Gracie and I took part in the CRUK Febrowary earlier in the year and this will be our 4th Race for life since 2014 with the aim of raising £1000.
“I am doing the Race for Life because my Mummy had cancer and got through it and she is standing next to me and is running fit and healthy, I love her so much. Gracie xoxo”
Devastatingly, 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. But advances in science have put cures within our grasp.
I want to use my personal experience of cancer to help raise awareness. Gracie and I are taking on CRUK's ‘The Great Row’ to row a marathon (26.2 miles) over the month of FebROWary. We’ll be rowing indoors not around Stanborough lakes!
I was 36 years old when I was diagnosed with cancer. I had an ovarian germ cell tumour, a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the germ (egg) cells of the ovary. It’s a rarer form of ovarian cancer that usually occurs in teenage girls or young women. There are only 100 cases per year of this type of cancer. Testicular cancer is the male equivalent.
Not only was it a shock to have cancer, it was a very steep learning curve. It’s scary being diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease and things moved rapidly after my diagnosis. I had open surgery in September 2016 to remove the affected ovary (my left ovary had become the tumour and grown to 15cm x 13cm) the fallopian tube and lymph nodes. Fortunately, it was fertility sparing surgery as my right ovary was unaffected. After surgery I was under close surveillance and in uncertain territory. I spent the first 2 months having weekly blood tests to check my tumour markers were returning to their normal range. Luckily, my cancer was detected early (Stage 1a), and the tumour was removed in tact which meant my oncologist would not need to “poison” me with chemotherapy. Follow up in the first year consisted of weekly then monthly tests, scans and examinations, second year bi-monthly, third year quarterly, fourth year triannually and so on.
I wanted to know if there was any way I could have prevented getting cancer but my oncologist told me it was “bad luck”. This type of cancer is over 90% curable if caught early and isn’t genetic or hereditary. It was a huge relief because the only thing worse than me having cancer was knowing my daughter may be at risk too.
When I was diagnosed with cancer Gracie was only 8 years old and I had no idea what I was going to tell her. Like a sixth sense my motherly intuition wanted to protect her from the potential impact of this killer disease. Gracie is highly empathic and compassionate, she was very sad when she learnt a child in her class had lost their mother to cancer. I wasn’t prepared to risk her fearing I may share the same fate. The emotional effects of a cancer diagnosis are challenging on anyone let alone a child. I wanted to be brave for Gracie, to shield her from this evil disease and decided it was best not to tell her at that time. I was guided by my intiuition to what I felt was truly right and in her best interests and wellbeing. The advice from the professionals was conflicting but ultimately no one knows my child better than me. I knew there there was a possibility that I, or someone else may slip up but it was a risk worth taking.
This experience rocked me to the core. When I descended into darkness and no one was there Gracie unknowingly shone her light, she was my flashlight, a consistent source of strength, unconditional love and unwavering faith. Her innate kindness, caring nature and beautiful spirit was the best medicine.
I reached a significant milestone last October as I reached 2 years being cancer free. Research shows after 2 years the chance of a recurrence of this type of cancer are vanishingly low. I was over the moon and there was only one special person I wanted to celebrate the news I had so desperately been longing for. Gracie is my priority and we grew together through this life changing experience. We're a powerful force to be reckoned with and there’s nothing we can’t do. When I recently told Gracie I had cancer she was grateful I hadn't told her any sooner because she felt she would have worried and not wanted to leave me. She is now comforted in knowing the chances of recurrence of this type of cancer are vanishingly low. To my great surprise Gracie has since decided to help raise more money by having her hair cut off to be used to form part of a wig for a child via The Little Princess Trust. The MacMillan Cancer Advisor said “Wow, for her to have an awareness of helping others at that age, is just amazing. She really will be helping so many people”. I’m proud of many things in my life but nothing beats her.
My advice to everybody, male or female is to know your body, listen to your gut. Go to your GP if something doesn’t feel right, keep a diary of any changes in your body and how you are feeling, so you can recall them accurately and if you’re not happy with your GP get a second opinion. Never back down if you have a strong sense about something, you’re worth it.
Finding and treating cancer at an early stage can save lives. Cancer that’s diagnosed at an early stage, when it isn’t too large and hasn’t spread, is more likely to be treated successfully. If cancer spreads, effective treatment becomes more difficult, and generally a person’s chances of surviving are much lower. Each person’s experience of cancer is different and the treatment pathway depends on the type, stage and grade of cancer.
We very much welcome your support by way of a donation or perhaps you fancy joining in with some rowing. It’s gonna be OARSOME!!