Sadly Joan passed away in July 2017. We are grateful to her for sharing her story with us.
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, so through sharing my story I hope to raise awareness about this cancer for women of all ages. Many women tell me they have had a pap smear, so they think they are in the clear. But a pap smear doesn’t test for or protect people from getting ovarian cancer.
My sister had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer six years before my diagnosis. I went to see my GP and asked for an ultrasound of my ovaries due to my family history of ovarian cancer. The doctor wasn’t very open to me having one, but I insisted and it turned out that I actually had ovarian cancer.
The diagnosis was a blow for me and I found it quite difficult to process.
I remember my GP at the time saying “you’ll have a terrible time with that”, which didn’t help. I sought assistance to cope with the anxiety I experienced from being diagnosed.
I would like to give mental health a mention, as I’ve found that of the medical staff I’ve encountered over the past three years, very few have knowledge or an awareness of how cancer can affect one’s mental health. The social worker and the cancer specialist counsellor were the exceptions. I understand the mention of mental health could be concerning for cancer patients, but assistance is available if it is acknowledged.
After the negative reaction of my GP of 30 years, I am now being cared for by a young woman who is sincere and cares about my health. She wanted to know my health status and organised a CT scan for me that found a spot on my liver.
This experience taught me the importance of having a good and open relationship with your GP to ensure you’re getting what you want and not wasting time with that GP if you’re not. I think it’s important that people are in control of their own health and I’ve found Cancer Council ACT’s workshops have helped me learn and feel more in control of mine.
I attended several of the Cancer & Me workshops and found the lovely dietician from the hospital fantastic. I was even able to get an appointment after the session, which was great. I’ve learned the importance of drinking plenty of water and being told to eat a lot while undergoing treatment was really helpful.
I’ve also found a government produced booklet on 10 Tips for Safer Health Care that I found really helpful. The tips include things like being actively involved in your own health care and learning more about your condition, which is what I’ve done through Cancer Council ACT’s workshops.
I really value Cancer Council ACT’s CDs for relaxation and meditation. They have been excellent for me when I can’t sleep and to get all of the clutter out of my brain. I’d like to encourage more people to use them. They are so well done and are easy to follow and understand.
My cancer has metastasised, so I’m currently being treated for two cancers. I’m hopeful I can get a few more years. I was a very fit person, went to the gym three times a week and walked all the time. I think good health has contributed to my survival so far. I’ve really tried to be optimistic, meditate and allow my body to rest in the afternoons.
I hope my story will encourage people to value their bodies early, not just when they are sick.