The experience of having cancer can often stay with you long after treatment ends. Two and a half years on, Lesley says that even the smallest reminders can send her right back to the moment she was diagnosed…
Sometimes I go back to the moment I was told I had ovarian cancer. Once the gynaecologist had left the room, I sort of collapsed with the stress of it all. Sometimes I see things on TV, cancer diagnosis stories or even adverts and it puts me straight back in that room. People think that once you’ve had cancer, it’s gone and you’re cured. I looked so different and I was so ill; that experience stays with you.
I didn’t feel ill at all – I just kept going for a wee all the time. I’d had this issue for some time, but just put it down to my age and the fact I’d had children. It got worse and was soon taking over my life. I didn’t want to be an old lady who smelt of wee, so I went to see the doctor.
My GP thought maybe I had an overactive bladder and put me on some pills. She also sent me for blood tests, saying it could be my kidneys.
The following day she rang back. I have nothing but respect for her because she was so quick. She explained that my blood test showed I might have a cyst. I would be referred for an ultrasound and given an appointment with a gynaecologist.
Before my appointment I Googled ‘blood test’ and ‘bladder problems’ and found a few results for ovarian cancer. This obviously panicked me, but I tried to stay calm. I didn’t think I was experiencing any other symptoms of ovarian cancer, so I thought I was probably okay.
I found the diagnosis period to be very stressful. This was a traumatic period because I was in limbo and everything was being done by phone. I had become particularly fixated on the CA125 test and went back to my GP wanting to know my number. She didn’t tell me, but said it could be high for a large number of reasons – this really helped me.
They fast-tracked my surgery and got me in for an appointment very quickly, but I still didn’t know exactly what was going on. Finally, a surgeon very kindly explained everything to me. He showed me my scans and said it all looked contained.
I had a full hysterectomy and they removed a 12cm mass from my abdomen. After the operation, they called me to explain that I had high-grade serous ovarian cancer. It was such a shock; I felt so well. I was also angry because I’ve always looked after myself. I’m not the perfect size 10, but I’ve always eaten healthily and exercised. I kept asking myself, ‘why me? This shouldn’t be happening to me’.
Counting my blessings
I ended up having six rounds of chemotherapy – carboplatin and paclitaxel – every three weeks. It made me very tired but I wasn’t sick or anything. Since then, I go every six months to have CA125 blood tests.
After I finished treatment I found a local cancer support centre where you meet in groups and talk to people. It was really useful at the time and I wish I’d known about it whilst I was going through treatment.
I don’t know why, but before I was diagnosed, I didn’t know anything about ovarian cancer. I knew about breast cancer, but ovarian cancer had passed me by. Now I follow Target Ovarian Cancer and others on Facebook and enjoy sharing the symptoms information. Sometimes I look on having cancer as a positive experience. I was sent for tests and then got my diagnosis so quickly. I count my blessings because I am so lucky.