"As part of the preparation for this debate, the Parliamentary digital team and Target Ovarian Cancer asked people to share stories of their fight and those of their family members.
I am hugely grateful to both organisations for helping with that, and to everyone who got in touch. The stories we received were heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, tragic and terrific, and whatever the outcome, they were inspiring to us all. I cannot possibly do justice to everybody who got in touch or to all the stories and experiences out there, but I will share a few today to remind us of the importance of making progress on this disease.
Danielle got in touch to tell us about her mum, who was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in September of last year. Like many other people’s, her symptoms were fuzzy: irritable bowel syndrome, feeling full, swelling and weight loss, which could have been a hundred other things. By chance, the doctor who saw Danielle’s mum also sent her for a blood test, which quickly confirmed that there was an issue. A month or so later, Danielle’s mum started chemotherapy, and in January this year she had a full hysterectomy. After a 10-hour operation, it was hoped that everything had been caught and the focus was on recovery. By June, however, the cancer had returned; sadly, a few months later in August, Danielle’s mum lost her battle, just 10 months after diagnosis.
Forty-year-old Sarah also had symptoms such as weight loss, feeling full and ovary pain. Before the cancer was diagnosed, she tried many times to find out what the issue was, including once being told, “Well done,” for having lost weight. In Sarah’s case the blood test that often highlights an issue came back normal, which emphasises the imperfect nature of the diagnosis. A nine-hour operation and six rounds of chemotherapy later, Sarah continues to battle her cancer while looking after her two young children.
We also heard the story of the daughter of Jean, who was diagnosed in 2011 with stage 4 ovarian cancer as a result of severe bloating and loss of appetite. After major surgery and four rounds of chemotherapy, the news came through that the cancer had spread. Her battle ended early in 2013.
Emma told us about her mum, who was told she was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome; the actual issue was found too late and she lost her battle, aged 64, just six weeks after diagnosis.
Seren started feeling unwell while at university, aged just 19. Unable to get a doctor’s appointment, she came back home and was diagnosed with cancer. Her tumour was the size of a rugby ball and her operation was pushed forward as it was stopping her eating and affecting her breathing. Chemotherapy followed and today Seren is recovered and working for a cancer charity.
Christine is also one of the good news stories. She was diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer aged 35, having had to visit three different GPs to resolve the problems she was suffering from, which had initially been put down to colitis and anxiety. After her diagnosis, an emergency operation and 10 chemotherapy sessions followed. That was in 1985 and Christine is still here; she has been able to share her story in the last few days.
Finally, Linda was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September 2017, having initially felt unwell at the beginning of summer while she was on holiday. The classic symptoms were there: bloating, feeling full and knowing that something “wasn’t right”. Multiple trips to the GP followed until, finally, a blood test was taken, confirming the cancer. Linda had a full hysterectomy that same month and spent much of the next few months recovering."