Sarah, Ovarian cancer patient
Sarah, 44, was diagnosed with stage 3c high grade serious epithelial ovarian cancer in October 2016.
“I’d been going to the GP for about 12 months with what I knew were weird symptoms. My menstrual cycle was irregular. I had bloating but I was losing weight. They just kept sending me for blood tests and then telling me everything was normal, suggesting I might even be approaching menopause. I was only 41 years old at the time and knew it wasn’t right,” she explains.
Eventually, investigations to see if Sarah had endometriosis revealed the ovarian cancer, along with benign cysts.
“We saw an oncologist on the NHS but she wasn’t the right fit for us. I had private health insurance so decided to use that to get treatment and care,” Sarah says. “We did some research online for the best oncologists in London, and straight away Dr Susana Banerjee at The Royal Marsden came up.”
Dr Banerjee is a world-leading Consultant Medical Oncologist, specialising in gynaecological cancers. She is the Research Lead for the Gynaecology Unit at The Royal Marsden and serves on the Executive Board and Council of the European Society of Clinical Oncology.
Within two days of getting in touch, Sarah had an appointment.
“It all happened so quickly,” she says. “After meeting with Dr Banerjee, I was scheduled for surgery within days. During the nine-hour procedure they found the cancer had spread. Luckily not outside the peritoneal cavity, but it meant I had to have a fairly extensive operation, including a hysterectomy.”
After recovering from the operation Sarah went on to have six rounds of chemotherapy, starting in December 2016 and finishing six months later. She kept meeting with Dr Banerjee throughout this time, even after the treatment had stopped.
“Dr Banerjee is just incredible,” Sarah says. “She is my safety net and is always so positive. I’ve always felt safe in her hands and know that she is always two steps ahead.”
“Unfortunately, the cancer came back twice, first in April 2018 and then a year later. Each time I had a few months of chemotherapy. I’m now on Avastin, which is a drug given by infusion every three weeks to try and stop the cancer from coming back again.”
Throughout everything, Sarah says the support of her family, friends and The Royal Marsden has been immeasurable, and allowed her to live a ‘normal’ life with her husband and two young children.
“It’s so important to keep living as normally as we can,” she says. “I’m from Australia originally and it’s been tough not being there. But our family and friends have been incredible, and the staff at the Hospital are just incredible. They know me and where I’m meant to be.
“When the cancer came back, I was really dreading coming back in for treatment. But as I walked through the doors of The Royal Marsden, I felt an overwhelming sense of being looked after. Rather than being scared or upset, I felt safe.”