Diagnosis: Ovarian epimethial serious cancer, stage 2B
I was 71 years old. I had just come back from a lovely mornings walk at Stourhead, had sat down and didn’t feel so good. I had a slight nagging abdominal pain that didn’t go away. In fact as the hours passed the pain grew gradually but steadily worse. By 8 pm we called the “out of hours” service which sent a paramedic and then an ambulance.
I arrived at the RUH in Bath at about 10 pm and was assessed and put into the A and E emergency ward. I was well looked after, frequent checks made and given and an X ray in the middle of the night. No one was sure what the pain was but diverticulitis was suggested. Given a little morphine I was able to sleep for a few hours. In the morning a consultant said that a scan should be performed soon but I was not considered an emergency.
The next day I was moved to a gastroenteritis ward and waited for the scan. Nothing happened and I was in considerable pain and quietly suffered all day and the next night. In the morning I was finally taken for the scan. At around midday there was a bustle around me and I heard people saying she’s going for an emergency operation. In fact the scan had revealed a perforated bowel – a medical emergency. The colorectal registrar sat down and explained what was going to happen. I went into theatre and she performed a life saving operation on me. A foot or so of bowel was removed and I woke up to find (to my dismay) I now had a colostomy bag. I spent 12 days in hospital and made a slow recovery. The wound was leaking from the bottom but healed eventually after about 4 months. The diagnosis was that the perforation had been caused by diverticuosis although I had had no symptoms and there was no sign of any malignancy.
Around 9 months after the operation I was ready to have a reversal and hopefully have my bowel rejoined. I went into the Bath Clinic with high hopes of going back to normal. I woke up in recovery to learn that the operation had not gone to plan and the surgeon wanted my husband back to talk to us both together. The upshot was that a growth about the size of an orange had been found on one ovary – and an ovarian specialist had been called in from the RUH to help remove the growth and the ovary while I remained under aneasthetic. The surgeons thought it was a cyst but we wouldn’t know for sure until the results came back from the lab in about a week’s time. The cyst had wound itself round part of the small and the large bowel and 2 bits of bowel had had to be removed and re-joined. The reversal had not been performed.
Does a cyst wrap itself around the bowel? Perhaps they already knew it was a tumour but told me it was probably a cyst to stop me feeling anxious all week? I didn’t worry too much during the week until the night before my consultation when I had to process the thought that it could be a tumour not a cyst. Unfortunately this was the case and my worst fears were realized. I couldn’t believe it at first because I had had no symptoms though I do remember noticing a very slight pain low down in my right abdomen – but so small that I would never have gone to a doctor about it. My husband was a great support but telling my 3 daughters then my mother and sister was a very bad time. It is knowing that people who love you will be sad that makes it so difficult.
I was referred to an ovarian oncology physician. She was kind and supportive and immediately we went through what had to happen next. First I had to have a few weeks of recovery from the operation then there would be 6 sessions of chemo at 3 weekly intervals and then after another period of recovery another operation for removal of the other ovary and a complete debulking (removal of rhe uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and omnetum). I was lucky that I went through chemo with very few problems. I had some neuropathy in my toes but not too bad and of course loss of hair which is psychologically difficult. Also a little fatigue but mainly I was able to continue to live my life as usual.
Eventually the time came for the debulking operation. I was given a 7am appointment which seems an early time to start – when I arrived I saw at least 50 other people arriving at the same early hour. I said gloomily I expect it will be at least an hour or two before I’m called – but amazingly I was first to be called. That was the one good thing about the day. I was in the operating room for about 5 hours because I had 2 surgeons working on me, the ovarian oncologist doing the debulking and the colon surgeon making another attempt at the reversal. He took hours attempting this but was unable to fix it due to some shortage of bowel. I woke up at about 2 pm very uncomfortable in recovery. Unfortunately my sats were low and my blood pressure kept dropping – the staff discussed whether I should go to ICU but in the end decided to keep me in recovery. I was there all day watching many other people come in and go off to their wards. I began to wonder if I was ever going to leave recovery when the night cleaning staff came in wearing scrubs and all the other patients had left. Eventually I was taken to my ward at about 10.30 pm.
I stayed in hospital for a week and then went home. My recovery was much quicker than after the perforated bowel and the wound healed up well.
Probably I was lucky to have had my cancer found during another operation because as I had virtually no symptoms this tumour would have been undetected and grown and could have been much more serious.
I am 2 years from diagnosis and have made a full recovery ( in as much as anyone can know that they are cancer free). I have no residual symptoms and am keeping well.