Michelle Gersh shares her experiences of supporting her partner Kay through her ovarian cancer treatment and the importance of finding pleasure in the simple things.
“My partner Kay was diagnosed with Stage 2c ovarian cancer in June 2014, following an emergency hysterectomy. Kay is in a small group of women who are diagnosed relatively early. Her oncologist told her that she is as 'rare as hens' teeth'.
I am sure that I can speak for us both in saying that although we feel incredibly fortunate to be in a minority group, the statistics need to change so that it is the women who are diagnosed later who are are told that they are as ‘rare as hen's teeth' (or whichever analogy you want to use) – not those who are diagnosed early.
Two years after Kay's diagnosis, life has returned to a new normality – one where cancer is never too far from our thoughts, but where it has just become part of who we are as individuals and as a couple.
Taking part in Ovarian Cancer Action’s Walk In Her Name campaign in 2015 was a fantastic experience, which brought some of our dear friends and family together and raised vital funds for research.
We laugh about the fact that (due to our very generous social network) we were able to raise over £1,000 by just having a leisurely morning stroll with a group of friends, followed by a coffee and muffin in the early spring sunshine!
Whilst she was having her treatment, I became Kay's personal cancer coach and chemo buddy. This even involved rubbing warm sesame oil into her painful joints, which were being assaulted with a toxic combination of carboplatin and paclitaxel. The sesame oil did help soothe the pain in case any of you are wondering!
Being Kay's personal sesame oil masseuse/chemo coach meant that I didn't have as much time to engage in my favourite hobby – gardening. I hardly did anything in the garden during those months of Kay's treatment. However, we did make sure that we got outdoors together.
A lovely thing that we did together was taking evening walks to our local park, when Kay felt physically able to. The calmness and rhythm of these gentle walks enabled us to talk about what we were each experiencing. It helped maintain an intimacy between us when things were really tough.
We are also incredibly fortunate to have the beautiful Bushey Rose Garden on our doorstep. We used to regularly make the time to sit on a bench together in quiet contemplation, as the water fountain there trickled away and the exquisite smell of roses wafted on the summer breeze.
This appreciation of a beautiful green space was important for both of us and remains a mutual pleasure, which has lasted long since Kay's treatment.
On writing about gardens and green spaces, I am also reminded of the early autumn day towards the end of Kay's treatment when we planted daffodil and crocus bulbs together in our front garden.
I will always have this memory of us doing this simple but special task together. We both found it therapeutic as it marked the end of a chapter and the beginning of new growth.
Whether you are being treated for ovarian cancer or are supporting someone who is, I certainly believe that there is much pleasure to be had and comfort to be derived from the simple pleasures that gardens and green spaces offer us both during the treatment phase and beyond."
Would you like to organise a Walk In Her Name for someone affected by ovarian cancer? Email Jessica.Vigni@ovarian.org.uk to find out more.