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In July 2012, at the age of 38, I was given the devastating news that I had advanced ovarian cancer. This is my blog and the story of my fight to regain my health. I hope to share with you things that I've found helpful along my journey and keep you posted on my progress.

About Ovarian Cancer

When you get a diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer the only word you really hear at first is "cancer".  It's such a huge shock and a life changing moment that you can't really take anything else in. However, you'll soon want to know more your specific type of cancer.  Where is the cancer?  How serious is it?  Can it be treated, and if so, how?  What are the chances of success of these treatments?  What caused it?  How did I miss the symptoms?  Below I'll share with you some of the things I've learned about Ovarian Cancer.


I had no idea about the symptoms of ovarian cancer and like most women who are diagnosed with this type of cancer, I was diagnosed quite late, after it had spread to other areas in my body.  As the cancer develops deep inside your body you don't tend of get much of an early warning, but there are signs that you can look out for:
  • bloating or stomach cramps
  • pelvic or abdominal pain
  • feeling full quickly or difficulty eating
  • needing to go to the toilet often
I noticed bloating and stomach cramps, but only a few weeks before my diagnosis.

When you are diagnosed with ovarian Cancer you will learn that your cancer is measured in two ways.  Firstly with a CT scan, which measures how much visible tumour there is.  And secondly by a blood test, which measures a protein in the blood produced by mainly cancer cells called CA-125.  The reason that I have underlined these two words if that neither of these methods are 100% reliable and one of the things I was shocked to discover at one of my first consultations, is that there is no way of reliably detecting if there is any cancer left after treatment.  This is hard to take in as you then realise that you will never be able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the cancer has gone for good - this is something you have to learn to come to terms with.

The doctors will use the information gathered from your surgery, scans and pathology results to determine how bad your cancer is.  This is done in two ways: firstly what Stage it is, which indicates how much it has spread, and secondly what Grade it is, which indicates how fast it is spreading.  I was diagnosed with Stage 3b, Grade 3.  Both the Stages and the Grades go from 1 to 4, with 4 being the worst.  As Ovarian Cancer is not easily detected, most women are diagnosed with Stage 3 or 4.

It is also worth noting that most women are diagnosed after their menopause.  The average age at which women are diagnosed is 63 (see this article for more about the risk factors for Ovarian Cancer: Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors).  However, there are many younger women who get Ovarian Cancer - I was diagnosed at the age of 38.


Ovarian Cancer is conventionally treated first with surgery (typically called debulking surgery as it removes the bulk of the cancer) and then with chemotherapy, if not all the cancer could be removed through surgery.  The surgery often involves a full hysterectomy and the surgeon may remove other 'non-vital' organs as well if it might help to eliminate the cancer.  I had a full hysterectomy and they removed my omentum and appendix.  As I had not yet started my menopause, the removal of my ovaries immediately brought on the menopause for me.  Menopause brought on by surgery can often result in stronger symptoms than menopause that happens naturally.  I suffer quite badly with hot flushes.  I've tried various different remedies for this but found that progesterone cream and genistein supplements help me the most.

When it comes to chemotherapy, in the UK there is a one-size-fits-all approach and patients with ovarian cancer are given a standard combination of Paclitaxol (taxol) and Carboplatin, as these drugs have been shown to give the best results for initial treatment after diagnosis out of those available.  It is worth mentioning here that the NHS assesses 'best results' by looking at two things: Overall Survival and Progression-Free Survival.  In the world of cancer treatment, Overall Survival tends to mean the chances of living for another 5 years.  Progression Free Survival means the period of time after treatment before your disease starts to get worse again.  Neither of these are long-term indicators and you will probably find, as I did, that the medical profession seem to only be interested in prolonging life rather than curing the cancer and that they seem pleased if they find a way to give you a few extra months.  There is a presumption that this is best for you and that it is better to have a good chance of extending life by a little than a slim chance of extending life by a lot.

If you are not familiar with chemotherapy you will learn that chemotherapy is effectively an indiscriminate poison – it kills cancer cells but kills other healthy cells at the same time, hence why people lose their hair with some chemo drugs (including Paclitaxol).  The treatment is highly toxic and has significant side effects, including damaging your immune system, but it does usually work, at least at first.  However, as we use our immune system to fight off disease, long-term damage to the immune system reduces the body’s ability to fight off this and other diseases as it normally would, and it can take a long time for the immune system to get back to full strength after 6 cycles of chemotherapy.


Unfortunately although Ovarian Cancer tends to initially respond very well to chemotherapy, reoccurrence rates are very high, as this form of cancer is very hard to kill off completely - it only takes a few surviving cancer cells for the cancer to be able to spread again.  Repeated chemotherapy is common but over time the cancer builds up resistance to the available drugs and if this happens you eventually run out of options.  I am being very blunt here but sadly these are the facts - the average 5-year survival rate for late-stage ovarian cancer patients is between 17% and 39% (Ovarian Cancer Survivor Rates).  However, it is important to remember that these are averages and nobody is average.  There are long-term survivors and there is no reason that you should not be one of them.  There is hope.

I am doing all I can to improve my prospects by following the best advice I can find about diet and lifestyle and by exploring alternative treatments that are not available under the NHS.  When you start to research cancer treatments you will soon learn that the NHS can only offer drugs that have been through extensive and costly clinical trials to prove that the benefits they bring are worth the cost.  The costs of these trials are met by the drug companies who will go on to profit from the drugs if the trials show that the drugs work.  However, there are many natural substances that have been shown to fight cancer which haven’t been through clinical trials as no one company can lay exclusive claim to them, so there is no business case for investing in trials.  Without clinical trials to prove the benefits the NHS can’t prescribe these substances.  However, most are readily available and have been used as non-toxic treatments for cancer for years with varying success.  I can't say what is best for you - only you can decide that - but I do recommend doing as much research as you can as there are other options for treatment than chemotherapy.  A good book to inspire you about this is "Mum's Not Having Chemo" by Laura Bond.  If you want to buy it, search for it using my Amazon link on the right and you'll give my fundraising a boost at the same time!