Derry ovarian cancer survivor highlights importance of early detection
Sharon Doherty was diagnosed with stage two ovarian cancer in June 2020, after she confused her symptoms for menopause.
In light of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day, which fell on Sunday, Sharon wants to make all women aware of the signs of the disease. She also wants to encourage people to pay attention to their bodies and seek help when something changes.
She explained: “In December of 2019, I started spotting continuously. I was 53 at the time so I thought menopause was starting and I just let it go. The spotting continued until February and my stomach started to swell.
“I was the secretary for one of the managers coordinating the Covid response in Altnagelvin and when March came and we got very busy, I got caught up in that and put everything aside. I didn’t have a regular excruciating pain like you would expect, but one day I was sitting in work and I slid off the chair with the pain. I just sat with it, thinking that maybe it will go and when it did, I just left it. I wouldn’t go home and I wouldn’t get it seen to.
“I have to thank my manager so much because I mentioned it to her and she told me to go to the doctor. My GP sent me to a consultant and they did the scan right away and found a 12cm cyst. They told me it was the size of a babies head. They had done the biopsy and I was told that it was cancer in the ovaries and the Fallopian tubes and that there was only a short window of time to do something. I had a radical hysterectomy and then started chemotherapy, which was very tough and upsetting. One thing that did help me, though, was taking CBD oil while I was on the chemo. I was rarely sick and I know it was because of the CBD as well as my positive mental attitude.
“I ignored the symptoms until six months in and I feel so guilty for that. I found out a statistic last week that every year 400 women in Ireland are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 300 of those die. I was one of the lucky ones but I need to talk about it now so that we can make people more aware of it.
“The symptoms are BEAT; Bloating, Eating changes, Abdominal Pain, Toilet changes and Tiredness. We were so busy with Covid response when I got sick, I didn’t pay attention to the tiredness but that’s how we all are. Women are so busy now, especially women with young families who also work, so they are constantly tired and might not pick up on that but you have to pay attention to your body.
“Since Covid, nobody wants to burden a system that’s already creaking but if you’ve got a few of these symptoms, you have to persist. Women are going in with late stage ovarian cancer and, like what happened to me, it spreads to other places.
“Please, if you have a few of these symptoms or if you have all of them, you have to go to a doctor. You’re not taking up anybody else’s space. Don’t let it go to the late stage.
“I’d like to thank Derry Well Women, the Pink Ladies and McMillan Cancer Support, who were all amazing with help and support. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”