A more or less normal and happy life

Date of diagnosis: March 2009

Age at diagnosis: 40 years old

Country: UK initially then France.

I am: a mother of 2 gorgeous boys now aged 10 and 15. My husband is French and we moved from London to Provence after my initial diagnosis, operation and treatment in the hope that a quieter life would benefit my health.

I have lived a more or less normal and happy life in parallel to my cancer and the treatments for the last 10 years, but it is not easy. Only very recently has all this had to change and there is no doubt that the cancer and treatment have been a huge part of my life and that of my family since the beginning. My youngest son has only known his mother ‘ill’ with endless medical appointments etc.

Having said that I am out-going and energetic with a huge love of life which has undoubtedly helped me. I have worked in illustrated book publishing for 25 years, a job which took me all around the world. Only recently I have been obliged to stop working due to poor health.

The cancer was found: during a routine trans-vaginal scan for fertility as I was having problems conceiving my 2nd son. The ‘lump’ was considered to be a dermoid cyst and not much to worry about though there was a discussion about taking it out. I immediately fell pregnant and was advised by doctors at my local hospital in the UK to leave the cyst during pregnancy. Six months after the birth of my 2nd son I finally had what was supposed to be keyhole surgery to remove the cyst but which ended up as open surgery as the cyst was attached to an ovary, both of which came out. Diagnosis borderline ovarian cancer. I was referred to the Royal Marsden where things moved very quickly and changed, full hysterectomy and new diagnosis of low-grade ovarian cancer, Stage 3a, followed by 6 rounds of chemo.

How your donations would impact me: Quite simply because I have no, or few, treatment options left. I have had further operations, several rounds of chemo, 2 types of hormone therapy tablet and I have participated in 2 clinical trials – all with mixed results.

Other than 4 wonderful years in remission after the initial round of treatment, the cancer has never really left since and no treatment has given me the all clear. The cupboard is now looking bare and donations to ‘Cure our Ovarian Cancer’ would help me and other women with this rare disease to have more effective treatment options. Even here in France where the level of medical care is very high we are scratching around for options.

What I would say to someone else going through this: is that you will need to be strong, very strong and able to overcome the fear that will take over as soon as the word cancer is mentioned. Trust your doctors but also do not be afraid to ask questions. My 2 children have helped me enormously as I had to get up every morning for them. My husband has also been a pillar of strength although I would say the disease tests a marriage hugely.

Nicola Orsolini

– Nicola Orsolini passed away on September 21st, 2019.

Her family have set up a Just Giving page for low-grade serous research in her memory. To contribute go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Claire-Surtees1