Mary's Story

March 10, 2018

I need to start this tale with….I’ve always been really healthy. I ate real food, exercised, watched my
weight, and meditated regularly. Although Im in my late 50’s, I didn’t even have a relationship with a
GP since it was a very rare occasion I would need to see one. But in 2016, I started to suffer with
reflux. This took me off my beloved red wine, white wine, coffee and black tea. When I finally got to
the doctor, they prescribed Sandoz to ease the symptoms and a box made its way into my handbag.

In 2017, I noticed changes in myself, however, my work was also very challenging and I blamed a lot
of it on that. Through a healthy diet, I had my digestion issues under control and was feeling pretty
good. I had even lost that weight that I was struggling to shake off. My appetite had decreased, but I
thought that had to do with my dieting. Bloating and going to the toilet a lot were just a part of
being a post-menopausal woman, wasn’t it?

Mid year, we took a big holiday to see family in the US. I hadn’t been back there for many years and
we had such a wonderful time and enjoyed every minute of it.

After the holiday, I returned to work and things started to change quickly. I thought I had caught a
flu, as I was very tired and struggling to get around. The many stairs at work and the distances I had
to walk were turning in to a problem for me. I finally went to the doctor who prescribed the usual
antibiotics and said, if it’s not better in a week, come back. I did, and received more antibiotics:
different ones and probiotics. She said, if it’s not better in a week, we should have a blood test.
The stairs were getting harder and harder. I would stand at the bottom and think, how will I ever get
to the top. It was slow going. I went back to the doctor, this time seeing another GP since mine was
not in. This doctor said don’t worry about the blood test, let’s try Ventolin! So I did. I tried it for
three weeks. I thought it might be helping, I thought maybe I’m not doing it right, I don’t know, but I
tried. I finally went back to my doctor again. She sent me for an x-ray. Everything suddenly went
quite urgent and I had 2 litres of fluid drained from around my right lung and the news was, it’s

Ok, what does that mean? CT scan, blood tests, internal ultra sound later and I met my oncologist on
October 5th. We think its ovarian cancer. The diagnosis was actually never clear. It was of course
already stage 4, My CA125 was 10,800 and we understood they would be treating it aggressively; 3
rounds of 3 chemos each, prior to surgery, followed by another 3 rounds of 3 chemos.
During the first three rounds, I mostly suffered with fatigue. My biggest problem was constipation
from anti nausea drugs, being cold and lack of wanting to do anything. I spent many days just in and
out of sleep, listening to the birds on the back veranda. Three months slipped away along with my
hair. Cards, flowers, and wishes for wellness slowed down. The oncologist said I was remarkable
because the cancer markers were dropping so quickly.

Surgery happened and I was enjoying regaining some of my lost self with 9 weeks off chemotherapy.
My hair was growing back. Two weeks ago, I started back on to chemo. The first treatment and I was
hit with nausea and lost my interest in food. My feet are beginning to lose some feeling and my
brain has returned to grey cloud.

My daughter is getting married next month so I will have a mini break from chemo. This wedding
was planned well before I was diagnosed. The wedding is in Rarotonga. The wedding photos will
include a bald mother of the bride with a glorious smile on her face. The glorious smile says; I am
here, I am so happy I made it for this day. Your love and support is helping me to chase this insidious
thing out of my body.

I’m turning 60 soon. My daughter asked me the other day, what do you want for your birthday,
mum? I just want to feel like me again. I want to be part of something other than the world in my
house. I want to do more than exist. I want to come out of this better than I was.

What is my message to others? Please, do not just treat a symptom. Find out why you are refluxing,
bloating, suffering with fatigue and encourage the doctors to test early rather than just trial different
symptom treating drugs and see what happens next.

And so I continue the journey, and reflect on how grateful I am for my dear partner, Paul who takes
me to chemo every week and picks up where I leave off each day. And my two daughters, who live
so far away, but do their best to talk to me on a daily basis….and my dear dear friend, Shelley, who
has taken time to see me every week and bring me news of the real world that exists outside my
house. They are the warriors, not me.

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