Chelmsford mother of three Sara Foster is highlighting the symptoms of ovarian cancer for awareness month this March, after being diagnosed with the disease the same day as her smear test result came back negative.
Sara, who was diagnosed in July 2017 at the age of 47 after months of unexplained bloating – is highlighting how women of any age need to be vigilant for signs of the disease often associated with those aged 50-plus – especially as there is no screening programme to pick it up.
She has been chosen as one of 13 women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer to take part in the Touch of Teal fashion show in London this month for the leading support charity Ovacome. Taking to the catwalk is massively out of Sara’s comfort zone.
For like many women Sara did not know the symptoms of the disease herself and it took a few months of bloating and extreme tiredness for her to eventually seek medical help.
She had thought that she might have a gluten intolerance and had tried cutting out bread for three months first. After this made no difference, she wondered if she had irritable bowel syndrome.
“Cancer was not on my radar at all, with no history of the disease in my family,” says Sara.
“I just thought I was bloated from eating too much bread.”
She became increasingly alarmed in the final five weeks before visiting her doctor’s surgery when the bloating became persistent and she was overwhelmed with tiredness.
“It was a different type of immense tiredness than I’d ever had before. If I sat down my eyes would shut and I would fall asleep for a good hour and then still be able to sleep like a log at night.”
Sara is not alone in believing that bloating caused by ovarian cancer is from something less serious, says Ovacome, and of course in most cases this will be the case. But if it lasts for more than two weeks – and is not a woman’s normal, then visit your GP.
The charity has come up with an easy to remember B.E.A.T. acronym of the main symptoms: B is for bloating that is persistent and does not come and go; E is for eating difficulties and feeling fuller quicker; A is for abdominal or pelvic pain you feel most days and T is for toilet changes, bladder or bowel.
Sara recognises that the cancer was caught early enough for surgery and six rounds of chemotherapy to be effective in removing the large tumour on each of her ovaries.
Since finishing chemo in January 2018, she has had no evidence of disease but says she has been affected emotionally as well as physically.
“I’ve lost my long red hair, but I realise that I am lucky, with one of the Touch of Teal models having suddenly passed away.”
Speaking about the fashion show: “It’s going to be an emotional, but a very worthwhile day and if my story resonates with just one woman and gets her to her GP in time, then I will be happy.”
Photo Credit to Phil Gammon