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11 years ago Jane was given six months to live

When Jane was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer back in 2004, she was told she only had six months to live. Now, as she gets ready to celebrate her 69th birthday, Jane shares her story and explains what it’s like to live with cancer…

In 2003 I started to feel a bit peculiar – a little bit slower and heavier. I just really felt that things weren’t quite right, so I decided to go and see my doctor. He gave me some progesterone because I was having a bit of spotting and suggested that it was all just part of the change of life, and I just needed to bite the bullet and get on with it.

Then, a bit later in the year, I went back and saw another doctor. She sent me off to the diagnostic clinic to have a bowel scan and an ultrasound. I went for the ultrasound and the young lady that did the exam said that she thought she could see a fibroid. I asked her what I needed to do about it and she said “absolutely nothing”. She told me that it would probably shrink on its own. 

I carried on as normal

For about a year after that I carried on as normal – even though I kept feeling unwell. Eventually, I went back to see my GP and she examined me and said that she could feel a lump in my stomach. She told me that she thought I was absolutely the right age to have a hysterectomy.

On the day of the operation I was the last one to go down to surgery; I very nearly didn’t come back! When the surgeon opened me up he discovered that I had stage 3 ovarian cancer. The next day the doctor started to tell me what had happened during the surgery. He started talking about a mass.

I remember saying, “Mass? I’ve got cancer haven’t I?” He told me that all he knew for sure at that point was that it wasn’t a fibroid.

On the Monday and I was called into a room. Two of the surgeons who had operated on me - two brilliant people who actually saved my life – sat me and my husband down and told us that the mass was malignant and had spread. I was then told that I’d be sent to another doctor for chemotherapy. I went to see this doctor, and I absolutely fell in love with him. He’s one of the most straight talking people I know. He said to me, “Mrs Hyatt, you’ve got six months to live”. He then told me that if I agreed to treatment he could buy me two years. Two weeks later I started chemotherapy.

I can do this

I went in feeling suicidal – I’ve got two daughters and I’d just had a brand new grandson. I was thinking “well, this is me finished”. I had my first chemo session, and I thought to myself “no, I can do this”. I got through the first six months of chemo feeling quite well. The doctor had promised me two years and I did have almost two years. Then I went back in and there was cancer in my spleen. I went and had my spleen, my omentum and some of my bowel removed – followed by a bit more chemo.

Two years after that I was diagnosed with a fistula, and I had to start chemotherapy again. I think I just decided to start fighting. My way of doing that is by thinking “Blimey, you’ve picked on the wrong blighter here”. It’s a bit like writing an adventure story chapter by chapter: you don’t know the ending, but you carry on anyway. Here I am now six years in remission – although I have had a couple of scares since.

I knew a little bit about the symptoms of ovarian cancer before I had it. It’s just that my own symptoms were really just weeing a bit more than normal, putting weight on and spotting. I think in this country we do it the wrong way around. In other countries they rule out the worst case scenario first. We start off with “you’ve got IBS…you’ve got this…you’ve got that”. Eventually, they decide to look to see if you have cancer.

Check-ups are like my security blankets

I don’t think I’m any more relaxed because it’s been six years. If I get something a little bit different I start to worry. My check-ups are like my security blankets.

Having cancer has made me very pragmatic. Before I got diagnosed I was quiet but now I speak out – I could lead a meeting now! It’s given me some things, but it’s also taken a lot away from me. It’s given me a different sort of strength – it’s made me more of a samaritan than I ever was before. I really enjoy fundraising. A few years ago my cricket club held a ‘sponsor a player’ event. We ended up raising about £16,500 in total. As lovely as that was, nowadays, I’m trying to put that part of my life to one side. I don’t want to be Jane the cancer patient – I want to be Jane the cricket fan; Jane the grandma; Jane the wife.

Ovarian cancer gets far less attention and funding than some other forms of cancer. That’s why charities like Target Ovarian Cancer are important. I’ve been along to one of the support days in London. We got to listen to patients and doctors, and I talked to other women. I really enjoyed it.

Sometimes I look back and I can’t understand why I’m still here with what I have. It’s amazing really. 

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