Diane Evans-Wood of New Forest, UK, was diagnosed with stage 3C low-grade serous ovarian cancer in 2014.
She presented to her GP with a sudden persistent abdominal pain and was told it was perimenopause.
“I knew this was not a sign of perimenopause so I insisted on further investigation,” she said. “The pain I had was not normal for me!”
Her blood test revealed a very high CA-125 and the ultrasound scan revealed an ovarian cyst.
“In hindsight I realise that I had been much more tired, which I put down to a busy lifestyle. I was feeling bloated but I put that down to constipation and poor dietary choices due to a hectic life. There always seemed to be a logical reason for the symptoms which I now realise collectively equated to the symptoms of ovarian cancer.”
Initial pathology to remove the cyst found borderline ovarian tumours. Within months the symptoms returned and a CT scan revealed an enlarged lymph node. That pathology came back as low-grade serous ovarian cancer.
“In the moment of being told I have ovarian cancer, I felt distanced as though they were talking about somebody else,” she said. “In the coming weeks as I adjusted to the news it all felt surreal. I went through a range of feelings ranging from disbelief, anger, depression and fear.”
After chemotherapy which resulted in losing her hair and becoming very ill, she was not able to recover enough to return to her job as a palliative care CNS.
“I made the heartbreaking decision to retire through ill health. This one decision changed everything about my life and to this day I have not come to terms with it all,” she said.
“I find it very hard to be the patient and still feel very much the health professional,” she said. “When I talk to my oncologist about myself, it sounds as though I am talking to her about another patient. I just don’t find it easy to let go of being a nurse.”
Diane is hopeful for more research into treatments for low-grader serous ovarian cancer.
“This is a tricky disease to treat,” she said. “It is not the same as the more common high-grade serous. Low-grade disproportionately affects younger women in their prime. Research will keep families together and stop the heartbreak of so many young vibrant lives.”