When Andrea was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she was determined to help other women. Since then, the mother-of-two has shared her story with ITV news and The Daily Mail, and her efforts mean that thousands more women are now aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer…
Looking back, even though I’d seen the symptoms of ovarian cancer listed, I still kept putting them down to other things. None of it seemed to match up to cancer. I expected the symptoms to be loud and clear, and as though something was definitely wrong. That’s why I’m raising awareness now for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2018.
At first I thought that maybe I had cystitis or some kind of bladder problem and I put that down to changes around the menopause.
Then, during a holiday in Spain, my husband noticed I wasn’t eating much, but I thought it was because we were eating late in the evening.
Coming back from holiday I continued to have bladder issues. At work I found myself struggling to sit in on long meetings because my bladder was such a problem. When I started having stomach pains I thought it was caused by anxiety, but I made an appointment to see the GP to get it all checked out.
Surprisingly I wasn’t too worried. I’d had a breast lump in the past and been sent for tests to rule stuff out, so I was quite relaxed at this point.
After my scan I went and saw the gynaecology registrar. He told me he was going to send me for a scan to rule out peritoneal cancer and would see me again in two weeks. The scan took 10 days to come through so I assumed it wasn’t urgent. This stopped me worrying because it was taking so long.
I had an appointment to see the consultant the day after my scan. I’d gone on my own, thinking everything would just be ruled out, so it was a shock when he told me he could very clearly see that there was something on the scan. I couldn’t believe I could have something so awful and feel so well. After my operation I finally got a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Naming it seemed to make it easier – easier to explain to others at least!
I was diagnosed in December so Christmas was quite weird. By then I’d had five litres of fluid drained from my tummy because I’d become so bloated. It was a huge relief and meant that I could enjoy Christmas dinner and all the festivities. In the middle of the usual festive chaos of fourteen family members from three generations and two dogs, my cancer diagnosis was almost forgotten. I laughed so much that I ended up with a haematoma on the site of my drain. My doctors said that if it was laughter-induced, it was fine.
Treatment started on New Year’s Eve. I had three cycles of chemotherapy, followed by surgery and then three more cycles of chemo.
One of the most memorable parts of the surgery was the enormous permission form! When I signed I gave permission for widespread surgery, but the surgeons found that chemotherapy had been really effective so surgery was much shorter than expected.
At the end of the treatment, they told me I had no evidence of disease.
The happy ending to my story is a celebration of kindness. The NHS staff I met were all so kind and clearly loved their jobs. They worked hard to help me stay well. I also had a fantastic support network of family and friends who helped me through treatment.
My knowledge of cancer treatment came mainly from TV dramas which concentrate on the nasty side effects. I was so scared of chemotherapy that I decided to leave the cancer with my doctors and focus on looking after myself. There were tough days during treatment, but there were also many good days in between that I learned to enjoy.
Start Making Noise
Join Andrea this March for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month to shout about the symptoms and raise awareness. There are lots of ways that you can get involved - bake some tasty treats, dress up in your most outlandish outfit or take on the challenge to teach 50 people about ovarian cancer. However you get involved, you'll be saving lives.