Interview 105

Age at interview: 59
Age at diagnosis: 49
Brief Outline: Ovarian cancer diagnosed in 1992 following abdominal swelling. Treated by surgical removal of ovaries and womb followed by chemotherapy.
Background: Sales Assistant; married, 4 adult children.

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When she was 49 she had some vaginal discharge but this passed after she took a course of antibiotics. A few months later, she woke up one morning with an extremely bloated and swollen abdomen, and saw her GP. She was also experiencing indigestion. Over the next few days a scan showed that she had a tumour the size of a grapefruit on one of her ovaries, and she was diagnosed with a stage three ovarian cancer. This was a huge shock for her and her family as she had not been feeling unwell. She had surgery to remove her uterus and ovaries, and stayed in hospital for ten days. 
Shortly after leaving hospital she started a course of chemotherapy (every four weeks for nine months). For a couple of months she experienced sickness but then says she got used to the treatment and the sickness passed. The only hair she lost was under her arms. She found that for around ten days after the chemotherapy she felt unwell, but felt better by the time she was going to have her next treatment. She experienced intense fatigue during the chemotherapy. She also had mood swings, and tried acupuncture to see if that could help. She found this very beneficial and her mood improved quickly. 
Her mum and gran had both passed away at young ages from cancer. She was open with everyone about her diagnosis, as she had found the secrecy surrounding her mum’s cancer difficult to deal with. She told her four children individually about her diagnosis, and kept them all informed of what was happening with her treatment. Her husband was very supportive throughout her illness. For one month she had nightmares and was glad when these passed. She says that she did not become upset at being diagnosed with cancer, but felt ‘mad’ and angry that she had cancer after living healthily her whole life. She found standing in the garden and screaming helped her vent her anger. 
After finishing chemotherapy, she had check-up appointments every three months, then every six months, and ten years on she sees a specialist privately every nine months. She feels that since she did not have any symptoms before being diagnosed, regular appointments give her peace of mind. Throughout her treatment she feels she received excellent care and trusted her doctors to make the right treatment decisions for her. She would have liked to have been able to read more about the experiences of other women with ovarian cancer during her treatment. She found Cancerbackup (now merged with Macmillan) ‘terrific’ and valued their information booklets and telephone helpline services. She felt that she could ask any type of question and did not feel rushed. She continues to receive the regular newsletter from Ovacome, which she finds informative. Her employer was supportive and she was able to go to work as much or as little as she felt able to during her treatment. 
At the time of interview it is ten years since her diagnosis, and she has not had any recurrences. She feels positive about the future and sees having had cancer as a ‘blip.’ She says to other people who have received a diagnosis of cancer that although it may sometimes seem dark, it is important to try and remain positive. She kept telling herself that she would get better, and feels that having a positive attitude was a part of her recovery. 



She was perimenopausal before having her ovaries and womb removed as treatment for her ovarian...

She was perimenopausal before having her ovaries and womb removed as treatment for her ovarian...

Presumably when you had the surgery they took your ovaries out as well as your uterus?
Everything yes.
Everything. So you had like an enforced sudden menopause?
Yes, yes.
You were not menopausal before?
This happened in October ’92. I had a period in October ’91 and that was it, I didn’t have anything else.
So you were perhaps just starting anyway?
I would think so. I would think so.
So how did you feel about losing your womb at that time?
Using it?
Losing it. Sorry.
All right. I knew that I was in trouble, so needed major surgery, so I just left it' ‘You take what you need and what’s got to come out and just leave me with the basics that I can get on and live with’, you know, I wasn’t the least bit concerned. I’d had my family obviously at 49. No I wasn’t at all troubled by that.
You’d finished your family?
Oh yes, yes. Very much so, yes.
Did you have any menopausal symptoms or is it difficult to separate them from all the treatment side effects?

No, nothing that I know of. I finished my chemo in July ’93 and my oncologist recommended that I start on HRT, which I did in the August, and I’ve had patches ever since then. Still have them, I’ve never had a blip, never had anything that I thought was anything to do with the menopause. Obviously I can’t speak of it because I don’t know, but as far as I know no, nothing at all. 

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