Jo was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in July 2014, aged 39. She has since undergone a hysterectomy and treatment with chemotherapy and an angiogenesis inhibitor drug with the aim of keeping the cancer managed. Through genetic testing, Jo discovered she carries the BRCA1 gene mutation which presents a higher than normal risk of breast cancer.
As a working mum with two young boys living in Harrogate, she continues to share her experience of diagnosis, going through treatment and living with an incurable cancer for Yorkshire Cancer Research to help raise awareness of ovarian cancer and to help others navigating similar experiences.
Adapting to Being on Treatment Again
Whilst undergoing treatment will inevitably impact to some degree on my ability to continue my part time working I was determined I would strive to continue working, after all it provides some normality and helps me feel like the world is less consumed by my illness and treatment. I’m very fortunate to have a supportive employer, my role was designed to provide some flexibility in view of my previous treatment and an intent to preserve my well being, allowing me to continue in my role with some flex on when and where I work.
The first chemo dose brought with it the familiar side affects – the overwhelming metallic taste, the nausea, the pins and needles in feet and hands, the fatigue and anxiety around how much is overdoing it. In my previous course of chemo, being able to exercise was hugely important to be as a coping mechanism providing a sense of normality and achievement. As the chemo ‘hangover’ subsides I’m hoping to be able to continue with some cycling, running and swimming.
Whilst the chemo schedule remains subject to how I handle and recover from each dose, it helps plan things to look forward to around when in theory I should be feeling less unwell.
As a parent of two loud boys I always crave some peace and quiet, but when faced with the prospect of being home alone whilst my husband took them on our planned holiday, filling 10 days when I would be recuperating from a second dose of chemo wasn’t quite so appealing. Whilst I knew the boys would enjoy their time away, at the back of my mind there is the fear that this could be a taste of holidays to come for them in the future. Friends and family rallied round to keep me distracted. I was lucky to be invited as a guest of Rudding Park Spa, Harrogate to sample their ‘Living with and beyond cancer’ offering that includes Jennifer Young treatments which use a natural skincare range developed specifically for people affected by cancer. Previously I’d looked into having beauty treatments whilst undergoing cancer treatment and encountered some ambiguity around what treatment’s would be advisable and had been faced with requests for a letter of authorisation from my GP or oncologist. It was therefore a relief to know the therapists were trained such that they knew the appropriate questions to ask and used products that had been developed with sensitive skin in mind. Losing my hair the week prior to the scheduled spa visit prompted a dilemma around whether I could bring myself to still go – after all its not practical to wear a wig whilst having a treatment or having a dip in the pool. After a warm welcome from the spa staff I immediately felt at ease and decided to go with what I felt comfortable with, ditching the wig and wearing a cap.
For me the focus is on getting through the remainder of my chemo as best I can, trying not to let cancer or the treatment take over my life (easier said than done in the days that follow a dose of chemo); focusing on what is important in life and creating memories with family and friends.