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Marion Bradford: "Being told I had ovarian cancer was so surreal"

16 March 2020
Marion Bradford

Marion Bradford, now 55, was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer in November 2017.  This article was originally written in March 2020. Since then, Marion had a recurrence in December 2020 and went through further treatment. She is now well and continuing life at home.

"I was driving to work one morning and had to pull over as I was experiencing extreme abdominal pain. My partner came to pick me up and had to call an ambulance as I was being sick and almost hallucinating because of the pain I was in. The paramedics gave me a drug and assured me I should be feeling better - but I wasn’t. 

I was taken to A&E where I had lots of tests and was told everything seemed to be fine and was sent home. They said I would have to go to my GP to request a scan if I was still concerned something was wrong, which was ironic as I’d done just that ten days previously, and was meant to have a scan that very day but missed it due to being rushed to hospital. 

My GP re-sent me for a scan and they found a mass. They couldn’t be sure if it was on my ovary or my bowel so they took a biopsy which was quite painful. They mentioned then that it could be cancer but almost certainly wasn’t, as I was relatively young and very healthy. 

Waiting is always the hardest bit. It took a week for my biopsy results to come back. They called on Friday asking me to come in on Monday but I couldn't wait through the weekend. They said if I could get there in 20 minutes they could see me so I hurried over. There was a Macmillan nurse sat in the room but I still didn’t click. Being told I had ovarian cancer was so surreal. It’s like the world stood still. I kept asking my mum to write things they were saying down — half an hour ago we were sat having a pub lunch and now I had cancer. 

My treatment consisted of chemotherapy, then surgery followed by more chemotherapy. Chemo was scary to begin with. You go there and you’re surrounded by people who have lost their hair and you think, 'why am I here, I’m not sick!' But you get used to it really quickly and get chatting to familiar faces.

"My partner, family and friends have been incredible throughout my journey"

Marion Bradford

My dog Buddy really helped me on my worst chemo days as I managed to force myself out for a short walk with him and always felt so much better when we got home.

Towards the end of my treatment, I was offered genetic testing. With no other incidence of cancer in the family, I didn’t think I needed it but thought what’s the harm. It took eight weeks for the letter to arrive. I was heading out the door to meet a friend for coffee when I saw the postman down the way. I thought, I’ll just wait and see if he’s got anything for me. Without knowing, he delivered the news that I carried the BRCA2 genetic mutation. My family were offered testing too. 

My sister also carried the faulty gene and had two lots of surgery in very quick succession, as her first preventive surgery revealed she had pre-cancerous cells in her Fallopian tube.

Of my three children, two have been tested; one tested positive and one negative for the BRCA2 gene mutation. I do feel guilty about passing the faulty gene on to one of my children but I do believe knowledge is power. We talk openly as a family and we respect each other’s decisions around testing, it’s a big deal and an on-going conversation. 

I’ve been NED for two years now. It’s always there, in the back of your mind. But as time goes on you worry a little less each day. My partner, family and friends have been incredible throughout my journey. I kept in touch with work whilst I was off and they let me ease back into working. It really helped me feel connected to normal life still, whilst I was going through treatment. 

In hindsight, I think I did have bloating. I did struggle to eat. But I had no idea these would be symptoms of ovarian cancer. I want to help raise awareness of what to look out for and just how important funding research is so women in the future don’t have to go through what I’ve been through."  

How far can you go to keep ovarian cancer research moving? This August, join the OCA Research Relay and ride, run or walk to raise funds that will get ovarian cancer research back on track. 

Or you can visit ovarian.org.uk/donate to make a one-off or regular donation towards research that will improve the lives of women today and for generations to come.