Duri Mehmet, one of the founding members of our Next Generation Women's Collective, sadly lost her mum to ovarian cancer nine years ago. She then discovered that the disease runs in her family. Duri shared her genetic testing journey as part of BBC Two documentary called "DNA Family Secrets" on the 9th March 2021. This is her full story.
Almost nine years ago I lost the strongest and most inspirational woman in my life, my mum. I was 18 years old when she was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. She had been suffering from nausea and was extremely tired, her abdomen was very swollen and she also had no appetite. When she would eat something she began to feel full very quickly, she had pain in her lower back and also needed to go to the toilet more frequently. She visited the GP a couple of times who originally told her to lose weight and then thought she was going through the menopause. However, she knew her body and knew that something was wrong. It is so important to know your body as this was exactly what led my mum to push the doctors to explore the situation further as her symptoms were not improving.
I had never even heard of ovarian cancer but vividly remember the moment my mum told me that she had been diagnosed. She had just been told the most life changing news but it didn’t seem to faze her. She was so calm. I cried hysterically whilst squeezing her tightly. She told me that she needed to have chemotherapy, but first the doctors would need to drain the fluid from her stomach and perform a hysterectomy.
For my mum the chemo was tough, as was losing her hair. After a while it didn’t seem to be working so she began courses of trial drugs. When the trial drugs stopped, she was sent home. In hindsight she needed hospice care to help her live her last days more comfortably. I was right by her side when we lost her. It’s been nine years but I am still grieving –nothing prepares you for losing a loved one. I miss her enormously every day and it has taught me to be grateful for who you have in life because that is what really matters. She was the bravest, most beautiful and courageous woman I’ve ever known. I am determined to continue her legacy by raising awareness and fundraising and to ensure people are educated on the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
After my mum passed away, I was told that ovarian cancer ran in our family. I got in touch with Jo, Ovarian Cancer Action’s Cancer Prevention Officer, who sent me information around genetic testing. She also told me about a BBC2 documentary that was being made about people exploring their family history that I could be part of, and things happened very quickly from there.
"I wanted to be able to make informed decisions that could ultimately impact my future."Duri
A lasting legacy
Throughout testing I was very anxious about finding out if I carried a genetic mutation, but I wanted to be able to make informed decisions that could ultimately impact my future. I was relieved to find out that I do not have a genetic mutation that puts me at a higher risk of certain cancers, but I still feel passionately about supporting those that do.
Carrying on my mum’s legacy and spreading awareness of a disease that exclusively affects women is something I’m hugely keen to do, and sharing my genetic testing journey on the BBC is just the start. I am also a proud founding member of the Next Generation Women’s Collective, a group of Ovarian Cancer Action supporters harnessing the power of women, for women. Our aim is to accelerate the progress of ovarian cancer research to save women’s lives. So watch this space!
DNA Family Secrets aired on 9th March 2020 on BBC Two. You can catch up on iPlayer here.