Personal Stories

Marian Campbell
 
My story

My name is Marian and I have ovarian cancer.  ‘You have cancer’; the most frightening words I have ever heard. You always think it happens to other people, and so did I.  I never gave cancer any consideration, even though I really should have, due to my family history.

 

My story starts with my Mum who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 29 years ago. When they finally found out she had ovarian cancer it was too late. She died aged 44 when I was only 19.  Ovarian cancer struck again for two of my Aunts who also both sadly passed away, one as recent as April 2013 . Then in 2011, my older sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  Back then we were told it was unusual for a Caribbean woman with children to have ovarian cancer.  In November 2011, I decided after some discussion to have my ovaries removed to prevent getting ovarian cancer.  I was still waiting to be called in for my operation in January 2012. After hearing nothing I checked with the hospital and was told that they had not booked me in.   In other words, they forgot about me.

 

By March 2012, I began feeling really tired; my skin was darker and dull, I had dark circles around my eyes that I couldn’t shift no matter how much sleep I had.  By early April 2012 my symptoms increased. Each time I had a different symptom I went to my GP to get checked out.  I had 5 visits but they never pieced my symptoms together.  Putting it down to gall stones, I was prescribed some tablets.  In June 2012 I was sent for an ultrasound scan, then a CT scan 2 days later.  I felt that finally I’m getting things moving for my operation.  My follow up appointment with the Consultant, did not bring good news.  I was told that a blood test taken in May 2012 was abnormal and this had been missed.  The CT scan had confirmed that I had two large masses on both my ovaries and it was cancer.  I didn’t hear any of the Consultant’s words after that.  My tears just flowed.  My cancer was at stage 3, which meant that it spread from my ovaries.  In July 2012 I had a hysterectomy which removed 99% of the cancer and then followed by chemotherapy to remove the rest of the cancer.  Chemotherapy and I never really got on, six rounds of chemo over 18 weeks was tough. After only 7 months in remission, the cancer decides it likes me and comes back. The doctors call it a reoccurrence.  I call it a nuisance.  I’m told that I am treatable but not curable. It has been confirmed that my family have the faulty gene, Braca 1, it puts me at high risk of ovarian and breast cancer.

 

I have been through the down, dark-side of cancer and I have managed to battle my way back into the light by trying to help myself to fight this disease. I have met so many wonderful people through this illness, so many people that are suffering far worse than me. I feel lucky; it could be much worse.  I have learned to think positive, which takes some doing. You can’t just switch off from cancer.

I am blessed that I have reached 48, my children are adults and a great support and comfort, I have 4 grandchildren, wonderful brothers and a sister and friends that make such an effort to keep me going.   In my house, cancer doesn’t mean misery or sadness. It means much more.  It means hope and live for today.  I hope my journey can be a message to others to:

  • Check your family medical history and act on it immediately

     

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My Sister's story 
by Vicky Seabourne

My sister Wendy had many happy times but some tragedies in her life. She was a very brave lady and didn’t even know it. She battled through the tragic bereavement of her son and then was diagnosed with cervical cancer not long after. Watching and supporting her through these two tragic stages in her life was the most difficult of my life. Listening to her say why me?  Wendy battled through her everyday life, being a full time mum, wife and her treatment for cancer. She hoped like we all did, that she would get through the cancer battle.  Sadly this was not the case and she died in December 2012.

 

Not wanting to dwell on the sad tragic times, I want to celebrate my sister’s life, to keep her memory alive, share some of the many stories and life experiences we had, with her children (some censored of course), looking at photos where we have captured some of the great happy times and being thankful that she was in my life and her families and friends for as long as she was. Wendy had an impact on many people’s lives not just her families, what you see is what you get and if you didn’t like it tough she quite happily told people.  One of my teen memories was Wendy coming home from a night out with a gold “P” on a chain around her neck; me being a nosey teenager asked what it was. This was when she told me she had met Philip and it was love at first sight. They married in 1995 and went on to have 3 children together during their 17 Years of marriage. Wendy loved going out with family and friends and. It really made her night when Philip would get up and sing. She was always the life and soul of parties and thinking back this always make me chuckle.  

 

Wendy gave her family, friends and staff at St Gemma’s a tough time when she was confined to her room due to illness picked up because of a low immune system. The times she wanted to escape and if it wasn’t for her poor mobility she would have done so. On one particular day she was given the all clear and was allowed out of her room. She was quick to demand that we put her in her wheelchair and take her out for a coffee, but we ended up at the Pub. Once in the pub we ordered a selection of different foods as Wendy’s taste buds had changed. She knew what she wanted to drink though, a large shandy. Whilst we were out there were calls from family and friends who were at the hospices  trying to visit and Wendy was missing ,well that did make us laugh.. They all ended up in the pub with us  and Wendy telling  everyone we had kidnapped her. I was so glad we had this afternoon as it  was Wendy’s last venture out with her children, closest friends,  and family.

