Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2022: Debbie’s story

For Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Debbie shared her experience of being treated for ovarian cancer at The Royal Marsden.

Ovarian cancer patient Debbie in Royal Marsden with nurse
Ovarian cancer patient, Debbie (right)

Debbie, 54, was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in August 2021 after she started suffering from symptoms of feeling bloated and struggling to eat and drink.

“We were due to fly out to Sweden in August but a few weeks beforehand, I started feeling ill and suffering from bloating. I could barely eat a teaspoon of food and was struggling to drink properly. I decided to get checked out by my GP and they asked me to come in so they could examine me in person. I was still doing all my usual day to day activities so didn’t think it was anything serious. My GP arranged some blood tests and the results the following week showed that my thyroid, kidneys and liver were all fine, but my CA125 markers were alarmingly high. My GP referred me to have a pelvic ultrasound. I still didn’t think this would result in anything sinister. When they confirmed it was definitely ovarian cancer, it felt as though my whole world was crumbling."

She was referred to The Royal Marsden and put under the care of Dr Angela George where she started chemotherapy treatment almost immediately.

“When I got to The Royal Marsden on 20th August, I met Dr Angela George who is absolutely amazing. She said to me that although I had stage 3 ovarian cancer, they had devised a curative treatment plan for me which would consist of 6 cycles of chemotherapy and surgery. She told me we would take it step by step and that the teams were aiming to cure me. I felt so hopeful and so reassured that this was not the end for me. At this stage, my belly had grown even more, and I felt very uncomfortable. It turned out that the cause of this bloating was due to the ascites which is a condition in which fluid collects in the spaces within the abdomen and this fluid was pushing down on all my organs. The first thing that happened when I got to The Royal Marsden after my consultation with Dr Angela George, was to arrange the draining of this fluid. I walked into the hospital with very little mobility and came out 6 litres of fluid lighter and very mobile."

It’s so reassuring to have the support of the wonderful team at The Royal Marsden. I could not be in better hands

“On the 1st September I started my treatment. Neoadjuvant carboplatin paclitaxel chemotherapy. They know this treatment can work for ovarian cancer and I fit the bill to start having it. I had 6 cycles of chemotherapy every 3 weeks. I loved being in the Medical Day Unit (MDU) in Chelsea for treatment and wore a different, specially made by one of my sisters, outfit for each treatment session. The chemotherapy was aiming to shrink the tumours as much as possible before surgery and the surgery was to remove anything that was still remaining."

Debbie had her final treatment on 15 December. She went back to The Royal Marsden in January 2022 and underwent a full hysterectomy surgery to ensure any remaining tumours were removed.

Ovarian cancer patient Debbie and her partner Dan“I’ve recently had confirmation that they managed to remove all the tumours and the hysterectomy surgery went very well too. I will now have a little break of about four weeks and then I’ll be back at The Marsden for more tests before moving onto my maintenance treatment which will be in the form of tablets to be taken twice a day for a couple of years. Monitoring will also continue for some years. So all in all, a really successful outcome."

“I’m feeling positive. I’m telling my story because I think it’s important to raise awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms and that getting a cancer diagnosis does not necessarily mean end of life."

(Image on right: Debbie with her partner Dan)

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common women’s cancer, and the UK has one of the highest incidences of ovarian cancer in Europe.

The cause of ovarian cancer is not yet known and it often causes rather vague symptoms which makes it difficult to diagnose.

These may include:

  • discomfort in the abdomen
  • swelling of the abdomen
  • feeling full or bloated
  • changes in bowel habits
  • frequency of passing urine.

To learn more about diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer, please visit our ovarian cancer page.