Tina Wright: "Cancer doesn't need to be a death sentence"

27 September 2019
TinaWright

Tina's ovarian cancer recently returned having been diagnosed 9 years ago. She urges women not to be scared of seeking the information or help they need. 

"My ovarian cancer recently came back, nine years after I was first diagnosed. Back then I had no symptoms other than a gut feeling and some bleeding after intercourse which I put down to a benign cervical cyst or menopause bleeding.

But that gut feeling turned into a nightmare of events.

I admit I wanted my ovaries removed for my own peace of mind, as a preventative measure. I was 52 years old and my lovely, lovely mum had passed away from cervical cancer on her 47th birthday when I was just 16. I thought that gave me the right to do anything in my power to prevent it happening to myself. I had no idea about the hereditary BRCA gene mutation at this time but I still insisted upon a scan when symptoms appeared.

"The thing I had dreaded the most was now happening."

Tina Wright

The scan opened a huge can of worms. I had grade 3 serous carcinoma of the ovaries, which had spread to other areas of the abdomen. My whole world was turned upside down. The thing I had dreaded the most was now happening.

It was a big operation and I went on to have six rounds of chemotherapy. But first they needed to take a blood test for my DNA, I had no idea chemotherapy kills our DNA. The second lesson was all about the hereditary BRCA gene mutation.

I tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation and so did my daughters, both in their 30s. All it took was one blood test that (had it been done sooner) could have prevented my ovarian cancer.

However, these results weren't all bad. I hope that the test will have prevented my daughters from going through what I have. They are planning to have their ovaries removed before the age of 40, which will lower their risk dramatically. I was shocked that we also had a 95% risk of breast cancer when there was no known history of breast cancer in my family. I made the decision to have a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction to lower that risk to only 3%. My daughters have annual MRI breast screening and are considering breast surgery at a later date.

I was cancer clear for 8 years. I had my first relapse early this year and have recently finished my 6th round of chemotherapy.

The main symptom I experienced at re-occurrence was pressure on my sciatica nerve and bladder. I was told by my GP (in spite of a history of ovarian cancer) that it was a sciatica nerve injury, which could take up to 6 weeks to heal. I told him my concern and requested an ultra sound or CT scan. He then decided to examine me and admitted he could feel a mass in my pelvis.

It’s all very complex but knowledge becomes our strength.

The biggest worry for me is that fear is preventing women from seeking the information or help they need. Many women fail to take up the NHS on any screening or tests that are available to help diagnose cancer, and they need to be made aware how important it is. We need to turn that fear of the unknown, of a potential diagnosis, into life-saving action.

The knowledge I now have is far less terrifying than the unknown ever was. Cancer doesn't need to be a death sentence. We need to be proactive, self-aware and insist on scans. Catch cancer early, make that doctors appointment, insist on further investigations and remember we always have hope."

It is important to note that the smear test, the cervical cancer screening tool, is not used to detect ovarian cancer. That is why Ovarian Cancer Action are funding much-needed research into developing the first screening tool for ovarian cancer. Read more about Professor Ahmed Ahmed's work here.