 

Wendy’s wish was to be at home, her mobility became less day by day and she became bedridden.  Her care was given at home and she found this hard. As her sister, I wanted to make sure we still could do nice things together despite her disability.  Helping her write Christmas cards out and making lists of things she needed to organise. She wanted to be involved in doing the everyday things as much as her body would let her. It was important that she got to see and hear what was going on around her, watching her children  get up to mischief fighting with one another.  Friends and family visiting made her days and her house was never without a visitor. I insisted on doing some of her personal care to make her feel good and ready for visitors. She loved her nails painted and insisted on a different colour every week, right up until her last days when they were bright red with sparkles.

 

Our last promise to Wendy was to celebrate her life and that’s what we do. My motto is live well, laugh often and love much and make the most of your life as you never know when your time is up.

Clifford Stapleton-Smith
 
My Story

My name is Clifford, I’m 50 years old, and I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer on 3 July 2013 with no symptoms at all.  Let’s go back to the beginning of this journey.  Initially it was my wife Sharon who was insistent that I made an appointment with my doctor to check my prostate. Her concerns had come from losing two uncles to prostate cancer.  Deep down I knew her concerns were genuine, but as a man I thought I knew better and would make an appointment when I could find some time between my work and social calendar. I didn’t feel it was an urgent issue as I was a fit 50 year old, who attended the gym .  Eventually, I made an appointment to see my doctor, just to get Sharon off my case!

My doctor asked me why I wanted my prostate checking and I explained my wife’s concerns. He then asked if I had the following symptoms; needing to urinate more often than usual, especially at night, difficulty starting to pass urine and feeling that my bladder has not emptied properly etc. Obviously my answers to all these questions was no.  He then mentioned that there are two ways of checking the prostate gland:

  • Firstly, a digital rectal examination.  This involves the doctor examining the prostate gland through the wall of the back passage (rectum).

  • Secondly, a PSA test.  This s a blood test that measures the amount of a protein called prostate specific antigen (PSA) which is produced by the prostate.

After hearing the about the examinations, I said to my doctor, “look I don’t often visit the doctors, as you can see from my medical records, therefore, while I’m here we might as well carry out both tests” the reason why I insisted on both was that I wanted closure and peace of mind that nothing was wrong with me and to report back to Sharon to tell her I told you so I was ok!!

 

A few weeks later I received a letter requesting that I make an appointment to see my GP to discuss my blood test results.  My GP, informed me that my PSA test results was 5.7.  For a man of my age the blood test result should be no higher than 3.  I then went on to have further tests and scans and then met with the Consultant to discuss the findings of the test. The Consultant said “I’ve got some bad news, your results have identified that you have prostate cancer.  The good news is that cancer hadn’t spread outside the prostate gland.” My eyes glazed over.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I’ve got cancer, no not me, I’m fit I look over myself.  I looked across at my wife, for her reaction to confirm that she had heard the same news. We both stared at the Consultant in shock. We left the clinic in a daze or trance whatever you want to call it, but we made the decision that we are going to fight this cancer together, stay positive and deal with this card we have been dealt.

 

My Consultant explained the type of surgery I had agreed on; the removal of my prostate gland (Radical Prostatectomy Operation). I had a lot of questions to ask him regarding the operation, and he was able to answer all my concerns and put my mind at ease. On 22 August 2013 I successfully underwent surgery.  I know it’s not easy for men to talk about their health, especially in our community, but African and Caribbean men are three times more likely to develop prostate cancer.  With this statistic, I feel it is my duty to advise and encourage all black men over the age of 40 to make an appointment with their GP and take the PSA blood test.

Deborah Morgan's Story
by The Herbert Family

Deborah Morgan (nee Herbert), affectionately known as Debs, was a keen sports woman from an early age. This love of sport developed into a love of netball, which she took up through her early teens when attending Scott Hall Middle School.  It ended up being a major part of her life.  It was through these early years that she realised her gift for relating to and getting the best out of kids.

 

As a teacher, the education of young people was not just a job for Debs, it was a passion. Her expression of care and concern for disadvantaged kids led her to work primarily with excluded kids. It also led her to write the Department for Education and Skills, Primary Nationally Strategy, Behaviour and Attendance programme for Greater Manchester, implemented city wide.  Debs combined her two loves, kids and her sport, by running her own junior Netball team called the Manchester Shooting Stars. As well as being an International umpire for England, a level 2 Netball county coach, she ran this for a number of years, its primary aim being to give direction, encouragement and inspiration to disadvantaged youth.

 

Debs sadly passed away on 22 December 2012 after a battle with cancer.

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