How my boys helped me through ovarian cancer

Jo Beagley with husband Rob and sons James and Henry
Jo Beagley with husband Rob and sons James and Henry
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Jo Beagley was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at just 39. Now she wants to raise awarness of the condition. Catherine Scott reports.

Mother of two small boys Jo Beagley had no idea there was anything wrong with her.

“I was a pretty fit and healthy person and had no obvious symptoms,” says Jo from Harrogate.

When she started to feel bloated and suffered some abdominal pain she wasn’t particularly worried but when the pain continued for five days and then got worse she went to the out of hours GP at Harrogate Hospital. He found an unexplained abdominal mass and Jo was admitted to hospital a week later. Tests revealed she was suffering from fairly advanced ovarian cancer. “I’d heard the term ovarian cancer but thought it was something older women got.” Jo had a full hysterectomy and then had four months of chemotherapy during which time she went through the trauma of losing her hair. This was followed by 16 months of a drug called Avastin which she completed in December.

Around 10 months into her illness Jo started her blog, writing down everything she went through and how it made her feel.

“I started to think if someone else was in a similar situation it could be helpful for them. I certainly found it helpful to read other people’s stories of going through treatments for cancer.I had a personal desire to raise awareness about ovarian cancer because there is very little out there, it’s down to women and health professionals to be aware of what the symptoms might be.

“The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to spot. For me, the bloating was only noticeable three weeks prior to my diagnosis and the abdominal pain for even less time. However, I still think there’s a considerable communication effort required to raise awareness of these symptoms, particularly because of their similarity to the symptoms of other ailments and the lack of a national screening programme.”

Tests just before Christmas came back clear and Jo will continue to be monitored as there is a high risk of recurrence. As well as writing her blog Jo says her family has helped her through the ordeal. Jo and her husband Rob talked to their sons James now eight and Henry six about Jo’s illness.

“We wanted to be open with them but also to try to reassure them where possible. It was hard but having them hlped me massively through the treatment. I had to keep life as normal as possible for them and that really helped.”

March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month.

According to Yorkshire Cancer Research four in ten cases of ovarian cancer in Yorkshire are diagnosed at a late stage. There are currently around 3,400 women living with or beyond ovarian cancer in Yorkshire.

Everyday throughout March Yorkshire Cancer Research will feature Jo Beagley’s blog post about her experience of ovarian cancer.