A woman smiling into the camera

The Invisible Disability. The Hidden Side

In News, Our Stories, Uncategorized by hollyops

“Oh you’re looking so well!” I look up into a smiling, hopeful face, pressing those words reassuringly on me. Those words so familiar, so …. I used to hesitate, endure a short pause, then somewhat in a haze mumble my thanks for the compliment, (I think it’s a compliment…?), before trying to defend, or articulate the truth. “Oh yes, well I’m not too bad all things considered, but I have…”

Now I just smile politely, and accept the compliment. The truth is, it is intended a compliment, so I’ll gratefully accept, and ignore the complex paradigm of the aftermath of this disease, physical and emotional which rips through life.

The truth is these people want the best for me, (for us all), and they’re usually delightedly declaring a statement they hope is the truth. They too were shocked and sorry to hear the tragic news that ovarian cancer can storm a 30-something year olds life, and sometimes younger too. My misdiagnosis trolled at least 18 months, as cancer quietly ravaged my body, and I traipsed in and out of countless doctor and hospital appointments. As each potential disease and diagnosis was questioned by every medic on the case, the mystery journeyed on. Another bloods bottle filled, a brain MRI scanner, even, coming face to face with my baffled head; it was the puzzle that no one could understand, the dilemma with no plausible reasons. “But medicine isn’t black and white,” they said. The truth was, the gynaecology department had signed me off as having benign dermoid cysts, and with a ‘perfectly normal CA125,’ the deadly Low Grade Ovarian Cancer diagnosis slipped under the net. I was “young,” I was “anxious” and, well, you “look well?”

Since that crushing day hearing the words: “You’ve got cancer,” if I had a pound for every time someone (medics included), greets me exclaiming, “We-elll, you’re looking well!…I think I’d have raised a decent amount towards research for this underfunded disease. Too many women have faced silent emotional and physical suffering, as this disease works away in our bodies, undercover, uncaught and unchallenged.

If we knew, if they knew, the symptoms and the signs of Ovarian Cancer, and coupled with funds towards lifesaving research and more treatment options, maybe people would be able to one day say to an Ovarian Cancer sufferer, “Oh you look well!” And they would answer, I am.

Until that day, I’ll keep living life to the full, making the most of each day as a gift, and holding onto hope.

By Gilly McLaren

Gilly is an artist who documented her time in hospital with a series of drawings called Portraits and Tales from a Hospital Bed

Find this series at:
@gillyartist on Instagram