Since Mary Raftery discovered that she had ovarian cancer back in August 2011 she has been determined to get the most out of life by pushing herself out of her comfort zone.
The 58-year-old from Islington married her long-term partner Darren in London a month after being diagnosed and she has been embracing major new experiences: she was interviewed about the disease on 5 News; has modelled a dress to help raise money for the ovarian cancer charity Ovacome (see photo) and took part in last year’s World Ovarian Cancer Day.
“I grasp new experiences which before I would never have imagined doing, such as the TV interview. I know that if I didn’t take on these new challenges I would only regret it,” says Mary.
“I have learnt to live in the present moment and not to worry about the future. If I’m feeling down, I know I need to do something nice.
“I no longer put off meeting close friends and book a time to see them rather than saying ‘oh we must meet up soon’.”
When Mary discovered that she had at least stage 3c ovarian cancer, she had only just taken early retirement from her career as a clinical coding manager in the NHS. She couldn’t understand why she was more tired than usual and she also had vague abdominal pain.
At first Mary didn’t want to bother her GP, as the pain would disappear after taking pain relief. “Women are very good at taking medication and getting on as if nothing is wrong, but my story shows that it really is worth getting checked out if you have persistent tummy problems. It just takes a simple CA125 blood test to find out whether ovarian cancer is a possibility,” says Mary.
Mary, like many women too, dismissed her symptoms as being the effects of menopause. But then after around nine months of not feeling quite right, her stomach grew four and a half inches within five days. It was then that Mary went to her GP and she was tested for ovarian cancer.
Mary’s cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, omentum and spleen. She was given three cycles of carboplatin and paclitaxel before surgery, in which she had a complete hysterectomy, with her ovaries, fallopian tubes and also her spleen being removed. Three weeks later she was given another three cycles of the same chemotherapy, which finished in January 2012.
It was a doubly bizarre experience for Mary, as for her the diagnosis felt so out of the blue, and also she was treated at Barts, the hospital where she had worked for over 28 years.
Since then, Mary has been given no further treatment, apart from a minor post-operative repair. She is being regularly checked every three months. And despite her positive outlook she doesn’t want other women to go through what she has endured: That is why Mary is doing whatever she can to help raise awareness of the disease and will be happy to be involved in this year’s World Ovarian Cancer Day.