Amy 10K run

Running has given me a clear goal when everything else is so uncertain

How I live each day with low grade serous ovarian cancer

Date of Diagnosis: September 2018

Age at Diagnosis: 36

I am: A wife, runner, teacher, masters student

My story: My husband and I had been enjoying a week off together in Sept 2018, when I received a call from my GP which started with, “Is anyone with you” and I knew from that point my life was drastically going to change. I had been feeling unwell with various symptoms for a very long time. Initially I went to my GP with fertility issues in the beginning of 2016. I was referred to a gynaecologist and had various tests and was diagnosed with painful bladder syndrome. My symptoms gradually started to increase and get worse.

By January 2018, I had weekly migraines, I always needed the toilet and had pain in my abdomen, I had lost 5kg in weight, felt nauseous and I was exhausted constantly. I was born with a heart condition and thought that this could be worsening but tests showed no deterioration in my condition. I moved house in July 2018 and mentioned to my new GP that ‘my belly button was sticking out’. My life as I knew it suddenly became blood tests, scans, appointments, waiting for results and lots of anxiety. Following surgery in October 2018, 3 days before my 37th birthday, I was confirmed to have stage 3, low grade serous ovarian cancer. To date, I have had 6 rounds of chemotherapy and I am currently on Avastin, a targeted a maintenance treatment, every 3 weeks.

Cancer has taken so much and affected every area of my life. Initially I needed to focus on surviving and getting through surgery. I was in a lot of shock and the days seemed to last forever. Surgery was painful – so painful but I recovered gradually. I found chemotherapy very hard going, emotionally and physically and I felt extremely sad that after wanting a family for so long, this dream had been ripped away from me.

Over time I am adjusting to living with ovarian cancer. I have various side effects from treatment but I am determined to grab hold of the opportunities in each day. I’ve always been a runner and I am building up my running again, including weekly 5K Parkruns. So far this year I have taken on the challenge to run 2 10Ks and I’ve completed this goal. I am studying a Masters in History and am busy researching the lives of local suffragette women in my area.

What I would say to someone else going through this: Surround yourself with support including family and friends. Cancer can feel so lonely so reach out to others. I found joining a support group was hugely beneficial when everything around me felt so fragile. Ask questions to your medical team and find out information about your type of cancer. It helps to get out in the fresh air everyday and go for a walk – as much as you are able.

Donate, Fundraise, Advocate – we deserve better: Women deserve to be listened to and taken seriously. Low grade Serous ovarian cancer needs more funding and more research. More treatment options are needed. I want to look forward to a future where there is a cure and where women can live better, longer and healthier lives following an ovarian cancer diagnosis.

– Amy Van Wyk