Helen Clarke was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer in 2015, aged 57. Helen experienced constant struggle and frustration as she was misdiagnosed time and time again, even when her cancer returned. Sadly, she passed away from ovarian cancer in March 2018.
Five years on, Helen’s daughter, Hollie, highlights why we need to educate others about the disease and why early and accurate diagnosis is vital.
“When my mum noticed she couldn’t go for longer than five minutes without wanting to urinate, she went to her GP with symptoms. She was told she may have a urinary tract infection (UTI), but mum sensed something wasn’t right.
When she had no option but to see a private gynaecologist for further tests, they reassured us both that they didn’t think there was anything to worry about. But the gynaecologist’s face was completely different when the results of her scan came back. A mass was blocking the left ovary.
Mum then had to undergo five surgical procedures in one sitting - including a full hysterectomy. During recovery from surgery, she was told they’d found ovarian cancer.
“My mum was my best friend - she was everything to me. She was the person I most trusted for advice. She was kind, loving and caring.”Hollie, Helen's daughter
After treatment, it looked as if there was nothing to worry about and the cancer had gone. But her symptoms returned and it took from June to September 2017 for someone to realise her symptoms were cancer.
She’d had to take it upon herself to push for a referral to the hospital. Once again, she gave up and went private and was again misdiagnosed with a UTI. Even A&E incredibly frustratingly didn’t make the connection - even when she looked nine months pregnant within just one week and struggled to eat and breathe.
Tragically, my mum died in March 2018. It was only six months after diagnosis of the recurrence. Even with her history, why did it take so long for them to say it was ovarian cancer? She’d done everything right - she’d looked out for symptoms and reported them to health professionals. Mum found it all so unfair and she was bounced from doctor to doctor.
Early diagnosis saves lives
Only 44% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer live beyond five years of their diagnosis. This isn't good enough.
I want to use my mum’s story to change things for other women in the future. I hope no woman has to go through what she experienced. It took so long for her to get a diagnosis - even when the cancer came back.
I’m determined to do the very best for her and raise awareness. I want not only women to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer, but also for GPs and other medical professionals to know too. No woman should die of ovarian cancer.
That’s why I’m supporting Ovarian Cancer Action. They’re determined to equip people with information about the disease, helping to diagnose ovarian cancer as early as possible. They’re funding life-saving research to develop ground-breaking new treatments.
A screening tool also brings me hope for the future, so that more women can survive the disease and give them longer with their families - women like my mum. It’s essential now for doctors to be able to screen for ovarian cancer.”
We want to see survival rates transformed so at least half of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer live for 10 years - saving the lives of more mothers, sisters, friends.
This March for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we’d love for you to walk 100km in memory of women like Helen. Each step you take will help to fund research that will save lives.