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"She lived by the motto that she was living with cancer and not dying from it"

25 February 2019

Victoria Riches and mum Janet 2

Victoria's mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer aged 64, after experiencing symptoms for some time. Victoria shares her mum's story in the hope of raising awareness of the disease and the need for greater investment into research.

"I can remember my mum Janet’s cancer diagnosis like it was yesterday. I had recently given birth to my second child and was enjoying being a mum to my gorgeous boys.

Mum had been in and out of hospital for two years, suffering from abdominal pain and frequent urinary tract infections. Each time she was diagnosed with diverticulitis, (a disease that affects your digestive tract), given a course of antibiotics and sent home. It was only when mum collapsed with severe abdominal pain that things changed. After mum had described feeling bloated and experiencing a loss of appetite the surgeon suggested a scan. A few hours later she was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer at the age of 64.

My mum had debulking surgery and her ovaries removed, followed by six months of chemotherapy. She started just before Christmas and the side effects for her were tough but she was mentally strong and determined. This is the pattern that followed for the next three years. She would have periods of remission where she was well and then the cancer would come back. She always knew when it was back as her symptoms would return, such as the bloating, more frequent urination and loss of appetite. My mum was so brave. She lived by the motto that she was living with cancer and not dying from it and this was what we all held on to. 

"I believe the development of a screening programme will change lives for the better"

Victoria Riches

As a family we had adapted to living with Mum’s illness and it became normal. Her positive attitude really helped us do this and I admire her so much for the way she dealt with everything. In May, she had a bowel obstruction but was too poorly for surgery and mum moved to palliative care. Although Mum was not strong enough to get out of bed, she was often well and would spend most of her time bossing my dad around from her bed whilst catching up on her favourite TV programmes. She died peacefully in her own home with me, my dad and my three brothers by her side. 

Mum was such a keen supporter of raising awareness of ovarian cancer, she even did some fundraisers, such as shaving her hair off prior to chemo to raise money for research. I wanted to share Mum’s story as I knew very little about ovarian cancer prior to her diagnosis, despite being a registered nurse for 15 years. There is not enough awareness and we really need to change this. I believe the development of a screening programme will change lives for the better. If a screening tool existed already, my mum could still be here today."

Ovarian Cancer Action is committed to funding research that saves lives. Find out more about the projects we are currently funding.