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Emily Jackson: "Due to my mum having had breast and ovarian cancer, I knew the symptoms to look out for."

06 November 2019

Emily Jackson

Emily is a mum of two. She shares her story, from finding out about her BRCA status to an ovarian cancer diagnosis, aged just 28.

"My mum had breast cancer aged 39 and ovarian cancer at 45 and died at the age of 48. 

When I was 22years old, just after I’d had my daughter, I tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation. My brother also discovered he is BRCA positive, as is my auntie who is my mum’s sister. 

I discussed my options for preventative surgery but after mum dying I went through a bad separation and decided I couldn’t go ahead with surgery as the children were only young.

Due to my mum having had breast and ovarian cancer, I was very aware of my body and knew the signs and symptoms to look out for.

At the end of May 2017 I went to the GP with a niggling pain in my side under my right breast. They told me it sounded like a muscle strain and gave me some painkillers. When I went back a couple of weeks later the GP decided to send me to the hospital for an ultrasound of my gallbladder and liver. 

While I was having the ultrasound, they picked up that I had some fluid on my right lung and took me to A&E, where I spent two nights in hospital having my lung drained and CT scans. They drained two litres of fluid while I was in hospital and discharged me saying they thought I had had pneumonia.

A couple of weeks later I had a phone call asking if they could bring my follow-up appointment with the respiratory doctor forward. Luckily my husband came with me this time. The doctor delivered the news that the fluid tested from my lung contained cancer cells, which they believed had originated from the pelvis area, but that was all they knew. 

The next couple of weeks passed in a blur. When I finally had oncology appointment I was given a diagnosis of stage 4 ovarian cancer and was told it was incurable. I was 28.

"I used the cold cap this time around and had some great results from it "

Emily Jackson

Before I started chemotherapy, I decided to donate my long hair to the Little Princess Trust as I thought it wouldn’t be a waste and at least it would be put to good use instead of ending up in the bin. 

I had three lots of paclitaxel and carboplatin then I got called in to see a surgeon. He offered me a radical hysterectomy with debulking surgery as long as my scan showed the fluid in my lung was clear. (it started to build up again after the drain was removed.) but to go home and decide if I wanted the major surgery or to carry on with chemo. I convinced myself my lung wasn’t clear and wouldn’t be able to have the operation anyway. I discussed with my family and decided if I was being offered the option, I would take it. I spoke to other women that had been in similar situations and made me feel much better about it. When I went back in to get my scan results it was clear and I was able to go ahead with the surgery.

On 31st October 2017 I had ultra-radical debulking surgery and was in theatre for seven-and-a-half hours. 

Following that I had 3 more lots of chemo, which finished in January 2018 and then I carried on with the Avastin until October 2018. 

I then had a reoccurrence and started chemotherapy again in May 2019. I have recently finished chemo and am now waiting to go onto the PARP inhibitor niraparib. My children were worried about me losing my hair again but I used the cold cap this time around and had some great results from it and it’s definitely helped me feel more ‘normal’.

In this time, I joined an exercise group called Care, designed for cancer patients and it was honestly one of the best things I have ever done. It not only helped me to build up some strength again but I’ve also made some amazing friendships."

Are you worried about your family history of cancer and how it might affect you?  Our simple tool will assess your risk of having inherited a genetic mutation that could increase your risk of developing certain cancers.