MANY people fear being diagnosed with cancer.
For Christine Holmes, a 44-year-old mum from Eastergate, the news she had contracted ovarian cancer was made all the more shocking by the fact she received the diagnosis almost a whole year after first going to the doctor with her symptoms.
Finally diagnosed in March, 2011, she underwent chemotherapy, a hysterectomy and a complete pelvic clearance.
The treatment proved initially successful, however, in August last year, the cancer returned and more chemotherapy is on the horizon.
Nevertheless she is remaining positive for the future.
“I’m determined to beat it,” she said. “My grandmothers were both in their 90s – I want to get there too.
“I want to see my daughter grow up and have a normal life. I want to get through this and get back to everything being normal.”
She said her first reaction to the eventual diagnosis was ‘shock’.
“Along with a lot of other women I had never heard of ovarian cancer until I was diagnosed with it,” she said.
“I had seen it mentioned on a packet of pills, but we had no idea what it’s about.
“A lot of people, myself included, think smear tests include stuff like that but it doesn’t.”
When she first went to see her doctor in May, 2010, she was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
At one point she was even prescribed laxatives.
However, she was still unhappy with the diagnosis, and was uncomfortable at work.
She returned and saw a different doctor, who sent her to A&E with a letter asking for tests.
Speaking now, Christine said it was a lack of awareness about the cancer that led to so many misdiagnoses.
“It’s plain and simply the GPs don’t see many cases, so if they do see anything else IBS is easy to diagnose.”
However, she added: “I think if every person diagnosed with IBS was told they need to check for ovarian cancer, there would be a lot of panic, so it’s getting to the point of not frightening people for the wrong reason, but making sure people have the right diagnosis.”
The cancer was at stage three when she was diagnosed, and she, along with national charity Target Ovarian Cancer, hopes raising awareness could lead to more cases being diagnosed at an earlier stage.
Prior to her diagnosis, Christine worked at Squires tool shop, in Bognor Regis, and has always enjoyed handicraft work, such as sewing and embroidery.
Currently, she is making a number of rabbits and ducks for St Wilfrid’s Hospice, to help its Easter fundraising appeal.
“St Wilfrid’s Hospice has been very supportive to me and it’s nice to be able to do something to help fundraise for them,” she said.
She also spoke of the support she has received from her family, and doctors.
One of the things she and her husband had to do was tell her daughter, now 15.
“It was not easy,” she said. “She’s coped very well – part of it is because we have been so open. We have given her the facts.
“The fact she knew what was going on helped her to cope with it.”
Her husband now works from home a lot more frequently as well.
“John, my husband, has been with me to all the appointments, check-ups, chemo, everything. He’s been very supportive.”
She has undergone treatment at Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Portsmouth, and said the team there had been ‘amazing’.
“My own GP, once I was diagnosed, has been superb and really supportive as well as really helpful,” she said.
Christine last had chemotherapy on December 13.
She said she’s still not clear of the cancer, and has gained 5lbs in a week as a result of bloating.
“It’s quite obvious I’m going to need more chemotherapy,” she said.
She is due the results of her latest blood test in the next few days.
Christine also attends a support group at St Richard’s Hospital for women with gynaecological cancers.
She said awareness of the cancer was important to prevent a delay in it being diagnosed.
“With more awareness the delays can be reduced,” she said. “Awareness both from women if they know about these symptoms, and GPs knowing the signs of the early symptoms.
“Most women, like myself, get to stage three cancer before we’re diagnosed.
“It could be caught at stage one.”