Three years ago, Clare lost her sister Angela (pictured above) to ovarian cancer. Here she tells her story and how she's left an incredible legacy that will change the future for women with ovarian cancer.
My sister Angela was modest, talented and extremely clever. She was in the prime of life when she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. She was 63, had a clean bill of health, bar the odd tennis injury, and was very fit. Her diagnosis was a huge shock. How had it been missed?
Angela had had unexplained stomach pains for a couple of weeks, her stomach was swollen, food tasted off and she was not feeling well. She made what for her was a rare visit to the GP. It was there she was reassured that despite her stomach pains and other symptoms she was fine and didn’t need further investigations.
Just days later Angela was rushed to A&E and diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer.
Deemed too unwell for chemotherapy or surgery, Angela remained critically ill in hospital for 4 weeks but she was determined to do whatever it took to receive treatment and survive.
Eventually Angela was able to access chemotherapy, followed a few months later by surgery. We were told that, although the tumour had been mostly removed, the cancer would certainly return but worryingly at the end of her first course of chemotherapy, no further treatment seemed available. Months later she did manage to start another course of chemotherapy though this had even more severe side effects than before.
Throughout her treatment we would walk every day along the beach near where we lived as Angela tried to regain her fitness. I knew how she suffered, finding it painful and exhausting but she persevered. The walks got shorter, but we still did them. Angela so wanted to live, she never complained at the unfairness of it all or about the dreadful effects of the treatments but despite her courage, watching her quality of life deteriorate so rapidly was heart-breaking. She died in the company of close family in November 2018.
I hope in the future women like Angela and families like ours will not have to suffer the trauma of this terrible disease. We need to concentrate research on developing ways to diagnose the cancer much earlier, find treatments which are more humane and ultimately allow women to survive.
Angela left Ovarian Cancer Action a transformational gift that meant we could work to honour her memory by supporting life-saving research projects for the next generation of women. We are so grateful to Angela and her family, who have enabled us to explore early detection methods and make a significant improvement in ovarian cancer treatments and, in turn, survival.