it was contained and hadn’t spread in my abdomen. Within a week I had a treatment plan: a radical hysterectomy operation. The surgery was scheduled to take place on Christmas Eve.
After the surgery I was determined to get out and about and recover. I was home quickly and after the pain lessened, I started to take a walk every day – not very far at first, but gradually it got further and further. A few weeks later I had a post-op appointment. The tumour had been cancerous – it had gone from the size of a walnut to the size of a melon in the time I had been waiting for the op. Although I wouldn’t need chemotherapy, I did have lymph nodes removed from around the area. Since then I’ve had regular check ups at the hospital. I was discharged last year.
Breaking the news
I think one of the toughest parts of my diagnosis was trying to get my head around the fact that I had cancer; that was devastating. Telling my kids was also tough; they knew that something was up. My youngest was nine when I was diagnosed and my eldest was nineteen. I have five children, and I tried to give them age-appropriate information. I didn’t say ‘cancer’ to the youngest two, and I tried to be honest with the two eldest kids. I also encouraged them not to Google things. The kids did amazingly well. My husband and I also had great backup from our church, and our faith has really helped us all through it.
Women need to know about ovarian cancer. I had been a nurse, and I didn’t know the symptoms. I want people to know that with an early diagnosis, this disease can be treated. It’s very important to get the right support. When I first went to a Target Ovarian Cancer Being Together day in Belfast, I was terrified because I didn’t know what to expect – would it be lots of women who were dying? Would it be depressing? In reality it was a wonderful experience. I met someone with exactly the same diagnosis as me – mucinous ovarian cancer – which is a rarer form of the disease. It felt so good to chat to her because she was a few years further along the line than me and she was doing really well. I felt hopeful when I chatted to her, and we’re still in touch.
I attended the most recent Being Together in Belfast and thoroughly enjoyed it. The support that is offered and the information provided at these events is incredible.