It has been two years since Jo Beagley was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She shares her journey, from processing the diagnosis to facing the future.
“Two years on from the day my worst fears were confirmed – a diagnosis of stage 3c ovarian cancer at age 39 years – I’m unnerved by how July evokes the memories of the disbelief I felt and the overwhelming fear of the unknown.
Having felt well until around 10 days prior to diagnosis (abdominal pain and bloating that quickly worsened), news of the diagnosis triggered a complete loss of control and a sense that not everything is as it seems.
Even with the support from family and friends, the immediate aftermath of the diagnosis was particularly difficult. Whilst trying to process the enormity of being diagnosed, even the smallest, everyday decisions became a source of anxiety – I couldn’t even think what to cook for dinner.
The emotional drain of the diagnosis was magnified by anxiety of what treatment lay ahead, and if indeed treatment was an option. Diagnosis initially triggered a whole series of appointments in quick succession. Every appointment seemed to entail an overload of information that I struggled to process and recall.
Over the first few weeks it felt as if I was being hit with more bad news as each appointment went by, topped off with the ordeal of having to relay the latest updates to others.
I finished active treatment in December 2015, having undergone a hysterectomy, completed six cycles of chemotherapy followed by Avastin for a further 12 months. I continue to see my oncologist every 2 or 3 months for monitoring.
Learning I carry the BRCA 1 gene mutation relatively recently was helpful in further processing the diagnosis but has added further complexity to decisions.
With two young boys aged 4 and 6 years at the time I was diagnosed, I really didn’t have time for a cancer diagnosis and the magnitude of what came with it, but does anyone?!
I realise how lucky I was to have children in my life at the point I was diagnosed. Whilst it was hard to contain their boundless energy and passion for sibling bickering during the gruelling months of treatment, they have helped immensely – whether that be me thinking about their future and an overwhelming desire to do all I can to be there to share it with them, or the constant barrage of questions and trail of destruction they leave in their wake, keeping in check the time I have to dwell on things.
Having returned to work it feels like life is almost back to normal, or at least a new normal. It’s still difficult to shift the ever-present reality that I have ovarian cancer and the chances of it reoccurring will remain high.
The short bursts of time when I almost forget about my cancer are persisting – I then worry about whether I’m taking my illness seriously enough, perhaps that’s me adapting to living with cancer and the very scary prospect of it coming back.
When my head starts going bad places (usually having woken in the middle of the night), I try to focus on being one of the fortunate ones for whom the cancer remains managed. Whilst I can’t change the fact I have cancer, I now feel empowered to influence a lot about how I live my life.”