As we all start thinking about Christmas this year, and how different it will be, I know that like me, many of you will be facing a difficult time. Whether you are protecting someone who is high risk by not seeing them, shielding yourself, or facing a first, or another, Christmas without someone you love.
I know how hard the festive season can be, I lost my mum to ovarian cancer seven years ago.
A year prior to diagnosis my mum had fibroids removed, then a few months later, she started to lose her appetite, which was unusual for her. She also started to feel bloated but couldn’t really see a difference in stomach size. My mum went to see her GP, who suspected it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
She later began to get pain in her stomach, which turned to agony. She went to our local A&E and was admitted so they could investigate the cause.
I remember the phone call my dad and I got from her saying she needed to talk to us. I immediately feared what was to come.
My nanna (my mums mum), dad and I went to the hospital, I couldn’t stop crying on the way there. My fears were confirmed when she told us she had stage 1C ovarian cancer. I was 19 and had just started university that week. My whole world collapsed; my mum was my best friend. I was heartbroken.
My mum needed a hysterectomy and a small part of her stomach removed, followed by chemotherapy. She responded well to chemo, although after each round she would be sick for 3 days.
My mum was never the type of woman to care about appearances so coped very well with losing her hair, but it was very strange to get used to – she was known for her wild curly hair.
I dropped out of university as I couldn’t concentrate and wanted to be with her as much as possible and help out. My mum finished her treatment and was in remission. She went back to work as a carer and everyone at the home was incredibly supportive. Mum started socialising a lot more, her hair grew back and she seemed much happier.
About 18 months later, my mum lost her appetite again. She told her doctors and her scans revealed shadows on her lungs. She had secondary cancer in her bowel, stomach and lungs. She was admitted to hospital again, they operated on the bowel and she went back on chemotherapy. This time however she was not responding as well. She often needed blood transfusions due to not being well enough for treatment and with one chemo drug, she went into anaphylactic shock. She was very tired and not her normal self anymore.
I started to notice a change in her behaviour. Her handwriting changed, she left gas hobs on and she got angry about very minor things. She told her doctor, and my concerns were right, the cancer had spread to her brain. She was due to start radiotherapy, but I got a phone from a nurse who told me she was too ill to proceed and was being transferred to a local hospice. I asked how long as no one had really mentioned time to me and she explained how difficult it is to say but could be only days.
Mum was in the hospice for 11 days for her end of life care. She had good days, one of which I gave her root beer which she loved but ultimately the cancer took over. My mum died on her birthday at 55 years old, 3 days before Christmas on 22nd December 2013.
This will be my eighth Christmas without her, and I miss her so much. She was a phenomenal woman with such a kind heart, and while she was ill she tried to raise awareness of ovarian cancer. My mum inspires me every day, and I try to keep up her good work of raising awareness of the symptoms, and supporting research into the prevention of this horrific disease.
Supporting The Eve Appeal has never been more important. We need to continue to raise awareness of these cancers, fund life-saving research and ultimately protect the women in our lives that mean so much to us from gynaecological cancers.
Please join me in supporting them this Christmas. Your donation can help provide hope and help get the next phase of research into ovarian cancer off the ground, that may in the future, help save the lives of women like my mum.
Click here to give a one-off donation today or call 020 7605 0100. Any gift you are able to make this Christmas would be greatly appreciated.
You can also share your Christmas wish, memory, photo and message of hope for all the women and their families affected by gynaecological cancers. To share your message visit eveappeal.dedicationpage.org/Christmas
Thank you so much for your support.