After undergoing successful treatment for ovarian cancer, Moira thought she’d feel relieved. Instead, she found herself struggling with the fear that her cancer would return. Here she talks about the changes she’s been through, how to stay positive, and the truth about coping…
While I was having my treatment, people often said to me, ‘I don’t know how you’re coping with this. How do you cope?’ The truth is, you do it because you have to. You do it because otherwise you might die.
For months, most of my symptoms were put down to IBS or stress. I’d been going back and forth to the GP with abdominal pain and fatigue. One night I just knew there was something really wrong. I had a feeling, a really terrible feeling. I was finally diagnosed with ovarian cancer after I went back and saw a female doctor.
Eventually, after various scans and blood tests, I was referred to oncology. Finally I got a diagnosis; I had stage III ovarian cancer. My path from seeing the GP to my eventual diagnosis went over the 64-day timescale.
I underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and then a debulking operation. The care I received after my diagnosis was fantastic. My oncologist explained everything in a way I could understand. He had a great way about him. He didn’t build my hopes up, but he didn’t dash them either. He just inspired confidence. My chemo nurses were also amazing. They were such a jolly bunch and so good in their job.
Before I started treatment I had this horrible picture of chemo in my head. I suppose I imagined lots of people with shaved heads sitting around connected to drips; it wasn’t like that at all. In fact, I used to come out of the chemo unit feeling uplifted and happy. There was a lot of support.
After a bit more recovery time, I had another two rounds of chemotherapy, and another scan. My husband died on 31 July – he had dementia – and then I was told on 1 August that the cancer was gone.
Living with the fear
“I am changed but I remain the same” – I think about that a lot. Having ovarian cancer has made me very conscious of the workings of my body, but I’ve learned to live with the fear. I realise how very lucky I am and I want to try and live each day as it comes and be thankful for it. I just try to be positive.
What was really difficult was after treatment. I found it really hard to adjust. I wish someone had told me afterwards that it might be quite scary. You’re always looking for symptoms and you’re hyper aware of things.
Ovarian cancer is misunderstood; people think it’s a death sentence. Actually, what I’ve learned is that there’s a lot that can be done – you just need to be alert to what’s happening in your body and keep going back to the doctor! Everyone’s different, but in hindsight I should have pushed earlier for tests. I ignored the changes in my body and I don’t want others to do the same.
There is hope with ovarian cancer. I feel lucky; so many people are worse off than me.