You have ovarian cancer.

You may not even believe that right now. Perhaps someone has made a mistake with your diagnosis?

Or it may be beginning to sink in and you are angry, shocked, anxious and confused.

You didn’t deserve this, there’s probably no good reason why it happened to you, you are going to beat this, you don’t want to die, you are worried about your family and your finances, you hate hospitals …

There are so many thoughts racing around in your head and tugging at your heart. And every one of them is normal. It’s also normal for your reaction and your feelings to change from day to day and to feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster.

There is no right or wrong way to respond to a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. But after many years of talking to women and their families, we know that there are some helpful things you can do soon after your diagnosis to help you feel a little less overwhelmed and to cocoon yourself with the support you need.

What do I do next?

Share your feelings and build support

Talking to other people about your diagnosis, your feelings and your fears can really help to ease anxiety and help you to find ways of coping.

Ovarian cancer is too big to live with by yourself. Sharing your feelings with the people you are closest to helps lighten the emotional load. The love and support of your family and friends is usually the most important support network for women and will form part of your healing process. These are the people who can cry and laugh with you and don’t need apologies and explanations when you get angry and frustrated (and can handle being yelled at from time to time).

Some women are used to talking about their feelings, but for other women, it can be a more difficult experience. When you are able to be open and honest with family and friends it helps everyone to understand that your cancer is not a taboo subject and that it’s positive for all of you to talk about how you feel. That can be big relief for others too.

Ask for professional support when you need it. It’s often helpful to talk to someone who is outside your immediate support circle to give you a different perspective and to help you work out practical ways of coping.

Just as you would at work and in social situations, learn to rely on the skills and experience of different people for different needs — no one person can offer everything you need.

Good people to talk to might include:

  • Your family GP.
  • Other doctors or your specialist.
  • An oncology nurse.
  • A social worker, psychologist or counsellor.
  • Your family minister, priest or other spiritual advisor.
  • Members of a cancer support group. Please see the Support section for details.

Our Ovarian Cancer Australia Connect online forum gives you access to a community of compassionate and supportive women who have been touched by ovarian cancer. The forum has a group specifically for women who have recently been diagnosed that can be found here.

The Cancer Council’s Helpline 13 11 20 provides information and support, and may be able to put you in touch with other women who have lived with ovarian cancer.

No matter how tough this journey may become, you never have to travel it alone.

Optimal Care Pathway

In 2015 the Victorian Department of Health and Human services commissioned the Cancer Council Victoria to conduct a review of the optimal care pathway for women undergoing ovarian cancer treatment. The purpose of this pathway is to improve patient outcomes by providing consistent, safe, high quality and evidence based practices to all women undergoing treatment. While treatment for women may vary, the expected standards of care should not differ, regardless of treatment being provided in the public or private service. This pathway should be used to inform and empower women with a  greater understanding of the expectations of care they should receive. For more information please click here.