Gill, third from right, with the Princes parkrun 5k Your Way (Move Against Cancer) team

BLOG: “I wish more people knew about the signs of ovarian cancer”

Gill is a fit and active member of the 5k Your Way group that runs the Princes parkrun on the last Saturday of every month, along with many others who have been affected by cancer. She is a very proud mum and grandmother and since her ovarian cancer diagnosis in 2021 she is a determined advocate who wants everyone to hear her story. She wants you to talk to the women in your life, and people with ovaries, about the signs and symptoms of this particular cancer…

“I’d previously had some tests due to having a range of changes to my bowel movements and some abdominal pain, but I got on with things until September 2020. I started to experience a dragging pain similar to period pain. I hadn’t had a period for over 14 years having gone through an early menopause at 42 so I knew something was wrong.

“I was also experiencing bloating and abdominal pain as well as continuing to have issues with my bowel movements and needing to wee more than normal. The GP told me that I had a moderate prolapsed womb and would need a hysterectomy. She also booked a CA125 blood test.

“CA125 is a cancer antigen protein found in the blood. The protein is not specific to ovarian cancer – higher levels can be caused by other types of cancer, as well as other conditions that are not cancerous, such as menstruation and endometriosis. The test result can help your GP to decide what to do next. My CA125 level was 2,300, the normal range is 0-35.

“I had an ultrasound scan in December which showed a large mass on my right ovary. The radiologist said she would request an urgent CT scan.

“At this point I went online to research ovarian cancer and I immediately identified with many of the signs and symptoms that were listed: bloating, abdominal pain, weeing more, changes to bowel movements, and a prolapsed womb.

“I was called by the gynaecologist on 8 January 2021, following a CT scan, to confirm that I had ovarian cancer and that I would be referred to Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

“This was devastating news to receive on the phone and I found it difficult to comprehend what was going to happen next.

“After a biopsy in February 2021, I was told I had high grade serous ovarian cancer which was incurable due to its size, and had spread. The oncologist at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre recommended chemotherapy and surgery to remove the tumour.

“I continued to be monitored and my cancer became active towards the end of 2022. I got back on the ‘treatment treadmill’ in January 2023 and have had four further cycles of chemotherapy.

“I’ve been focused on getting as well as I possibly can as chemotherapy and my surgery have taken their toll and left me with some long-term health issues to contend with. Being physically active, eating well and having a laugh with the people I care about has been the best medicine I could take!

“My family and I are part of the 5K Your Way Move Against Cancer group which meets on the last Saturday of every month at 9am in Princes Park, Toxteth, to take part in the weekly parkrun.

“I never imagined I’d be faced with having to fight against cancer but if I’d known more about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, I would have pushed for tests that could have given me an earlier diagnosis and better outcomes.”

On Saturday 27 May, you can join Gill and her family and friends at the Princes 5k Your Way event in a ‘Pants to Ovarian Cancer’ 5K. They are inviting everyone to wear pink knickers or undies over their gym gear to raise awareness of the disease’s signs and symptoms, and to fundraise for Target Ovarian Cancer. Donations can be made via the JustGiving page. 

Gill is grateful to the Woodlands Hospice team which supported the family in coming to terms with the reality of living with incurable cancer, and the Sunflowers Centre, Aigburth, which offers a range of activities including yoga, tai chi, counselling and holistic therapies for people with cancer.

Some basic facts:

  • Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer among women in the UK with around 7,500 new cases every year – that’s 21 every day
  • Ovarian cancer affects the two small organs (ovaries) that store eggs
  • Anyone with ovaries can get ovarian cancer; it mostly affects those over 50, and more than half of all cases in the UK are among those aged 65 and over.
  • Sometimes ovarian cancer runs in families
  • The symptoms of ovarian cancer (including bloating, tummy pain, frequent urination, a change in your bowel function such as diarrhoea or constipation) aren’t always obvious and can have a big overlap with other conditions. It is important to always be aware of your own body and seek further advice about new symptoms for you that are persistent
  • Also be aware of weight loss for no obvious reason, unexplained or extreme tiredness (fatigue), and vaginal bleeding after the menopause
  • Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed late, but early diagnosis can mean it is more treatable. 
  • Cervical screening does not detect ovarian cancer. There is no national screening programme for ovarian cancer, so it is all the more important that if you have symptoms, you should see your GP.

Target Ovarian Cancer targets what’s important to stop ovarian cancer devastating lives. It is the only ovarian cancer charity working across all four nations of the UK, working with everyone affected by ovarian cancer and healthcare professionals to ensure the areas that matter most are targeted.

The charity gives trusted information, connects people with shared experiences and offers support every step of the way.

Target Ovarian Cancer runs a confidential support line where you can get advice from a nurse on symptoms, risk, diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer. You can contact them on 0207 923 5475.

Target Ovarian Cancer will not stop until ovarian cancer becomes a health priority.

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