Maureen was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer last year, aged 50. It has not been an easy journey but after taking part in a clinical trial, she is now in remission and intends to make the most of life.
“Having lost my mother to ovarian cancer in 2009, I asked twice for genetic testing. I was so keen that this dreadful disease wouldn’t target me. I wasn’t considered a high risk as my family history only indicated one member with ovarian cancer, so I was refused.
I believed I had a good awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. I choose to be an advocate for symptoms awareness by highlighting it on social media, running a 10k to raise funds for medical research charity Ovarian Cancer Action and when I turned 50 I wanted to do something significant and raised £3500 for a number of female cancers, when I cycled 450km in Tanzania on a WomenVCancer challenge.
Nothing could have prepared me for a stage 4 diagnosis two months later. They warn that the symptoms are subtle and this is so true. All the common symptoms didn’t apply to me. All I can recollect is that I had occasional feelings of nausea and one day whilst cycling my wedding ring flew off my hand yet I hadn’t lost weight. It was a few weeks later, I was cycling and I knew I was finding it more difficult than usual and noticed I felt bloated and what I’d describe as a bad orchestra performing in my abdomen.
I got an emergency appointment with a GP and gave my family history. Thankfully the GP took a blood test measuring CA125 and within two days phoned to tell me it was significantly elevated. I was in shock but managed to get a CT scan that day. Those first few days were mentally torturous. Within a week of those obvious symptoms I was told that they had seen tumours on my ovaries. I was admitted to hospital to have four litres of ascites drained from my abdomen.
I was absolutely devastated. You imagine life will follow a pattern to old age and in an instant, everything changes. After some research, I chose to go on the icon8b clinical trial. I was lucky because I tolerated chemotherapy well and walked at least three miles nearly every day.
Since February I have been in remission. It has not been easy for me. I have had an added complication of a very large hernia after surgery and the psychological effects were overwhelming at times. I felt I had lost my whole identity. Since around May I have turned that around and try to make every day count. I’ve taken up tennis, sing in choirs, started a ladies’ cycle group and I’m travelling around the world. For me, it isn’t a gift to have cancer, it is a burden but I think I am being honest in saying that my focus is about enjoying more of the important things in life. I don’t want people to look at me and think ‘Poor you, you don’t have a long life expectancy’, but instead to think ‘Wow, she made more of her life than most of us who live to a grand old age.’
I’m still fighting for a long life and read about all new scientific evidence in the fight of this disease and plan to take part in this, but in the meantime, I want to make the most of life and don’t want to miss out on all the wonderful experiences that it brings us.
Now I am Voice for Ovarian Cancer Action and do what I can to raise awareness of ovarian cancer and fund research that will fight the disease. It receives so little publicity and funding compared to other cancers and both are important to create a more optimistic outlook for others.