Many of you know me but for those who don’t, my name is Helen. I am a married mother of four boys, ages ranging from 18 down to 6. I work at Monash University Clayton as an Occupational Health Nurse Consultant and love living where I do, in Mount Martha. I want to share my story about Ovarian Cancer, to raise awareness of the symptoms as this is the only way, at present that this insidious disease is picked up.
If you do one thing today familiarise yourself with the symptoms by visiting the OCRF website and reading what they are. In most cases symptoms are vague as in my case, but my story highlights that IF IN DOUBT GET CHECKED OUT!
My life over the last few months has been steered by choices and decisions, my own and others.
1st Choice…mine: To go to the GP with my symptoms!!
These were them in a nut shell and all of them a bit vague!
Belly bloating for about 3 weeks (this was how long I noticed it) – this was unusual for me!
Feeling full after a small meal – this was definitely unusual for me!
Feeling very uncomfortable after exercise – NOT unusual for me! but this uncomfortable was different!
I had pain in my right side when lying on my left in bed but this resolved on change of position so didn’t bother me that much. I thought may be gall bladder trouble (self diagnosing nurse that I am!).
This was a Friday…The GP examined me and took bloods, asked all the right questions about lifestyle and symptoms, prescribed me medication for my stomach and got me back on the Monday to discuss the results. There were a few slight changes but nothing to write home about, in any GP’s eyes could have been a multiple of possible minor conditions.
This was the second choice….The GP’s Choice- What to do next!
By the Monday I had thought more about the unusual symptoms that were present, especially those when exercising. I become more concerned about this and was worried that things were just not right.
I discussed this with my GP, and I told him that I felt there was something going on and I was concerned. The GP made the decision to take my vague subjective comment seriously and sent me for a CT scan the next day…this turned out to be the right choice!
I knew when they asked me to see my GP urgently, that it was Ovarian Cancer, I just knew. The GP explained that a tumour had been seen and referred me to an oncologist who referred me to Professor Jobling a Gynae oncologist for surgery the next week.
This amazing surgeon explained that Ovarian Cancer cannot be truly diagnosed until microbiology was back after surgery. The surgery would involve a total hysterectomy and removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes and maybe more depending on visual spread (debulking surgery they call it). This was his clinical decision, and it was a good decision.
This happened the week after, and confirmation of Ovarian Cancer was made on the return of the microbiology results from the extensive surgery. It was fairly advanced which is a common scenario for women diagnosed with the disease.
My hardest choices haven’t been which surgeon or whether to wear a wig or scarf during chemo. The hardest choices have been how to tell my four young sons that their mum has ovarian cancer and how to tell my mum and dad who live overseas that same news.
Having Ovarian Cancer is not a choice I would have willingly made but is a journey that has taught me a lot about myself and others, and what is important in life, but also a message that needs to be shared as my story is not uncommon.
My chance of survival has been dependant on the choices and decisions made over the last few months by others including the Chairman of the OCRF, my wonderful oncologist, and GP. I am 5 months post chemo and all blood tests are normal, so things are looking good for me, for now.
I know how important it is to be in touch with your health, eat well, exercise, and check out those mild symptoms. Do this for you, because you guys are the world to someone!
You will, with your donations hopefully provide yourself, or the special women in your life more choice to be in control of their own health and happiness in the future.
The five year survival rate for Australian women with ovarian cancer is only about 40% that goes down to 30% in those diagnosed in the late stages. In comparison, the five year survival rate for breast cancer is about 88%. We need a screening test for all women but also for those women who haven’t had their families yet, as early detection can mean that radical surgery does not mean losing both their ovaries and uterus and their chance of a family.
Unite in White on 1st of May 2014. Buy a shirt from Witchery or just wear a white shirt and donate a small amount to the page.
Thank you to all my family, friends and work colleagues who have been on this journey with me this far!.