(continued from “Missing The Signs”)
By April 2014, my tummy was increasing in size compared to the rest of my body. I looked as though I was 7 months pregnant.
A telling blood test
Again another trip to my GP, another scan, MRI, blood tests which revealed that my Ca125 was raised (this is a protein tumour marker to detect ovarian cancer), it should be under 35 but mine was in its 50s. The medical team at this point had worried looks and had an MDT meeting that very day with the oncologists. I was then advised to go to The Royal Marsden Hospital (specialist cancer hospital) in London for further confirmation.
At this point I was convinced I had ovarian cancer, I had all the symptoms of BEAT which is:
B – Bloating
E – Eating less and feeling full
A – Abdominal pain
T – Going to the toilet frequently
My appointment at the Marsden was very surreal. I could not think straight, was on my own as I didn’t know what to expect so didn’t inform my family so as not to worry them. The consultant and the surgeon both came to see me, at this point my heart sank, feeling uneasy, palpitation and various thoughts were surrounding my head and no one to hold my hand. The consultant held my hand and very compassionately said to me “we feel from the scans and blood tests we have done, it’s most likely that you have cancer – what stage it is, we will know once we have operated on you next week”.
I was devastated at this news knowing full well that my body was not right all this time and to find that it was cancer gradually building up. Having asked the consultant what the surgery would entail, it was explained that I would be having a full abdominal hysterectomy and did not have time to freeze my eggs for future plans of starting a family. This was very upsetting for me as I have always wanted children of my own unfortunately this was never to be the case now.
On May 19th 2014, I had the operation which confirmed that I had stage 3C ovarian cancer. There are four stages to cancer, my mother had stage 4 which has a poor prognosis. I had stage 3C which would probably return at some point in my life. The operation went smoothly and the surgeon managed to take out as much as they visibly could see. After the operation when I was not too dazed I was told by my surgeon that I had four tumours and could not understand why they were not picked up in my other scans that I had been having – this is still a mystery to me.
Even as a professional having worked at The Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton as a Pharmacy Technician preparing chemotherapy for the cancer patients, it was my turn to be on the other side and experience the drugs themselves. On June 23rd 2014, I started my six cycles of chemotherapy with paclitaxol and carboplatin – the same as what mum had all those years ago. The chemo gave me good and bad days. The good days were eating lots of junk food and watching TV. The bad days were being sick, fatigue, and getting all my words muddled up known as “chemo brain”.
Cycle 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 gave an increase in side effects such as hair loss which I shaved off in cycle 2 with the help of my eldest brother Kapil and nephew Rajiv. Having family and friends support was a key to my recovery, without them I would not have pulled through. They had to put up with a lot of “chemo brain” effects, temper tantrums as I wasn’t able to do the things I used to, especially dancing and socialising as I did not have the strength to.
I also suffered from peripheral neuropathy in my feet / legs and hands / arms where I was unable to feel anything which included hot water and hence several times burnt myself (not too badly though). There were times I fell down the stairs as I could not feel my feet. This was a big concern for me as I was told that this feeling may come back but sometimes it may not. I had to think things through of what my life would be like if this was to happen. Would I be a burden to all those that love and care for me? Am I going to be a hindrance to their lifestyle, as they would need to look after me and work around me rather than get on with their lives?
(continued in “The Fight Back”)
Preeti was born in Nairobi, East Africa. Her family moved to the UK in the 1960s when she was about one year old. She is one of four siblings, the only girl with three older brothers. She currently works as a Senior Pharmacy Technician at Epsom General Hospital in Medicines Information where she answers various types of enquires from other healthcare professionals and the patient’s helpline.