Like many women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Kate struggled with self-confidence and body image after her treatment had ended. Here she talks about how with the help of her husband – she’s learnt to love herself again…
Ovarian cancer is a sneaky thing. The symptoms can be mistaken for so many other things, especially for middle-age women.
I had spent the winter not feeling comfortable and finding it difficult to do up my shoes because I didn't seem to be able to bend. Of course, I decided it was because I was overweight and berated myself for not trying harder to lose those extra pounds.
That year had been difficult for me and my family. When I started to feel tension in the side of my abdomen, I thought it was stress related and would go away.
It didn’t and I ended up making an appointment to see the GP. She said that she could feel my liver and questioned my drinking habits. After a series of blood tests came back normal, I was referred to the hospital for an ultrasound. When I finally saw the gynaecology consultant I was very seriously ill indeed. I was 53 and had grade III, stage IV ovarian cancer.
Fortunately, that is only a matter for me and my husband! We have been together since our teens and have been able to work through this together. It took a long time, even in a long-term and loving relationship for me to gain enough confidence to believe intimacy was achievable again. We got there together.
Coming to terms with my new body set-up, particularly the existence of my stoma, just took time. I was angry for a long time and that got in the way of acceptance. It felt like accepting it as a fact was in some way giving in. When I could finally view it as part of the process that had saved my life, along with the scar and the breast reconstruction, it could just be viewed as part of me, part of who I was post cancer. I was then free to become the new version of me; the survivor, the wife who was still around, the mother and grandmother who was there to see her family grow into adulthood. That felt good. I could then accept myself, and the love my husband wanted to show me.
More and more is becoming known about ovarian cancer all the time and the prognosis isn't necessarily as bleak as it feels at first. Eat well, rest plenty and let everyone around you help! It will help your loved ones deal with your condition if they can do something for you.