" A year ago I thought I had got the better of this blasted disease. I had taken early retirement from my lecturing job; was making plans to sell my house and move back to Scotland and live a life of creativity and culture. Sadly something got in the way.
I was first diagnosed with endometrial cancer in Dec. 2010 after a hysterectomy prompted by enormous ovarian cysts. It turned out that I had been suffering unawares from severe endometriosis for many years but had learned to live with the painful periods, back pain and the rest of it. A piece of endometrial tissue had found it’s way into my fallopian tube and had turned cancerous. It had then spread to both ovaries. I had chemotherapy following the surgery but only with Carboplatin as I had an anaphylactic shock as soon as they started to pump Taxol into me.
Chemo was no fun but I got through it. I went back to work six months after the surgery, but it seemed to take forever to recover from the chemo. I’m not sure I ever did. I tried to get on with life but my perspectives had changed.
I turned up to oncologist appointments. “Any signs of change?’ ‘No. Just this tiredness and feelings of depression.’
Sometimes I saw the oncologist, sometimes the specialist nurse. There was never any question of follow up treatment.
About a year ago, there was a change. As I said, I had taken early retirement from my job. I no longer saw what I was doing as valid, even ethical. Changes in the way my workplace was being run had made me uncomfortable. I had been signed off with depression and dreaded going back, so I made the decision to leave.
Sadly that didn’t improve the situation. I isolated myself from my friends. Growing lethargy didn’t help. Physically, I became more and more fatigued and stopped looking after myself properly. Eventually I went for help and was admitted into hospital. Luckily I was back in the major teaching hospital I had originally been treated in and I was found to have infections of a mystery origin. A CT scan discovered masses either side of my bowel and a biopsy confirmed there was a recurrence of cancer in one of them.
That night I sat numb. It wasn’t my original consultant who told me, but an unsympathetic substitute who brought a recently qualified nurse with him as back up. Poor girl! I knew as soon as I saw her face, like a rabbit in the headlights, that something was seriously wrong. He left as soon as it was decent for him to go and I was left to comfort the poor nurse!
I remember thinking that I had been convinced I had beaten this sodding disease. I had just a year to go before the magic ‘5 years without cancer’ would be here. I woke during the night and cried, saying ‘No, no, no, this isn’t supposed to happen!’ over and over.
The recurrent infections from the cysts attached to my bowel meant I was 5 months in hospital having IV antibiotics pumped into my system before I was fit enough for surgery. Six hours of surgery to remove them followed. Two weeks later I was due to be discharged and was having my Hickman line flushed when I went into sepsis. That was the scariest of the lot. I lost consciousness and when I came to I was in ICU on dialysis and having hallucinations!
Luckily, I got through it and I’m home now feeling better than I have for years. Yes I have a stoma, but as much as I hate the thing I’m coping with it and I’m alive!
But the thing I want to say is: don’t ignore depression as a possible sign of illness! When I first went into hospital they sent a psychiatrist to see me. She told me that she didn’t think I was clinically depressed. She said I was understandably sad due to things that had happened over the previous 5 years but I wasn’t depressed. Later the medics told me that my mood and my lethargy and my fatigue were symptoms of the physical illness.
One very positive note: I have dropped 6 dress sizes over the last year. I have told my favourite charity shop to get a ‘fat lasses rail’ ready for me clearing my wardrobe.
Yes, I fitted the profile of a typical womb cancer patient. Fat, inactive, but I also started my periods at 10, they went on heavily for a full week, I’ve never had kids and I also had the endometriosis that was ultimately the cause of my cancer, so the ‘fat lass’ profile isn’t the full picture. That the media make it out to be the major issue is unfair and it makes the patient feel guilty and some narrow minded and unsympathetic people think it’s your own fault, but enough of that for now. I may submit a further rant on that subject at a later date!"
If you are willing to share your story then please get in touch me via the contact form.
xx Kaz xx