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.
Telling the Children and Facing Hair Loss
We decided to hold back from updating on the boys on my relapse until we knew what the treatment plan entailed. I knew one of their initial concerns would be how it would impact our summer holiday so we choose not to say anything until things were clearer.
When updating the children (now aged seven and nine years old), the words, “Mummy’s cancer is back”, were barely out before I was asked, “does that mean you are going to lose your hair again?”. I was upfront, it was a distinct possibility, it fell out during my last course of chemo and it might well do so again. One of the boys was quick to clarify whether I would be getting a new wig since the previous wig no longer resembled the length and colour of my natural hair. It was decided that if I was going to lose my hair then they’d prefer if it could fall out whilst they were away on holiday so they could come back to see me wearing a new wig!
With shorter hair than I had before, I decided to try the cold cap again whilst having my first chemo. 10 minutes in and I was tempted to ditch that idea, but having forced myself to endure 10 minutes more, I got used to it and lasted the five and a half hours of my treatment.
As a backup plan, I visited the wig shop to try on some options. Given the boys concern about me losing my hair, I suggested they come along if they fancied it. It turned into a family trip with some giggles about possible styles as they flicked through the wig catalogue. Hopefully it helped them adjust to the idea that I may need to wear a wig again and help me find one that resembles my current colour and hairstyle.
After 11 days from my first chemo, I noticed I was losing more hair than normal and just over a week later I resigned myself to losing my hair again and the new wig made its first appearance. It’s making me grumpy; whilst I’ve been here before it doesn’t make hair loss any easier to face. I just continue to tell myself it’s a small price to pay if the chemo succeeds in getting my cancer managed again.