A diagnosis of cancer is a family experience that changes the lives of all its members, bringing an immense amount of stress and many challenging situations. Pauline tells us about the impact her daughter Suzie's diagnosis had on their family and of their hopes for a better future for women like Suzie.
"You never expect in your wildest dreams to be told that your child has cancer, no matter how old they are. I think you always just assume that it is something that happens to other people.
However, when my daughter Suzie was told that she had advanced ovarian cancer aged just 25, this quickly became my reality.
Looking back now Suzie had several symptoms of ovarian cancer, but at the time we didn’t recognise what they were: persistent bloating, needing the loo frequently and constant exhaustion. When she came back home we took her for tests, the doctors remained positive due to her age, even when a scan revealed a large mass on her ovary. Despite their reassurances, I began to feel crazily anxious; I knew first-hand how devastating cancer can be from when I’d lost my mum to it.
The doctors then removed what turned out to be a large tumour, and it took a few weeks to diagnose the cancer – they even biopsied it twice because they were so certain it wouldn’t be ovarian cancer.
I couldn’t believe ovarian cancer could happen to someone so young. Suzie told me that she has always wanted to find out what being an adult would feel like, and that now she might not. I felt so helpless, and kept thinking that it should have been me. I wish we’d been able to recognise the symptoms, or pushed her more to have them checked out sooner.
"I felt so helpless, and kept thinking that it should have been me"Pauline Aries
Before her diagnosis, I knew very little about ovarian cancer and how many women it kills. I knew much more about cervical and breast cancer. I was also shocked to learn that there isn’t a screening tool for ovarian cancer. Without a screening tool in place, women need to know what is normal for their bodies and act quickly on any unusual symptoms.
Supporting Suzie through her chemotherapy was incredibly hard, and it left us all feeling powerless. It put a lot of pressure on us as parents, managing our family and making time for our other three daughters. Despite this, our whole family set out to try and prove the diagnosis wrong. As a family, we tried to speak openly about the cancer.
As a family we are now keen to do anything we can to help raise the profile of ovarian cancer: we believe that you have to take action. I am so proud of Suzie for using her voice to shout about the importance of a screening tool on behalf of women everywhere.
A screening tool would be incredible for women with ovarian cancer everywhere; it has the potential to save so many lives. In the meantime, until a screening tool is created, symptoms awareness is key."
Detecting ovarian cancer in its earliest stages gives women the best fighting chance against the UK’s deadliest gynaecological disease. Donate £10 today and help fund our research into the world's first screening tool for ovarian cancer.