My name is Chris and this is my story of my diagnosis and surgery then chemotherapy of my ovarian cancer journey. I was 58 at the time of my diagnosis.
I had just had a routine visit to my obstetrician who also had done over the years a vaginal repair and a partial hysterectomy leaving the ovaries and also a bladder repair. I had seen him six months prior to this visit as I felt a pressing or something was about to fall out of my vagina. He advised that it was a rectocele and small enough to leave alone. I saw him again and talked to him about the pressure I was feeling and he thought I may have diverticulitis and gave me a referral for a pelvic ultrasound. I had the pelvic ultrasound and it showed a mass on my ovary.
In July I arranged a private birthday party for my husband’s 60th. This is when the merry-go-round started. After dinner I started to feel not quite right, then I got really bad colicky pains and backache which became unbearable. My husband was ready to take me to the hospital but I took some pain killers and went to bed. That’s when I knew something was terribly wrong with me. I rang the receptionist at my obstetrician and asked if he had looked at the ultrasound… she said she would ask him to call me. He didn’t call that day so I went to see my GP with the pelvic ultrasound pictures and my symptoms. When he saw the scans my GP asked to take a blood sample. At 7am the next morning my GP called to say that the blood results came back showing the CA125 marker for ovarian cancer. From there on my life was a blur.
My GP contacted my obstetrician who then arranged for another ultrasound which I did the same day: he then rang me back saying there was a growth on my ovary and that he had made an appointment for me with a surgeon/oncologist and explained why. On the Friday that same week I saw the surgeon/oncologist and was operated on the following Tuesday. The surgery went well and he explained that it was cancerous stage III but had not gone to the lymph nodes but they had found a small node in the omentum. I needed 18 weeks of chemotherapy.
I started my chemo three weeks after my surgery and the week that we moved house. I was given taxol every week and on the third week taxol and carboplatin. After 9 weeks of the taxol I was admitted to the emergency department with neutropenic fever and given a blood transfusion; after which I felt so much better. The next week when I saw my oncologist; she advised that I would not be given taxol again as it had started turning my nails black and my fingers and toes were going numb. I continued on with the carboplatin every three weeks until I finished my treatment in January 2014. I am now having three monthly check-up for the next two years.
I cannot believe how fast my life has changed. I am a different person and trying to be me again. I tolerated the chemo well and do not miss the clinic however I cannot stress the generosity of the nurses who work there and their kindness. My hair is growing again quite differently and everyone loves it. I am still having trouble with my legs aching and fatigue, something I have never suffered; I am assured that all this will pass in time. I only work 3 hours a week as my concentration isn’t all that good at the moment and I am lucky I have the freedom to do this. I was also humbled by my friends who rallied together when we moved house and put my kitchen and bedroom in order for me during my treatment, and to my family, my diagnosis has not been an easy journey for them either, we all have strength together and get on with life.
A word of advice: If you know your body and you feel in your gut that something is not right don’t be embarrassed to get a second opinion, ask for a blood test, and get a pelvic ultrasound. Don’t put it down to menopause or bloating. I also feel strongly that if you have had a history of ovarian cysts and had a partial hysterectomy and feel anything out of the ordinary check it out. When I was first diagnosed I looked online and found the Ovarian Cancer Australia website and joined, they sent me out their Resilience kit which was full of wonderful information which I still refer to.
I have not lost my sense of humour and laugh every day and get out and about. Life goes on. I have my bad days and I have cried buckets of tears as well. Every day is a blessing: be part of this wonderful life we are given. Try not to fill your head with doubts or worries because they serve no purpose. Life is short make the best you can of it: live, love, laugh and travel.
My motto: fight like only a woman can with strength, determination and hope…