Like many women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Liz’s story began with the feeling that something just ‘wasn’t quite right’. Here she talks about the importance of paying attention to your body, how she coped with the bad days and why she couldn’t have done any of it without the love and support of her sister, husband and a great network of family and friends…
For me it’s important to let people know that, even if you’re having a bad day, somewhere down the line you’ll have forgotten all about it. You can get to that point. I had a wobble when I finished treatment, but I got past it. You can too.
“Not quite right”
It’s hard to explain exactly, but my tummy just didn’t feel right. At first I left it - I kept taking indigestion remedies – but eventually I thought I’d better go to the GP and get it checked out.
Fortunately, I have private healthcare, and after a scan and an appointment with a gynaecologist, I was told I had cysts on my ovaries and that I would need to undergo a laparoscopy. The results from the laparoscopy showed borderline ovarian cancer and I was quickly scheduled for a radical hysterectomy.
After the surgery I had serious menopausal symptoms – lots of sweating. Although my cancer was borderline, they told me they were going to monitor me with regular CA125 tests. So when my CA125 suddenly shot up –they immediately did a laparotomy and found more cells. Because of my age they decided to do a peritonectomy and after an eight-hour surgery they told me I had stage III, high-grade serous ovarian cancer.
I think I struggled a lot with the fact that ovarian cancer has such a bad prognosis. My first gynaecologist told me that all they could do was buy me time. Luckily I’ve had great support from my husband, wonderful friends and loving family – especially my sister. She helped me talk to my kids and explain, she regularly comes to stay and when I was diagnosed, she reached out to Target Ovarian Cancer for me. I was in denial at the time and didn’t really want to know. She was the one who had a 45-minute phone conversation with the support nurse and then drop fed me the best bits. She’s been amazing!
More people need to be aware of ovarian cancer – there’s no screening process so it’s all on the symptoms. You have to go with your gut instinct - I just didn’t feel right in my tummy. No-one knows your body like you do so I would urge others to always get any new symptoms checked out. I also want to tell women that having cancer has not stopped me. I did my first ever 5k Park Run in August 2018, and it was fantastic. The feeling of being able to do that only four months after finishing chemotherapy was great.
Bumps in the road
However, a few weeks later an acute bowel obstruction was found which has meant another operation. That slowed me down a bit and certainly wasn’t how I had planned to spend the last few weeks of the summer holidays! Despite recovering well from surgery, my CA125 levels have increased and my consultant is now deciding the best course of action.
Learning that my cancer has come back so quickly has been hard to deal with, but I am taking it one day at a time and appreciating that for the moment I am symptom-free.
Keeping busy and making sure I always have something to look forward to is really important for me; whether it’s just getting my nails done, coffee with a friend or a long walk in the country with my family. No-one knows what’s around the corner but I am determined to live my best life for a long time yet.