When Gabrielle was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she was determined to make some big life changes. After selling her business and dedicating herself to raising awareness, the outgoing mum of two explains why – these days - she’s decided to stop sweating the small stuff…
I used to pride myself on not being ill that often. Or maybe my previous ailments weren't dramatic enough – I was obviously just waiting for a real show-stopper!
I had been experiencing bloating in my tummy and night sweats, so I went to the doctor and was given a blood test. When I went back for the results I was told that my CA125 (a marker for ovarian cancer) had come back “quite high”. I later discovered that my level was actually 1800 (normal is below 35) so “quite high” was a bit of an understatement! I ended up going to see a specialist in London and, after some scans, it was confirmed that I had stage III, high grade ovarian/fallopian cancer. I don’t think it really sank in. Even when they explained how serious it was - and that there was a strong likelihood of it returning - I was still very calm. I had 9 rounds of chemo, a large operation, and then 9 more chemo sessions - one every week.
I didn’t work at all during treatment; I wanted to keep all my strength for my children. The chemo wasn’t too bad though, in fact, it was only after the operation that I felt really ill. I eventually sold my business which was a blessing as I was finding it stressful.
I was only clear for 9 months before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer for the second time. I now know that my cancer is incurable but must be managed. This time I had different drugs which means only 6 chemo sessions, one every month. I actually think this second diagnosis hit me a lot harder. My mother in particular took it very badly, but we’re very close and have stuck together. I’m lucky enough to have a huge family who are all so supportive, as well as a really big group of friends. The kindness of people has been truly unbelievable. I also have two children who are the loves of my life. The most difficult thing about my diagnosis is thinking that I may not be there to see them grow up. I don't want to leave them. Not having a mummy will change their lives so dramatically. When I was first told the news I started doing the math on how many years I needed to live to make it alright. When is it okay for your mummy to die? Will life in future be mapped out by making benchmarks? Seeing them both to senior school... first love… university… married? Of course it’s horrible for them, but they are coping well.
I’m happy to talk about my cancer. I love the attention it’s brought me and I don’t mind admitting it – you have to grab silver linings where you can! I’d rather I didn’t have it, but I do. I’m an outgoing sort of gal, and I can’t help thinking I could help people out there. A friend who works in PR has been helping me to raise money and awareness, and another friend recently ran 18, 18K runs and raised £15,000. Along with some other friends, I organised a sponsored row during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2016 – they actually broke a world record and I rowed the last 500m!
With ovarian cancer, it’s all about when it’s caught. If I’d known about the symptoms and caught this earlier, I wouldn’t be facing the bleak odds that I am.
These days I am more aware of how precious my time is. I try not to sweat the small stuff anymore. My husband and I are closer than ever and I take more time to do the important things in life – spend time with family and friends, etc. I’ve got a beautiful house, two children, a dishy husband and two gorgeous dogs. I also write a blog about my journey with cancer which I really enjoy. So apart from the fact that I have a chronic illness, I’m very lucky!