Florence was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in 2010 and has undergone several rounds of gruelling chemotherapy and extensive surgery over the past 12 years. She reflects on the importance of finding joy, even in the hardest times.
“What has been stolen from me is providing my children with a stable and stress-free childhood, and this causes me immense pain. They were 11 and 15 when I was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer and have seen me have chemotherapy four times, two big surgeries, take Avastin for two-and-a-quarter years, and I have now been on Olaparib since 2017. You can deal with your own pain, but to see your children suffer is unbearable.
I was diagnosed in 2010 after having been ill for about two years; each trip to the Doctor and each symptom being treated on a separate basis. Fortunately, GPs are better educated today, and this is one of the reasons I do awareness presentations - getting as many women and healthcare professionals to be aware of the symptoms for ovarian cancer. Early diagnosis saves lives.
"You have to love what you do, love who you share your time with, and be grateful"Florence Wilks
I am also BRCA2 positive. This brings challenges for my children, deciding when to be tested, (they have a 50% chance of inheriting the gene too), and then deciding what they do with that information.
When I was first diagnosed I was told I had between 12 to 18 months. It is now 12 years on, but I am aware that the treatments are running out for me.
In my experience, the only way to survive a long and, frankly, brutal journey like mine has been to remain as positive as possible. You have to love what you do, love who you share your time with, and be grateful. For me, I’m extremely grateful to the friends and family who have supported me, carried me when I thought I couldn't go on, listened to me, loved me.
I’m also incredibly grateful to Ovarian Cancer Action. I support them because I truly believe research is the only way we’ll see ovarian cancer survival rates increase. I want to see them improve in the same way they have for other cancers, like breast and cervical cancer.
Through working with OCA, I’ve come to understand that some of the treatments that have helped me are only available today because of their investment in research many years ago. I want to pay that gift forward and help change the odds for the next generation of girls and women.
I try to give back by volunteering for Ovarian Cancer Action. I do a project a year, ranging from a diary, an art exhibition and having a poetry book published. I've raised nearly £50,000 for the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre, which is at Hammersmith Hospital where I am being treated. "
Florence is taking part in our myth busting campaign for Gynae Cancer Awareness Month, busting the myth that funding into ovarian cancer research has gone up over the last decade. Incredibly, that isn't the case and funding has actually gone down.
"It just seems impossible and hard to fathom that funding into ovarian cancer research is less now than it was a decade ago. I'm just shocked and horrified. Survival rates in England, Scotland and Wales are worse than they are in Europe. The more funding, the more research; the better outcomes there will be for women.
The drug I'm on now is a game changer in treatment. But we need more game changers. I love my life, hard as it is sometimes, and want it to go on for as long as possible.”
If you can spare a few pounds, help us help women like Florence and turn the tide on ovarian cancer by funding the next research breakthrough.