Jane a young woman with low grade serous ovarian cancer

A life worth living, and saving

Date of Diagnosis: March 2017

Age at Diagnosis: 32

Country: New Zealand

I Am: A wife, a daughter, a friend and an optometrist. I am an ‘aunt’ to eight of my cousins’ wonderful children. I’ve volunteered for Land Search and Rescue and Volunteer Ophthalmic Services Overseas. I rock climb and tramp (overnight hike). I’ve run three half marathons and I bake a great cake.

I am also the holder of a letter that states with current medical therapies I likely have 5 to 15 years left to live.

I am someone who would like to live long enough to eat fruit from the trees I planted this year. A woman who wants to be a mother (by surrogacy because the hormones to carry a pregnancy would fuel my cancer and kill me) and have time enough to see them grow up and become adults. A wife who wants to see my husband when he is grey and wrinkled and share in the satisfaction of a life lived together. A daughter who would like to take care of my parents in their old age, instead of them taking care of me, and save them the pain of burying their third and final child. A person who loves life and wants so much more of it.

The cancer was found when: I was driving from Wellington to Dunedin to start a new job. The tumour caused my ovary to twist and the pain finally was severe enough that the doctors could not ignore it. I’d been experiencing symptoms for well over a year – initially changes in bowel motions then fatigue and frequent urination, followed by intermittent aches, reduced appetite, an occasionally spasming thigh – various and vague – I now understand it was dependent on what structure the tumour was pushing against.

I saw my GP repeatedly and they always had a good explanation, a reason why my worsening symptoms were harmless and didn’t require investigation. I was told I was too young for cancer. I self tested myself with a pharmacy screening test for bowel cancer, it was negative. I googled my symptoms and nothing serious came up. I was made to feel like a hypochondriac. Unfortunately the surgeon who saw me for my emergency surgery decided it wasn’t cancer. They told me they would remove the whole ovary but I awoke to be told the “good news” that they left it behind. They ruptured the 6cm tumour in an attempt to keep my scarring small.

Two weeks later my pathology came back as Low Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer – 2C. C because it had been spread throughout my stomach fluid after the surgeon burst it. 2 because it had grown on the surface of my abdomen wall and organs. If it had been caught at stage one my future would have been entirely different. However, among women with this cancer my story is sadly far from unique.

How your donations would impact me: There has been dramatic progress in the survival of other cancers in recent years including acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and mantle cell lymphoma. Many people who just five years ago were incurable are now cancer free with normal life expectancies. And in my lifetime the survival of breast cancer has almost doubled.

I have met some incredible doctors and researchers who truely believe it is within their ability to find a cure but without the help of people like yourself, their work won’t be funded. In practical terms your donations will give my doctors better knowledge to treat me, and medications that otherwise might not be available.

Your donations give me hope. Hope of a better future, one where cancer is just the middle of the story, not the end.

What I would say to someone else going through this: Be kind to yourself. Don’t hold yourself to your pre-cancer standards. You are coping with something harder than most people could ever imagine. It’s ok not to be perfect anymore.

Jane and her husband JoeJane in hospital sleeping, recovering from surgery for low grade serous ovarian cancerJane rock climbing in Australia one year after being diagnosed with low grade serous ovarian cancerJane hiking the Kepler track surrounded by tussock and mountains

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