Janet Rowe's story

Janet Rowe Photo

My name is Janet, and I live in Melbourne, Australia.

I still don’t know why I went to the doctor in January 2010, except to say that I thought I must be menopausal – not sleeping well, grumpy, and going to the loo more often. I was 54 years old with two teenage kids and a long-suffering husband! I had never thought about the possibility of getting a serious disease.

My doctor sent me for an ultrasound, which in retrospect, was quite remarkable given my lack of symptoms. Within 10 days I was in hospital having a laparotomy. My life and that of my family was quickly turned upside down. I had Stage 3C ovarian cancer which had traveled to my lymph nodes. Following the surgery, I undertook 4 months of chemotherapy. Losing my hair wasn’t such a big shock as losing my eyebrows and eyelashes. Once I had got used to the chemotherapy, I was able to work most of the way through the treatment. I felt much better being back at work and in a normal environment. I also continued to exercise. I like cycling and swimming. I’m convinced that being fit really helped me both mentally and physically to deal with being sick.

Like most people, I read a lot, talked to a lot of people and made as much use as possible of experts. I think that in addition to learning more about the disease, it was a way to take back some control over my life. I attended a Gawler Foundation Living and Learning course at the end of the chemotherapy. I got a lot out of it and it gave me a much greater perspective on what extraordinary challenges people face. My life returned back to normal and although I had read that many people change their attitude to things and learn to appreciate things more, I didn’t have any such epiphany. I felt that I had a good life and was lucky enough to have traveled widely and I’d always enjoyed every opportunity that came along. I did however have a heightened sense of pleasure being around my family and friends. Something I still feel.

I was going very well until June 2012, when I went to the doctor again because of lower back pain. It turned out that I had a growth in my pelvis. My cancer had returned but without the ability to make CA125, so my regular blood tests had been showing no change in levels and I didn’t think the back pain was all that suspicious. It was like Groundhog Day – same operation, same hospital, same medical team. It was really hard going back into ‘being sick’ mode. However, as we all do, I rallied myself and got myself prepared. My tumour was isolated, so that was very encouraging. I did 6 months of chemotherapy with slightly different drugs from the first time. Remarkably enough, when I found out that the cancer had returned, I didn’t feel scared. I felt that I could deal with it. I finished the treatment 3 months ago and now have my hair back – including my eyebrows! I am feeling fine and still feeling optimistic about life.

I had always assumed I’d see my children grow up and that I’d have grand children. It was a big shock to understand that I couldn’t assume any such thing. However, without these assumptions, everything that happens now comes to me as a pleasant surprise.

I believe that there are three areas of support which have been essential to me over the last three years. The unfailing care and love of my husband and children. The amazing protection I’ve felt from my seriously wonderful friends. And last, but not least, the support group and the activities which surround Ovarian Cancer Australia, of which I’ve always appreciated being a part.

For media enquiries please contact: cmackay@worldovariancancercoalition.