When Vix was diagnosed with stage III fallopian tube cancer, she wasn’t prepared for how her life would change. Here she talks about grieving for ‘before’, and how encouraging other women to talk about cancer has helped her to stay positive…
The aftermath of ovarian cancer is tough; you can’t help but worry. There’s no more structure, it’s all about waiting and watching to see if you’ve had a recurrence. Luckily I found In Touch – Target Ovarian Cancer’s Facebook group. That was invaluable for me! I can talk about everything - from hair loss, to chemo aftermath and constipation. Whatever your query, you can find an answer straight away; it’s wonderful!
Everyone thought I had a hernia. I went swimming and remarked to my friends how hard my tummy was. Gradually it got bigger and I went to see my GP. He told me I was fat and that I should look after myself more. I told him I was losing weight! Eventually he sent me away because it was a bank holiday.
I tried visiting a second doctor but this was just as unsuccessful. Soon my legs began to swell and my stomach was so swollen that I looked six months pregnant. By this time I was desperate, and I asked to see the nurse practitioner at the surgery, not a doctor. I showed her my stomach and asked her what she was going to do. She sent me for an ultrasound straight away.
The radiographer mentioned ‘ascites’ to me, but told me not to Google it. I already had. She seemed distressed and said she didn’t have the time to do all the tests I needed.
The tests took a while to get back to my GP. A female doctor rang me and sent me straight to the hospital for a blood test, which I later learned was the CA125 blood test. It was raised, and so I was referred to the gynaecology department. In the meantime I went to see the GP again, who told me she thought I had ovarian cancer.
The doctor explained that I would need to have major surgery – a hysterectomy. It was such a shock. I had a couple of friends there, and we all dissolved into tears. It was so surreal.
The operation went well. They had another look and decided they could get it with keyhole surgery. They told me I’d been singing to the radio while I was coming round from the anaesthetic! My diagnosis was stage III fallopian tube cancer.
I recovered quite quickly after the surgery, and was referred to my local hospital for chemotherapy. The first chemo was difficult. I have dodgy knees and it affected my joints, which was quite painful. Fortunately they adjusted my medication and I found the rest of it much easier. Now I just go back for follow up appointments every three months.
I think waiting is the hardest part. Waiting to be diagnosed, waiting for appointments - it’s very stressful. I also feel a bit cheated by my life. The after effects of chemo sometimes get me down. I have no hair and I can’t work at the moment. I’ve been busy and gone out and done good things – I’ve fundraised for Target Ovarian Cancer, but my life has changed totally from what it was. I just want my old life back.
I think the more people that know about ovarian cancer, the better. I live in a small community and I share my story far and wide. People come up to me in the street and give me hugs now! I’ve also found it helpful because I’ve been able to help people who are going through it themselves.
I think it’s so important to talk about cancer. People compliment my short hair and I say it’s because of the chemotherapy. If they feel awkward, I tell them it’s ok, and that we shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about it.
Being positive has been a big way for me to cope. Each day I’m getting stronger. That’s really important to me.