Janet Watkins, 55, was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer on March 31 this year. As she prepares for surgery, she reflects on her journey so far.
“When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it felt as though the bottom had dropped out of my world.
Doctors always ask me when I first noticed the symptoms, but I struggle to answer and they look at me as if I'm daft. The reality is, I’m not sure… I was well at Christmas and I partied at New Year, but at the end of January I had cystitis, took an over-the-counter remedy and felt better.
In February I began to feel tired and a little bloated, but being a size 18, I assumed it was just me heading towards a size 20 and just thought perhaps I should start dieting.
In early March I started to get a dull ache in my lower abdomen. It wasn’t painful or consistent, and I wasn’t really feeling unwell so I ignored it. But when the ache didn't stop I went to my GP, where, following an external examination of my abdomen and a blood test, I was told to return the following week.
On my next visit I was told that my CA125 levels were high. I'd never heard of this, but was referred to the gynaecologist, as CA125 is often found to be at high levels in the bloodstream of women with ovarian cancer.
At my appointment with the gynaecologist, I was given an ultrasound. After looking at it, he turned and asked me if I was on my own. I said him that my friend was waiting outside, and he invited her into the room. He then told me, “You have Stage 3 ovarian cancer.”
My world stopped spinning for a moment but my friend grabbed my hand and said, “You can beat this and you won't be alone.”
Four months on I've had a number of scans, a biopsy and four rounds of chemo. I've lost my hair, both on my head and my body — it's brilliant not having to shave my legs, so there is a plus side!
In two weeks I will be having an operation and a few weeks after that my chemo will recommence and I’ll have the final two treatments.
Through all of this time I’ve maintained a positive attitude, with my friend’s words echoing in my head. Although it’s been tough, I don’t feel alone as my husband, family and friends have all been supportive. When they tell me I'm brave and an inspiration, I reply that I can only be like this because I have them to hold me up.
My future is still uncertain but I have three messages that I want to share:
- Familiarise yourselves with the symptoms of all female cancers and if you're in doubt whether you have any, see a doctor.
- Lean on family and friends, but if you’re alone, talk to someone — there are lots of support groups out there
- Be positive! Enjoy life and grasp every moment and if you do have an ‘emotional wobble’ just put on the lipstick, spray a little perfume, smile and get back on the train of positivity... and keep going.