Why ovarian cancer research is so important: Doris' story

12 August 2021
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Doris’ ovarian cancer diagnosis came as a huge shock, as despite her medical background, she was unaware of the disease. Now she’s sharing her story to help spread awareness of ovarian cancer in the hope that a focus on research will help more women survive the disease. 

I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2019, when I was 70. I was incredibly fit and healthy, and being a Pilates instructor, I was also very aware of my body. The diagnosis was a complete shock, I studied micro-biology and previously worked as a physician’s assistant back when I lived in America, so I know quite a bit about the body, but I’d never even heard of ovarian cancer.

Like many people who are diagnosed, my symptoms seemed quite innocent at first; in October 2018 I had diarrhoea, some back pain and bloating. I didn’t think anything of the back pain at first because I had been doing a lot of body building and martial arts. When I finally did go to see a doctor, they suspected it was IBS. He never sent me for a CA125 blood test, and unfortunately missed all the symptoms.

“I had been so healthy and active all my life, I had no history of cancer in my family, so how had this happened to me?”

Doris

 Fast-forward to August 2019 when I rolled over in bed one night and suddenly felt excruciating pain in my breast and back. I had to be rushed to hospital at three in the morning. They thought it was my gallbladder, and the surgeon sent me to have an MRI before I went home. I then had a CT scan, which lead to me eventually being diagnosed with stage 4b ovarian cancer in November. It turned out the pain had been coming from a huge lesion in my back. I couldn’t believe it. I had been so healthy and active all my life, I had no history of cancer in my family, so how had this happened to me?

Chemo started in December, I had three rounds before my surgery. I had to have a total hysterectomy, they scraped off part of my pelvis, and they had to fix a lesion in my diaphragm. Originally, they had assumed I would need my spleen removed and that I would have to use a colostomy bag, but luckily that didn’t happen.

It’s been 18 months since my diagnosis and now I’m in remission, I also had a scan recently which showed that my bloods are looking good. Unfortunately, the anti-oestrogen medication I have to take makes me feel terrible and affects my stomach, but I’ve been really focusing on my nutrition and taking pro-biotics which helps me a lot.

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My diagnosis has changed me drastically, I used to look like a body builder but now I don’t even recognise my body. Being able to continue teaching Pilates keeps me grounded and gives me a sense of perspective, and I love to spend time with my amazing clients. I also find meditation really helps. Of course, some days are better than others, but I think it’s so important to have a positive outlook. My wonderful husband has been my rock, he’s also been my caregiver since being diagnosed, and I can’t praise him enough. He’s my soul mate. The support from him, my friends, and wonderful sister keeps me going.

I want to share my story because you don’t hear much about ovarian cancer, so much has been done to raise awareness for breast cancer but not ovarian. It’s the sixth most common cancer in women, so more people need to be aware and doctors need to be able to recognise the symptoms. It’s incredibly important to me to make people aware of this terrible disease, because anyone can be diagnosed at any age. If they can spend money on research for cures for other cancers, we need to make it a priority to find a cure for one of the leading killers of women.

My hope for the future is that everyone survives this disease. I want to see 90% of women survive, the same as breast cancer, and research is how we get there.

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