For Kathy, being told she had cancer was one of the worst days of her life. Here she talks about how she’s learnt to deal with her diagnosis, and why waiting is the hardest part…
The day they they told me I had cancer in the pelvic area was one of the worst days of my life. My husband wasn’t there; I was on my own. I held myself together, but it felt awful.
The road to diagnosis
I first visited my GP with diarrhoea and stomach pains. My doctor referred me to a nearby hospital, and I finally got an appointment for the following month. In the meantime I was still going back and forth to my GP because the pain was getting worse. Frustrated, I went to A&E and that’s when they found that I had sepsis and an inconclusive mass.
I had a further procedure to remove the mass, but a few days later I was back in A&E with the same stomach pains. This time they did an x-ray and an MRI scan. It was at this point that they told me I had cancer.
The doctor explained that I was going to have to have surgery, and that after the operation I’d end up with a temporary stoma. The stoma took me a little while to learn how to deal with – but overall I had great care.
I started chemo a few weeks later. It wasn’t too bad, but I had some of the usual problems. I think the worst symptom was a little bit of neuropathy in my fingers and toes. After two cycles of carbo and taxol, the consultant decided to take me off the taxol. After chemo finished I was seen every three months. I also had my stoma reversed – which was such a relief!
I had over a year’s break before my first recurrence. This time the doctor put me on carboplatin and caelyx, and although I was very tired, I coped pretty well. A few years passed before my second recurrence. After three more rounds of carboplatin and caelyx, I was eventually approved niraparib.
Now I take two pills a day and have very minor side effects. It’s been so easy. When I found out I could access niraparib, it felt amazing. I didn’t have to have chemotherapy anymore! My doctor says I’ll be on it until it stops working.
Support from others has been very important to me. I joined a meet up for anyone with a cancer diagnosis in my local area, and that was really helpful. The group was originally started as general meet and mingle group, until some of the attendees asked the lady who had set it up to create a cancer specific one. I was chatting to her one day and showed her my symptoms card, and she said she had all of the symptoms on the card. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer soon after, and has since finished chemo.
I think waiting is the most difficult part of having cancer. When you’ve had chemo you have to wait for the next dose. You wait for your next appointment to see your oncologist or to find out what your blood test results are. That part is very difficult.
Now I want people to find out and get diagnosed earlier. My cancer was stage III when I was diagnosed and I’d seen my GP four times with stomach pains. If it’s picked up earlier the prognosis is better. If we can alert the medical profession, we can help lots of other women.