When Tracey was diagnosed with ovarian and endometrial cancer, she turned to the internet to connect with other women diagnosed with the disease. But after undergoing successful treatment, she decided she wanted to give something back to all the women who had helped keep her going. Here she opens up about the power of social media and how one photo helped inspire others just like her…
Of all the questions I could have asked when they told me I had ovarian cancer, the only one I could think of was ‘will I lose my hair?’
I’d originally gone to get the mirena coil fitted, in the hope that it would stop my very heavy periods. Because my cervix was too high, I needed to be put under general anaesthetic to find out exactly what was going on. When I woke up I was informed that I had a uterus the size of a 20 week old foetus and that I was riddled with fibroids. I needed a hysterectomy.
A few days later, I had a call to go back to the hospital. I thought it was to give me a date for the operation but apparently it was to give me the results of a biopsy I’d had done the week before. That’s when they told me I had ovarian cancer.
After my hysterectomy the consultant came to see me and informed that I also had endometrial cancer. Having two types of cancer in the same area at the same time is very rare. I've always liked to be different!
I had six rounds of carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy and I finally got the answer to my question about hair; I lost it all – including my eyebrows and eyelashes. I also had to have internal radiotherapy sessions to treat the endometrial cancer.
The lack of energy, the awful taste in my mouth and the nausea were pretty awful, but only I saw that. No one around me knew what I was going through. I just put on my smile and carried on as best I could. ‘Poorly Tracey’ stayed indoors, in private. Ginger was a great help with the nausea – whether it was a biscuit, a cup of tea or even nibbling it raw. I also kept a ‘hair photo diary’.
Through social media I got chatting to other ladies who had ovarian cancer; we kept each other going. When I finished treatment I posted a photo of my hair as it started to grow back. One lady had her son’s wedding to go to and wondered if her hair would be long enough by then. I started to photograph my hair as it grew. I had various styles and I dated them so the other ladies could work out how long it would take their hair to grow.
Throughout the years I've tried to make people aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. I had never heard of ovarian cancer before being diagnosed. That’s why I've been on a mission to make sure that everyone knows the symptoms.
I've helped Target Ovarian Cancer campaign in many ways throughout the years – whether it’s on social media or by telling my story in the local and national newspapers and glossy magazines. I’ve also raised about £3,000 for the charity – among other things I did a skydive and a zip wire, which were amazing!
A few years ago I visited my oncologist for the very last time and she told me the words I’d been longing to hear. ‘You’re all clear of cancer.’
Having ovarian cancer is scary, but it also makes you one strong cookie.