Ovarian cancer can be frightening, and many women struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation. Ann talks about the importance of support events, and why sometimes all you need is a cup of tea and a chat…
If you get the opportunity to attend a support event, please don’t hesitate. Besides meeting lots of new friends, these events can stop you feeling so isolated and alone.
Before I got sick, I knew all about the symptoms of ovarian cancer because my mother-in-law had died from the disease. But when I started to show symptoms, I didn’t initially make the connection.
After returning home from a September holiday, I noticed I’d put on weight. This didn’t seem like anything unusual – everyone overindulges when they’re away – and I decided to join Slimming World to try and drop a few pounds. I even joked with my work colleagues that the bloating was down to all the fruit I was eating. I cut out apples and pears and didn't really think anything more of it.
By Christmas I was shattered. On Christmas Day, I was so exhausted that I ended up in bed at 8:30 pm. All my family thought I was drunk. Then, one day between Christmas and New Year, I was out walking my son’s dog when I had an accident and soiled myself. I was mortified, but I couldn't help it.
I went to my GP and was prescribed antibiotics for a bacterial infection. When they failed to help I went back to see my doctor, and she eventually diagnosed me with IBS. In the end, I knew in my heart that I had cancer. I went back and showed her my stomach and told her I looked pregnant. In early March, I was told I had ovarian cancer.
Initially, I had three sessions of chemotherapy, followed by a total hysterectomy and three more sessions of chemo. My markers dropped to normal levels and by the end of the treatment I thought the cancer had gone. How wrong I was. Six months later it was back, and I was given more chemo. After a brief remission, the cancer again returned, and this time I had weekly chemo. Unfortunately, since the start of this year, my markers have risen, and I’m currently on my fourth chemo regime.
Access to support
I decided to come to Target Ovarian Cancer’s Being Together day in Wrexham because I felt like I needed to talk to others who were in the same situation as I am. The day was divided into lots of sessions – all of which were really helpful. There was a relaxation for anxiety workshop, which I have found very beneficial and I have since tried to continue with some of the exercises at home. The ask the experts session was also very informative, and although not everything related to my situation, it was good to hear about other aspects – along with the latest information on new and developing treatments.
My favourite part of the day was probably the tea and chat session, which was exactly that – tea and a chat! I thought this session was particularly brilliant. In fact, the whole day was really helpful. It was lovely to be able to chat to other women, and I made lots of new friends. We’ve even arranged to meet up for lunch since!