31 March 2022
Trust your instincts and ‘don’t be fobbed off’ says Kim
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month runs throughout March. It is the cancer that is notoriously difficult to diagnose, as mum-of-two Kim Dudley discovered when her various health issues were put down to ‘going through the menopause’.
But, after a year of unexplained problems, tests showed that Kim, then 57 years old, had ovarian cancer.
“It was Christmas time and I was again not feeling well. I was putting on weight despite eating much less, my stomach was bloated and I was having trouble with my breathing. My daughter insisted I go to my GP but they said it was probably a digestion problem and gave me medicine for antacids,” explained Kim, who lives in Shifnal with husband Martin.
But two days later she was in so much discomfort she phoned an emergency GP and was sent for scans which showed she had fluid in her abdomen. After further tests she met with Mr Janos Balega Consultant Gynaecologist and Gynaecological Oncologist, who told her she unfortunately had advanced-stage ovarian cancer.
“It came as a shock but at least I now knew what I was suffering from and that I could be treated,” said Kim. “It was going to be tough but with support from my family and friends, I was positive I could get through it.”
Mr Balega then performed a complex surgery called 'debulking' to remove Kim’s tumours along with several litres of fluid that had built up.
“The weight I had been trying to lose for 18 months was achieved immediately – it’s a drastic way to lose weight but you have to keep a sense of humour! After five CT scans, three X-rays and an MRI, I actually felt radioactive. I was surprised I didn’t glow in the dark,” said Kim.
Once the surgery was completed, Kim was then introduced to a Consultant Oncologist at Spire Little Aston Hospital, who supervised her six sessions of chemotherapy.
“The support I received from the Doctor and the amazing nurses at Spire Little Aston Hospital was unbelievable. As expected, I lost my hair and at times felt lousy, but thanks to the help of so many people I got through it.
“One year on and my life has changed a lot. One of the consequences of the surgery was that I now have a colostomy bag, which has its own challenges but the main thing is I am alive! Which I would not be without the skill and work of Mr Balega and his team. I am not as fit or strong as I was before my illness, which is sometimes frustrating, but I’m learning to deal with that.
“My advice to other women is trust in your own body and your instincts and if you aren’t improving don’t be fobbed off. Insist on a blood test and even mention your worries that it might be ovarian cancer.
“It is a difficult disease to diagnose because symptoms are not well known and often mistaken for other ‘women’s troubles’. But if the treatment you are offered isn’t working go back to your GP and ask for further tests. It could save your life.”
As for women who are going through the cancer journey Kim said: “Take any help that is offered and even though you need to rest keep moving even if it’s only a short walk around the garden. Try and keep a positive mental attitude and a sense of humour, you will need one. I know what you are going through, and always remember that doctors are human too, they don’t know everything.”
Mr Balega added: “Unfortunately there are no specific symptoms of ovarian cancer and the symptoms can be subtle and difficult to spot – often being mistaken for symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
“However, women, especially those over 50, who struggle with frequent or persistent symptoms should be investigated with a blood test for a tumour marker called CA125 and an ultrasound scan to exclude ovarian cancer.
“Earlier diagnosis usually means better treatment results so it is important women know what symptoms to look for and that they make their GP aware of those symptoms as soon as possible.”
The main symptoms are:
- Persistent bloating or increased stomach size
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, lost appetite
- Needing to urinate more frequently
- Persistent stomach pain
Mr Balega also emphasised that patients with suspected ovarian cancer should be managed by gynaecological oncologists with expertise in ovarian cancer surgery.