Carolyn: "More than anything, she was the heart of our family"

20 March 2021
Carolyn's story.png

Carolyn sadly lost her mum to ovarian cancer 18 months ago. Now she is determined to raise money for the vital research that will create better treatments, earlier detection, and methods of prevention. Read her story below.

My mum was the type of person who was never sick, when I look back now, I cannot really think of a time when she ever had any serious illnesses or took time off work. From around 2016 onwards she started to suffer from recurring stomach problems such as bloating and abdominal pain. Mum went to the doctor numerous times and it was put down to stress or IBS. In late November 2017 after returning from a holiday to India, Mum started to become very breathless and eventually visited the doctor who discovered one lung was full of fluid. She was sent straight to the hospital where they drained the lung, and she was kept in for a few days as they were concerned she might have picked up TB in India. However, in January 2018 mum had a hospital appointment and was told they had found cancerous cells in the fluid they drained from her lung and it was confirmed she had stage 4a ovarian cancer. I remember the day Mum came round and told me like it was yesterday. It was the second weekend in January 2018 and the best way I can describe it is that suddenly, our lives had a very strong dividing line. The life we had before cancer and the life we had after cancer. In the following days I went through the full range of emotions, disbelief, anger, and grief but then you sort of pick yourself up and get on with it. I remember that we did not let ourselves think too far ahead we just got on with trying to live every day and do all the normal family things whilst entering a new world of chemotherapy and blood tests. Mum started on a round of chemotherapy followed by debulking surgery which removed her ovaries, fallopian tubes, womb and cervix, followed by more chemotherapy. This was followed by further surgery in August 2018 to fit a stoma after her bowel became blocked.

Mum was funny, opinionated, kind, stubborn, sometimes infuriating, clever, a real force of nature and more than anything she was the heart of our family. I have three brothers and family occasions were always loud and chaotic, with a good dose of merciless ribbing (normally at mum’s expense) so the hardest thing for me was seeing the toll the cancer took on mum’s body. She never lost her fighting spirit though and even when she was really ill, we had some amazing family occasions including a trip to the Isle of Wight with all the family to celebrate mum’s and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary in September 2018. There were 17 of us including five grandchildren. It was a perfect weekend, even though mum had not long had the surgery to fit her stoma, that is how determined she was. More than anything mum just did not want to leave any of us. Mum was even accepted on to a trial for a new ovarian cancer drug called Olaparib. Olaparib has now been approved for use in England after the trial mum was on showed it could delay progression of the disease for three years. Olaparib did have some impact on mum’s cancer but sadly the disease was too far advanced to have a massive effect. Mum passed away on the 16th September 2019 at the age of 69, 20 months after her first diagnosis, and less than one month away from her 70th birthday.

DSC_1241.JPG

To say that we miss mum every day would be an understatement, and sometimes it is hard to believe she is not here anymore. Taking up running during the first lockdown in March 2020 was a massive help to me and when my friend Silvia suggested I run a half marathon for my 50th birthday. It really gave me something to focus on, especially when I decided that I could use it as an opportunity to raise money for Ovarian Cancer Action. My hope is that by fundraising progress can be made in the area of prevention and early diagnosis so that more women can receive treatment earlier and live well for longer. 

"My hope is that by fundraising progress can be made in the area of prevention and early diagnosis so that more women can receive treatment earlier and live well for longer"

Carolyn
Taking part in the Centurion Running One Love Virtual half marathon on the 13th February was an amazing experience and not something I ever really thought I was capable of achieving. Lots of my family appeared at various parts of the route to cheer me on and I was so happy to raise over £1500 for Ovarian Cancer Action. Now I’m looking for my next challenge as I want to carry on fundraising in memory of my mum and in the hope that future generations of women can beat this dreadful disease.

To get involved with fundraising for our life saving research, click here.