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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Dell

So how have we got here .....

I'm Caroline (Caro to those that know me , or unless you are using my Sunday name for a very good reason )

I am 50 years old, and, I have just been diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer.

I am a dog photographer and live in a log cabin on the edge of the South Yorkshire Moors with my partner Andrew. Those that follow Ranchlife will already know all this but for those that don't you can catch up with previous Ranchlife blogs here.

Why am I writing this ?

My mum, Annie, taught us that words are super powerful - they are incredibly cathartic, they guide us through troubled times and allow us to share and communicate with others. The later is the main reason for my writing - if these series of chats, because that's what they will be, help just one other person through the turbulent waters of a cancer diagnosis, or encourages just one woman to ask her GP for "that blood test", then this blog will have achieved it's aim.

I am hoping it will also serve as a kind of diary, and when the storm clouds gather, as they will, it will remind me that the sunshiney days ahead are the very reason we put one foot in front of the other and keep going forward against all adversities.

Now adversities come in different types - the big "rock your world baby" type - the loss of a loved one, dealing with an illness whether physical or mental health related and financial struggles, but also the "small, spiteful day to day ones" like, burning the dinner, running out of time to walk the dog, even snapping a finger nail - whatever adversity you face - it's yours and is never insignificant.

Not quite right ....

At the beginning of the Covid Lockdown I decided that I wasn't going to disappear amidst a pile of donughts, crisps and chocolate bars - We moved home, I set up a new business as a Neals Yard Consultant, Joined a great Walking Online App, revisited our diet and generally set myself up to be Fit and Fabulous at 50.

In July 2020,we agreed a move to Rockys Ranch, for early November. Walking and healthy eating were to the fore and lots of energy was given oven to organiing a move, less than a mile away. November we moved, all was great, Neals Yard Business came online, Ranchlife began, the studio was being sorted, and life was generally a happy and fun filled place to be, even Workinglie was on the up - despite lots of others struggling through lockdown and Covid.

Fastforward to January / February 2021 - Still walking but I was becoming very disconsolate that I still had a bumper of a tummy round my middle. Lots of googling, talk of Peri-menopause weight gain, menopause weight gain, being unable to shift it due to hormones, endomorph body shapes, what we should and shouldn't eat - I read and did it all. Signed up and carried on putting my best foot forward.

April - Backache - which I am sure was due to too much repetitive walking on the spot - 4 miles on the spot can be quite a challenge and although I did enjoy the exerccise, I stopped this, and went to walking up and down the big hill. Back better.

May - Still struggling with the middle ring of fat, but now also starting to feel quite bloated at times. Then a one off case of very irritable bowl and I decided enough was enough - one of the markers was Gluten - so a week of no eating Gluten and still no difference ( I do know it takes a while but there were no obvious lessening of symptoms) So I called the GP.

Start on the gluten again for two weeks and then book for blood test to include Celiacs disease.

Now at exactly the same time I got sore ears. Bizzare I know, everyone else thinks so as well. They were hot, swollen and extremely sore to the touch, imagine chronic sunburn - this went on for a few days and I decided another call to GP - got some cream and off we went , next day , fingers started itching and lumps started appearing, much like nettle rash or heat hives - not that we had had much hot weather by then but it was starting.

Two weeks and time for blood tests - popped along and an entire range of tests were sent away - including CA125 ( CA125 is produced by some ovarian cancer cells. A high level of CA125 in your blood could be a sign of ovarian cancer, But a raised CA125 level does not mean you definitely have cancer, as it can also be caused by other conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids and even pregnancy "NHS - Direct)

A face to face appt made for a weeks time so that the celiacs result would be back.

3 days after the bloods were taken, I had a call from the surgery - you know before you even answer it that it's not going to be good - they seldom ring with good news, especially when there is an appt in the book. The CA125 levels were high.

So, a face to face appt was made, all the other results were clear, dermatology had requested more blood samples and tests for Lupus and Sarcoid (the itchy hand syndrome - which was progressively getting worse)

Sat in front of the screen running through all the results and there at the bottom "suspected cancer". Shock Number 1.

So we booked an ultrasound at the hospial - and on having a feel of my tummy the GP was pretty certain there was some kind of mass / tumour - to the point that we laughed when she said "if I did't know you had birth control I would think you were 20 wks pregnant"... funny - but in hindsight not so funny.

So, I left the surgery an waited for the appointments to start coming though which they did.

My GP had the foresight to book two appts at the hospital, one with the Gynae consultant and one for the Ultrasound.

Ultrasound came through first for the following week and then Consultant appt came in for the two days after the ultrasound - perfect timing.

Ultrasound done, and Gynae day - The consultant had a bit of feel, bit of poke and explained that the ultrasound couldn't quite determine whether it was cancer - there we go, first mention of the word Cancer, but there was definitely a large mass around my ovaries - now two words linking together Ovarian Cancer.

Next step CT scan. Appointment came through and Scan done and further consult made....

More waiting ........

Waiting is the hardest thing ... Everyone tells you this. Nurses, consultants, doctors, friends that have been there and got the t-shirt, but until it's and your loved ones waiting for appointments and news, you have no true realisation of just how hard that is.

And then that leads to family and telling them. Everyone will have a different way of dealing this, ours was to wait until we had the most information possible - that we had a firm diagnosis with an idea of a treatment plan, but this would mean Andrew would have to deal with the bulk of my stress. I did tell a couple of girlfriends that had been in similar situations with breast cancer, one of my best friends was almost a year to the date of her chemo starting - both of these girlies have proved to be incredible and without their knowledge and support I would have gone into this blind.

It's early on to be saying thank yous - but they know who they are xx

So back to the waiting ........

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