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Remembering Anne Giess: International Nurses Day

12 May 2021

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David lost his lovely wife Anne to ovarian cancer in 2019. Now he’s determined to raise awareness so that both women, and men, will recognise the disease.

Anne came over from Ireland in 1964 when she was 18 to train as a nurse with her twin sister. Anne qualified as a nurse in 1969 and commenced training as midwife in Harlow. On New Year’s Eve there was a dance for the new trainees, and they invited guys from the local rugby club. Yours truly got chatting to this beautiful Irish girl, and three years later we were married. I had started my own business as a chartered accountant and later as a sports agent. Anne helped me in both businesses and came to know clients such as Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, and Robbie Brady. Our life was so full and happy, I miss her every day.

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In 2004, Anne found out she had breast cancer through self-examination. Being a nurse, she knew the signs to look out for as, unlike ovarian cancer, breast cancer is well publicised. She received chemotherapy and eventually recovered; I can still remember the big smile on her face when she was given the all clear ten years later.

In the summer of 2016, she started to put on a bit of weight but she was still slim and never looked her age. We’d often go bike riding, but one time we were about to go for a ride she couldn’t get up. She never showed any of the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer, but she did have shoulder pain which I now know some women have. I wish I could have recognised it. Our wonderful GP Navin Ghosh knew what it was straight away, ordering her the CA125 blood test which confirmed it was ovarian cancer. We were then referred to The Norfolk and Norwich hospital, they had such wonderful and caring staff, from the oncologists to the nurses. 

We decided to have the debulking surgery within a couple of weeks. That’s when the problems started, there was a mass which hadn’t shown at first. When we started chemo, it hit her hard, it was like watching a person waste away. She never complained or felt sorry for herself and the staff all loved her, they got to know her very well because in the last 13 months of her life she spent two months as an inpatient and two months as an outpatient. I remember just before she died, we had this glorious sunny day together in late August. She said ‘let’s go into town’, so I took her in her wheelchair and we had one of the most amazing days of our lives. She even managed to eat a normal meal, but I think she knew she couldn’t take much more. The next day I had to rush her to hospital, feeling really ill. She sadly died soon after in September 2019. Anne was the nicest person most people had ever met, over 200 people came to her funeral. We never had an argument in 47 years and she was the rock of our family.

"The NHS did an amazing job caring for my wife"

David Giess

I think especially for men, it would be great if there was more understanding about the disease so they can help their wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, or friends who may experience ovarian cancer. That’s why I’m so determined to raise awareness. I want to let men everywhere know that whatever their wife or partner wants to do, let them do it. We may never fully understand what they are going through, but they know their body best.

Ovarian cancer has been under the radar for too long, so when lockdown hit, I started taking part in the Step Challenge. It was rewarding in so many ways, all my neighbours and old friends coming together to do their bit. But for me, the most important thing was that two women had recognised the symptoms through me raising awareness and had gone to get checked. If I can save one person that’s just it, isn’t it?

To find out more about how you can help raise awareness of ovarian cancer, click here.