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Lynne is learning to accept that she is not defined by cancer

When Lynne found out she had ovarian cancer, she was determined to use her story to help others. Here Lynne talks about her diagnosis, depression and why ovarian cancer doesn’t have to define you…  

It’s taken me a while, but I’m finally learning to accept that I’m more than just a cancer patient.

I was diagnosed with stage IIIC advanced ovarian cancer.

I’d gone away with my husband in June and whilst on holiday I began to notice that I found walking difficult - especially anything involving hills. In addition to a lack of appetite, my tummy was bloated. At the time I thought I was overweight and - when we got home - I decided to go on a diet. One night I was sick after dinner. I decided something wasn’t right and went to see my GP.

After ruling out appendicitis, I was admitted to hospital for bloodwork. I went for a scan on my gallbladder - even though I told them that that wasn’t the part of my tummy that hurt. It was while I was on the operating table to remove my gallbladder that they found the cancer. I was transferred to an oncology ward where I met someone who had lost all her hair. That’s when it really hit home. I broke down and was so upset. Luckily I had great doctors and things moved quite quickly.

Breaking the news

The day I found out, my husband was with me. He was very upset and I more or less kicked him out of the hospital room and sent him home to walk the dogs. I didn’t want the kids to find out over the phone, so I told them both together. My daughter broke down but not my son; I think we’ve been quite strong as a family.

I was given nine weeks of chemotherapy followed by a big operation and then nine more weeks of chemo. When I first found out I had to have chemotherapy, I found it hard – seeing all those people lined up and on the drips. But after a few weeks I got to know people, and it was better. I think I found losing my hair one of the hardest things. In the end I decided to make a fun joke of it and have a hair loss party, just for my family. We had a movie night and after the party had finished one of my friends came round to shave my hair. Eventually my hair grew back but it has changed; it came back grey!

I think one of the worst things to face was my blood transfusions – they happened during chemotherapy because my iron levels dropped so low. I had to have two, and the first one was an awful ordeal because no one explained what would happen. They kept me for 12 hours, even though it was done in four hours. I ended up discharging myself all because a doctor wouldn't sign a discharge letter.

Aftermath and depression

After I finished chemotherapy I realised I didn’t feel as relieved as I’d thought. I knew I had to go back to work and I didn’t like it. It was stopping me from going out because I felt that if I was seen by colleagues they would think I was well and should be at work. I hadn’t been out on my own for such a long time that I became a little bit trapped in my home.

Eventually I went to talk to my GP (who’s been fantastic all through this). He identified that I was slipping into depression and offered me drugs. I didn’t want them, and I went home to think about everything. In the end I did it bit by bit. I was seeing my GP weekly and he sent me for physiotherapy, which really helped.

Helping others

When I first found out I had cancer I remember that I didn’t want to know anything. Eventually, when I was ready, I decided to research things online. I could read some stories, but I couldn’t get through others. After seeing my consultant, he encouraged me to sit down and write out my story. At the time I thought, “Why not?”. I’ve been positive all the way through this, and I wanted to get involved and help someone else.

I think raising awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer is so important. Before I got sick I didn’t have a clue, I didn’t even know it existed. I can’t remember ever hearing of it or knowing anyone that ever had the disease.

The other big change is that I’ve lost three stone in weight. I wanted to lose the weight to give me a stronger chance to fight the cancer.

It’s been a year since my diagnosis and I’m now in remission. I’m still nervous every time I go for a checkup, but I think you just have to live with that. These days I’m more or less back to my full fitness. I walk my dogs twice a day; I like to knit and go shopping. I’m learning to accept I’m more than just a cancer patient.