Judy's Story (1950 - 2011)
Told by Judy in 2010.
My sister Linda (aged 55 years at the time) sought medical advice as she had been suffering from a swollen stomach for sometime. Linda was admitted to hospital and had a scan. She didn’t realise at the time, that this scan was just the start of a roller coaster ride of appointments and treatments for not only her but also the rest of the family.
Shocked at the diagnosis, Linda commenced chemotherapy for stage 4 ovarian cancer in August 2003. She asked if she could sit next to her cousin who was also having the same treatment. She thought if they were both going to be there all day then they may as well sit next to one another and have a damn good catch up. A very astute nurse identified that this could be more than just a coincidence and raised it with their respective doctors. Next thing they knew, they were at the genetic counsellor. Because the gene hadn’t been identified before, it took about six months to search for it, but sure enough they found the BRCA gene in them both and tracked it back two generations.
This then started a series of testing for others in our family. I was next. It turned out I too had the gene, as did others. I considered myself lucky that I had this information and proceeded with preventative surgery to remove my ovaries, as I already had two adult daughters, there was no reason not to have the operation. Unfortunately, as it turned out, it was too late - I had ovarian cancer. It had struck our family again, this time with no symptoms. I started chemotherapy in 2006 and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The side effects where nothing I could have prepared for. I was very lucky to have the support of my husband, my daughters and a six year old grand daughter who made even the worst days that little bit better.
I truly believed that because it had been caught in the early stages, I could, and had beaten it. I was completely thrown when I was told over the 2008 Christmas holidays that it was back. Here we go again! There have been times when I wondered whether I could do it, could I really go through chemo again, and possibly again and again. But the good days far out way the bad and somehow, someway you just do it.
What I find really difficult is the agonising wait every three months, is it back, is it going to be this visit or the next? This is a feeling that is now going to be with me for the rest of my life. I’m still adjusting to that. I’ve also been invited to take part in a trial for people with advanced tumours. I applaud the people who are researching and looking for cures and answers, but I don’t feel that lucky been on a trial because of my ‘advanced tumours’.
I know that I have a battle ahead and that the odds aren’t stacked in my favour. But I am grateful that our families now have this information and with it they can make choices so that this dreadful disease doesn’t take their lives. I am also hopeful that one of these trials will be a success during my lifetime. So for now I’m building our new batch, getting back to work, and carrying on as if I didn’t have these damn tumours.
Sadly Judy passed away in May 2011 at home with her family. With the help of her husband and her twodaughters she fought this cancer hard. Unfortunately it was a fight she couldn't win. Judy was a big part of The Gift of Knowledge and passionate about what we want to achieve. At her funeral she requested in lieu of flowers donations to The Gift of Knowledge. We are very grateful for the generosity of Judy's family and friends and look forward to sharing how this money will be used to continue raising awareness.
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