“Accessing support from Debs (Creative Living Centre, Living with and Beyond Cancer project) and James has been a positive experience and is helping me to come to terms with my illness and possible re occurrence.
It’s been helpful speaking to people who are supportive and knowledgeable. It’s useful to speak to someone other than family and friends as it allows me time to be more reflective.”
I was diagnosed with advanced stage ovarian cancer after suffering with severe abdominal bloating. I was fitted with a drain to remove fluid from my abdomen and underwent two surgeries. Having also had chemotherapy, I am keen to let others know that treatment doesn’t have to be as frightening as it can be portrayed by the media.
"For many women with ovarian cancer, the prospect of treatment can be almost as frightening as the diagnosis itself. Louise shares her experience of ovarian cancer and explains why chemotherapy isn’t a scary as you think..."
I want more people to know about chemo and the symptoms of ovarian cancer. There’s a lot of fear around chemotherapy, in particular. Yes, it can be horrible, but it’s not as frightening as it’s made out on TV. There are so many misconceptions about the treatment - that’s something I want to help break down.
I’d heard of ovarian cancer - but I didn’t know the symptoms. The first time I really noticed something being wrong was when my tummy started feeling uncomfortable. My abdomen was very bloated and the swelling never seemed to go away. The idea that I might have ovarian cancer was somewhere in the back of my mind, but I didn’t want to think too much about it.
I decided to go and see my GP anyway - even though I hoped I’d come away with antibiotics for what I thought was IBS. My GP ended up doing a CA125 blood test, and one week later I was referred to a specialist at the local hospital. After a few more tests and an ultrasound - the gynaecologist told me that it could be ovarian cancer.
Doctors were keen to put an ascites drain in to help ease my abdominal swelling. After a bad reaction with the first drain (they thought I had sepsis), I was sent to a local hospice where I had around 9 litres of fluid removed. I was also sent for surgery, for a hysterectomy. After the operation, the doctors told me that this hadn’t been successful, and they hadn’t been able to remove any of the cancer because it was more widely spread than they initially thought. I then developed sepsis after this but fortunately gradually improved.
After the unsuccessful surgery I started chemotherapy. After three sessions of chemo I had a scan and the consultant informed me that signs of cancer had been reduced and they would reattempt the hysterectomy. I had responded well to the chemotherapy treatment.
The second hysterectomy was successful and as soon as I had recovered from the surgery I started chemotherapy. Luckily, I responded well. My recovery has been a long journey so far and I’m gradually getting fitter, I think walking has really helped me feel better.
I think there are a lot of misconceptions around chemotherapy. I’ve had a lot of friends asking questions and it’s not as frightening if you know the facts. I want more people to know about chemotherapy and about ovarian cancer.
Now my message to other women would be ‘if you’re worried, go to your doctor!’ So many people don’t know anything about cancer – they don’t know the symptoms or the tests to ask for. I know it’s frightening, but if people knew more about it they might be less scared. People need to know to act fast. If you act quickly, you can hopefully get better - you can get treatment.
Ovarian cancer symptoms cannot be detected through a smear test.
The symptoms include bloating that does not go away, loss of appetite, a need to urinate frequently and tiredness so often this cancer is not recognised till it’s at an advanced stage.
So please request a blood test from your GP if you have these symptoms.
Get support from online forums, support groups as well as friends and family.
Access support from specialist support agencies as a cancer diagnosis is often unexpected and traumatic.
Try and stay as positive as possible: try to do exercise, eat healthily and plan enjoyable activities for when you feel well.
Look after yourself and rest when you feel tired.