Val experienced symptoms over a period of years before going to her doctor. After tests, it was discovered that she had stage II ovarian cancer. She underwent a full hysterectomy and several rounds of chemotherapy. Although she later suffered a recurrence and had to undergo more treatment, she has since been well. Val is a Christian and says her cancer experience has helped deepen her faith. She explains why she wanted to share her story…
I want to reach other women and share the symptoms of ovarian cancer. People need to know the symptoms so they can be diagnosed earlier and get effective treatment. The sooner you treat it, the more likely it is to succeed. People need the opportunity to get better.
I had symptoms. I was having some spotting in between my periods, but I thought it was just the menopause. A couple of years later, I went to reach for something on a shelf and leaked urine. My GP referred me to a gynaecologist at the local hospital and they did an ultrasound. That’s when they found the lump.
Following that I was told I’d need a full hysterectomy because it was ‘quite likely’ I had ovarian cancer. It was all so fast – I could feel myself getting dizzy on the way down the corridor.
I had the operation that October and everything went well. I was glad I didn’t have to have a stoma. They didn’t tell me the stage and grade at the time, but I later learnt it was stage II.
After the operation, I was fairly weak – I can remember going into the cancer centre afterwards and not being able to open the doors. They started the chemo three weeks after the surgery. I didn’t feel like I’d really recovered properly, but I was pleased to get started. I was a bit scared – I’d had abdominal surgery before because I had a caesarean when giving birth – but chemo was an entirely new thing. It wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. The ward was very friendly and they let you take a partner with you.
For a while after chemo everything was fine. Then, just as my four monthly check-ups were about to switch to six monthly, I started feeling uncomfortable when weeing. After some investigation it was discovered that the cancer had come back – but in a very rare form. They did an operation to remove the lump and took out some lymph nodes at the top of my leg. I also had a further round of chemo. Since then I’ve been fine. I’ve even stopped having check-ups.
I’m a Christian, and throughout my illness I had this sense that, whatever happened, God was in control. I didn’t feel a constant stress. If anything, it deepened my faith. I also felt really supported by my family and friends. People from my church came round and even helped with housework. In fact, I had so many visitors I had to organise a rota!
Looking back, I think I would have liked to have had more help in recovering from the surgery. I was just told to go for a five minute walk and gradually increase the time you’re walking. Doctors need to think about long-term survival from ovarian cancer.
I also don’t know whether my memory issues and tiredness are part of the chemotherapy or the fact that I’m getting old. I’d like more support with that.
I want to send a positive and hopeful message. I want to tell people to be encouraged because there’s so much research going on and so many new treatments. Survival rates are getting better and you can live for longer with a better quality of life.