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Marian’s Story

Marian and Vanessa from the support group smiling and being happy
Vanessa and Marian
Hello, I’m Marian. I’m 68. 

It was just before Christmas in 2014 I knew something was wrong. I kept experiencing cramping pelvic pain – just like a period. Well, I knew it couldn’t be that, I’d long since stopped having periods. 

I also had vaginal discharge. I thought I should get it checked out, so went to the doctors. I went twice, in fact. Examined and a swab taken – everything seemed OK.
  
But then just after Christmas, still worried – I went back to the GP. I was examined again and, still no one seemed worried, so I went off to Spain with my husband, as we had planned just after the New Year. 

"Great", I thought, all OK and now for a bit of winter sunshine. How wrong could I be! Things didn’t improve while I was in Spain and I saw a local doctor. He immediately felt something was not right and referred me rapidly to see a gynaecologist. 

I had two biopsies taken from the uterus and a CT scan. A week later, I was called back for the results – it was cancer. 

Of course, I was shocked - devastated even. By February 4th, I was having urgent surgery in Barcelona. I had a total hysterectomy, 20cm resectioned from my colon, omentum removed and ovarian cancer deposits from my peritoneum cut away. I was staged as 3B (IIIB).

My husband Alastair was wonderful, offering all the love and support he could. Yet, I felt totally isolated from everyone around me. After 5 weeks’ recovery, we returned home to the UK. I was referred by my GP to the Dorset Cancer Centre and met with the clinical oncologist to begin chemotherapy treatment.

Little did I know, as I got back on the plane to the UK, that something rather remarkable had happened in Dorset while I’d been away, something that took the isolation and loneliness away. 

GO Girls had just been established by Hilary Maxwell, the gynae-oncology nurse specialist at Dorset County Hospital, and I read about it in the local paper.

I plucked up the courage and phoned her and the very next day we met for a coffee. I was blown away by the warmth and support and knew that I now had the opportunity to be part of an amazing support network that would help me through this difficult journey.

The Group meets once a month – something all GO Girls look forward to. Hilary organises for us to meet for coffee, a chat, a laugh, and those all important essential GO Girl hugs – where would we be without those? We share our experiences and give each other advice and tips. Not only do we get supported, but our husbands and partners have now joined in too. It’s quite a crowd and it’s helped them all so much as we undergo gruelling treatment.

I don’t quite know what I would have done without the GO Girls. I firmly believe this amazing group has helped me change my outlook and my plans for the future. It’s given me great encouragement and I’ve now made new friends for life – that’s very special to me. 

GO Girls are here to make you stronger, together.

Andy’s Story

My name is Andy. 

My wife Angie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on 10th December 2012, aged just 47. The devastation we felt at her diagnosis is beyond words. Yet despite everything, Angie refused to be defined by her cancer and did all she could to enjoy what life she did have. As it turned out for us, that was all too little; she tragically succumbed to this insidious disease on Boxing Day 2014. 

While Angie passed away just before GO Girls formed, I know she would have supported the project 100%! 

During the darkest days of her illness Angie and I created some very deep and special friendships with others enduring the same condition. These friendships were a huge part of enabling Angie to live her life despite the dark shadow of cancer. In these friends she had people that really and truly understood her; people who she could open up to in a way that was simply not possible anywhere else. 

These friends empathised fully with her, as she did with them, because they faced the same problems, the same fears and the same emotions. 

I can't emphasise enough just how important that peer support was for both of us. It wasn't just an emotional understanding, nor was it simply the ability to share information about treatments and their side effects. Those things were important of course, but sometimes it was just about being normal, about being treated like a person rather than a patient, a sick friend or a poorly relative. 

It is about living with cancer rather than dying from it.

Paul’s Story

image of Paul and Holly from the support group smiling and hugging each other
Karen and Paul
There we were, driving down life’s highway, probably in our eighth car, which in some way explains that we were both just the other side of highway 55.

Life was very good and we believed the drive was perfect. Our long term plan was always to park up after a few more miles hard driving. 

Suddenly out of nowhere, there was this life changing head on crash. I was uninjured, or so I thought, but the diagnosis for my passenger, Karen, was poles apart – the diagnosis was ovarian cancer. Our initial thoughts were that this must be repairable and we even said it doesn’t matter how much it would cost. The cost has never really been defined but we have since travelled many, many miles in order to get our precious vehicle back on the road – some say the road to recovery.

Initially, I had no SATNAV for guidance and I was very much driving aimlessly, in the dark. 

I would often ask for advice. Sometimes I received positive, constructive and well intended feedback, but all too often I didn’t really understand the directions I was being given. We were incredibly lucky. Over a prolonged period, we received some fantastic and life saving assistance and, short of the cost of petrol, it didn’t cost us a penny!

Continuing on our journey (at a now slower pace), we spotted a sign in our headlights. We found GO Girls.

This group gave us directions to a community of like minded ‘drivers’, some of whom had already been to the same places we had previously visited and some who showed us new places we may wish to visit in the future. 

We are now up and running once again and, although we may drive a little slower than we did previously, life’s highway is out there for us to explore. 

Who am I? I am the chauffeur and lifelong partner of an incredibly fortunate and brave ovarian cancer sufferer.

detailed color image of Holly from the support group smiling
Holly

Holly’s Story

I was only 28 when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. 

It is hard to put into words how it feels to be told you have cancer. It’s scary, frightening and it takes time for it to really sink in – it just felt so huge.

The diagnosis came just a couple of weeks after I had a Lletz treatment for CIN3 – pre-cancer cells. I had a clear smear 3 years before this, so this was the last thing I was expecting. I soon realised I couldn’t change what was happening to me, but I could choose how I could react. 

I immediately joined the GO Girls Facebook page and instantly felt welcome and comforted by the kind words and uplifting pictures and quotes posted by the other GO Girls
I have had a trachelectomy for my cancer – surgery offered for early stage cervical cancer, which hopefully may enable me to have children when I feel ready.

There are no words to describe how important a smear test can be – other than it could save your life, as it has mine.

Never fear a smear!

Julie’s Story

image of Paul and Holly from the support group smiling and hugging each other
Julie
I'm Julie and I am 56, I was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in March 2014.  

It was a devastating diagnosis as I had spent the previous 9 months backwards and forwards to the GP and hospital and had been assured over and over that there was nothing amiss. 

Following investigative surgery which turned into emergency surgery, I woke up with a colostomy and the diagnosis. This left me traumatised and feeling totally alone and isolated. Within 6 months of completing my chemotherapy, I had a recurrence. It was at this time that I found the GO Girls. The support and friendship I have received from this group of truly inspirational ladies has been immeasurable. I don’t feel alone in my journey; the GO Girls understand, they have helped me through the difficult days. I look forward to meeting up each month and keeping in touch via the website.
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