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Why I’ll be handing out white roses on World Ovarian Cancer Day

29 April 2019

Kim Gray family

8th May is World Ovarian Cancer Day and Ovarian Cancer Action volunteers up and down the country will be handing out white roses with symptoms tags attached, to help raise awareness of a disease which many know little about. OCA volunteer Kim explains why she will be taking part.

"On World Ovarian Cancer Day volunteers in 24 different locations across the UK will hand out 33,000 white roses — each one representing a woman, like me, who is living with ovarian cancer. 

82% of women aren’t able to name the 4 main symptoms of ovarian cancer and many mistakenly believe that their smear test will detect it. Unfortunately there’s currently no reliable way of screening for the disease, meaning it is vital that all women are aware of the symptoms.

By taking part in this campaign I hope to put a spotlight on ovarian cancer and reach as many people as possible with this vital information; information that could one day save their life.

I was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer while on holiday with my family in 2016 — a devastating shock for all of us. 

It took five weeks of tests to be told the cancer was inoperable and needed chemotherapy first to reduce the tumours. After three cycles of chemo, the scan confirmed that the cancer had reduced enough to go ahead with the surgery.

I had an eight-hour surgery and recovery was incredibly hard; I needed a radical hysterectomy and the disease stripped from my peritoneum.

WOCD roses

What I didn’t realise was that cancer is not just a physical disease, but also a mental one — and it can mess with your head if you allow it to. When diagnosed you feel many emotions including anger (why me?) and loss. It’s a grieving process for the person you once were, and the future you dreamed of.

When I look back I did have some warning signs. I’d started to wee more frequently, often needing to get up at night; I developed a larger tummy and hunched shoulders, and there were a couple of occasions when I got a stabbing pain when walking. But I just put them down to getting older and never mentioned them to the GP.  I felt well and had been busy juggling working as a teacher; caring for my mother and mother-in-law and supporting the children through exams and university applications. 

I owe my life to the amazing doctors and nurses who cared for me but there are many women in my position who are not so fortunate. Charities like Ovarian Cancer Action are doing great work to increase awareness and fund research into screening and treatments, but more needs to be done to beat this disease and save lives.” 

Click here to find out more about our 33,000 roses campaign and how you can get involved.