Gurbachan Johal's story


Treatment for ovarian cancer was the hardest thing I have ever gone through, but now I am sharing my experience to help raise symptoms awareness.

In December 2008 I had a really bad cold, which I just couldn’t shake off, so in January I went to see my doctor. She sent me for a blood test and when I went back to see her for the results, because my stomach was hard, she made an appointment for me to have a scan in February.  

Nothing to worry about
In early February I was very unwell – unable to eat anything despite feeling hungry; and despite feeling tired, unable to sleep because
I felt so uncomfortable.

My appointment at West Middlesex Hospital was on 11 February, and I had all the investigations, including an ultrasound and CT scan, which showed I had multiple fibroids. The hospital told me it was nothing to worry about and that I just needed to have a hysterectomy, which was booked for March. Despite me telling them I couldn’t wait that long they said it was the best they could do.

After talking it through with my husband we decided to consult a specialist privately, and she saw me the following week and operated at the end of February.
It was during the operation that she discovered my cancer, and an omental biopsy revealed that it was stage 3 ovarian cancer.

I was still very weak from the operation when I was told the news, and I cried all the way home. My husband was a tower of strength and held my hand.

The hardest thing

I was referred to Hammersmith Hospital where my consultant was Professor Hani Gabra. Treatment for ovarian cancer was the hardest thing I have ever gone through, but I was so lucky to have my husband (a great nurse!) and lots of friends and family members to support me – day and night.

My husband has been an absolute rock. He’s held me close when I’ve felt down, and wiped away my tears when I’ve cried. He’s rubbed my legs when they hurt, dressed me when I couldn’t dress myself, and cooked when I couldn’t. His support and love has made me strong.

My friends and family members have also been wonderful. My son helped me by researching what my treatment would involve. My brothers and sisters phoned regularly, and visited to massage my legs when they were painful. My sister-in-law flew in from Canada to look after me for four weeks; and my husband’s family came to our house to cook for me, and phoned every day. I know I am very lucky.

Talking helps
My treatment included three chemotherapy sessions, another operation to debulk the ovarian tumour; and then a further three chemotherapy sessions. During this time I found that talking to people who had come through cancer was tremendously helpful – it was so useful to see that despite what they had been through they were OK.

Knowing this has made me determined to try and help others in the same way. I also believe passionately that we must raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer to help women be diagnosed earlier and improve their chances of surviving.

Sharing my experience
Since I’ve finished my treatment I’ve been helping Ovarian Cancer Action. I volunteered to become an Ovarian Cancer Voice, and I appear in the film for the online symptoms awareness campaign, as well as the new leaflet. I’ve also spoken on the radio and been interviewed by Asian Woman magazine.

Becoming an Ovarian Cancer Voice has been an amazing experience, which has helped my self-confidence and given me a new sense of purpose. I’ve given talks at local temples to tell other women about ovarian cancer and make them aware of the symptoms. I’ve met twice with my local MP, Alan Keen, and I’ve visited numerous local shops and clinics asking them to display symptoms awareness materials. If nothing else, I have kept myself busy!

But all joking apart, I know how much strength I have drawn from talking to other people who have had cancer, and I hope that sharing my experience of ovarian cancer will help others too.

Raise your voice!
To join Ovarian Cancer Voices and help us make sure the voices of people affected by ovarian cancer are heard, visit our website at or email

For media enquiries please contact: cmackay@worldovariancancercoalition.