I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer in June 2012. It came as a shock as I had little-to-no symptoms. I had been having a little difficulty urinating and my girth was expanding.I didn’t recognize that must have been how quickly the tumour was growing.
I’m pretty healthy and only go to the doctor for annual Pap test and breast check. When I told her that I was having trouble urinating she suggested I have an internal check-up, felt a lump in my abdomen and sent me off for an ultrasound. The ultrasound took forever and the stenographer asked me a thousand questions and by the end of it I knew they had discovered something sinister. I knew I had ovarian cancer.
Within two weeks I had debulking surgery, followed by 5 months of chemotherapy…and then I went into remission!
I was only 47 when I was diagnosed and my surgeon suggested that as this was quite young for ovarian cancer diagnosis, I might have the BRCA 1 gene. It turns out he was right.
I have two daughters – one has had the genetic test and has the gene, the other doesn’t want to take the test at this stage. It’s horrible that the BRCA 1 ovarian cancer gene is prevalent in my family, however knowing that it exists means that my kids (and their kids) will be able to make informed decisions about reducing their risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Knowing my BRACA status, I decided to have a preventative mastectomy and reconstructive surgery and it was during this time that my CA125 protein level – the marker used to detect signs of ovarian cancer – began to rise. In November 2014, just days after my reconstructive surgery, a PET scan indicated that secondary cancers had returned in a number of places.
It was at this time my Oncologist, recommended that I participate in a gynaecological cancer clinical trial – Ovar2.21. I have been on the trial since December 2014 and participating merely involves a blood test and treatment every three weeks and a CT scan every three months.
It’s a randomised drug trial and drug combination I was initially given, it’s working for me. I am now just on Avastin, which aims to reduce the size and spread of my tumours and I’ll continue on this drug until it stops working. Overall my tumours have shrunk by 78%…and continue to shrink. I will continue to with this treatment until it stops working – and it will one day.
Each woman responds differently to chemotherapy however since being on the trial I haven’t experienced any side effects apart from occasionally feeling tired. I do everything I did before diagnosis – I still exercise regularly, I go out on the weekends, see my friends. My quality of life is excellent. I feel great.
I feel so lucky to be on a trial. As a nurse, I know that the clinical trials are the only way to find new treatments for ovarian cancer. This is important for me and the other amazing women diagnosed with gynae cancer who I have met along to way. It’s also vital that effective new treatments are available for my daughters if they need it.