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This online resource was created to provide information for adolescents and young women with ovarian cancer.

It is based on the stories and advice of young women. It covers the sorts of things they told us they would have liked to know at the time of diagnosis and beyond – for example, about fertility, dealing with body image concerns and managing relationships. It provides useful advice and tips for other young women going through similar experiences.

It complements and builds on the information available from Ovarian Cancer Australia, including the young women’s section of our website and our Resilience Kit.

Acknowledgements

This resource was developed though a generous donation from Jane Enter and family. The donation was made in memory of her daughter Georgia, who had small cell ovarian cancer, a very rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer. Jane wanted young women diagnosed with ovarian cancer to know that they are not alone. She also wanted to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ where they could get lots of practical information.

This resource was researched and written by Spiri Tsintziras on behalf of Ovarian Cancer Australia.

We would like to thank the people who have shared their personal stories with us in order to support others experiencing a similar situation. Please read their stories below.

Personal stories

Christine Bellis
Michelle Gonzalez

Brydie Harper
Marilyn Harper

Diagnosis

The lead up to diagnosis

It’s not uncommon for young women to feel that it’s been a long journey in the lead up to a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

Some women have had other conditions before their diagnosis, such as polycystic ovaries or endometriosis over the course of some years; others may have had only a few (or even no) symptoms. Because ovarian cancer is very unusual in very young women, it can take time to diagnose.

“Georgia went to four GPs, a naturopath and had many blood tests. She was diagnosed with candida, coeliac, a possible eating disorder and many other things, but not ever ovarian cancer.” Jane (Georgia’s mother)

 

Sometimes young women report feeling unheard or brushed off. It’s important to follow up your concerns until you are satisfied, particularly if your symptoms do not go away over a lengthy period of time.

“If you feel there is something wrong with your body, you actually know it. Don’t push it to the back of your mind, don’t just blow it off. If it’s not normal, get it checked. My only symptom was pain during intercourse. It took me three months to go and see my doctor about it. If I’d ignored my symptoms, who knows, I might not even be here.” Christine

 

More information

  • If you are looking at this site because you are worried that the symptoms you are having might be ovarian cancer, see our awareness section.

 

Ovarian cancer in very young women

“I knew that what my daughter was experiencing wasn’t quite normal. But oh my god, I can’t believe we’re now in an oncologist’s room.” Marilyn (Brydie’s mother)

 

How common is ovarian cancer in very young women?

Ovarian cancer can affect women of any age, but over 80% of women are over the age of 50. According to the figures detailed in the Gynaecological cancer in Australia: an overview 2012 from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, only 3% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are under the age of 30.

 

Common types of ovarian cancer in very young women

The more common ovarian cancer types include:

  • epithelial cell
  • germ-cell
  • small-cell.

 

A borderline tumour – is it cancer?

“When you Googled borderline ovarian tumours, there was some literature that said it was debatable whether it was ovarian cancer, and other that said that it definitely was. That was a bit confusing. I thought to myself, if it’s not, then why are we seeing an oncologist?” Marilyn

 

More information

  • The younger women’s section of our website includes information for women with ovarian cancer under 50.
  • Online information about germ-cell ovarian tumours is available from Canteen’s Now What website for young people affected by cancer.

 

The ‘’Dr Google” trap

“I did Google a lot. It raised my anxiety. Pretty much ovarian cancer is known as ‘the silent killer’, and that a high percentage of women who get diagnosed die within the first five years. Definitely not able to have any children – that’s what you see on Google.” Brydie

 

It’s natural to want to hit ‘’Dr Google” to find out more about ovarian cancer once you’ve been diagnosed. The problem with general searches is that they are general – this means that they do not give you information about your particular situation.

“I know that a lot of information online is complete and utter garbage. Unless you go to credible sources – unless you look at peer-reviewed journals, or get information from credible organisations – don’t take it as literal.” Michelle

 

It may help to remember that there are different types of ovarian cancer, different grades and stages, and different treatments. Your doctor will make treatment decisions based on your individual situation.

“The information about ovarian cancer online is just so mixed – you’ve got one website telling you something horrible, and another telling you something not so horrible. Initially I was looking at everything and anything – but then I tried to be a bit more rational, and mainly looked for patient information that was more readable.” Marilyn

 

Tips for getting reputable information

  • See the various resources and websites listed in Ovarian Cancer Australia’s Resilience Kit and on our website or ring us on 1300 660 334.
  • Look for information from nationally or internationally recognised expert bodies. Often these bodies have patient information on their websites. Look for information from reputable medical journals if you want to go into more depth.
  • Start a list of questions for your doctor so that any concerns are addressed promptly. You may also contact the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20. They have nurse counsellors on staff who specialise in providing accessible cancer information.

 

Treatment

Common treatments for ovarian cancer

Your treatment will depend on the size of the tumour, what type it is, and where it is. Treatment may involve:

  • surgery
  • chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy
  • hormonal treatments.

Tips for managing chemotherapy

It can take a few months to get back to a normal after chemotherapy. Women say that it may feel like it’s not going to end, but it does.

  • It can take some time to get your taste back after some types of chemotherapy. Drinking tea can help while you wait for your tastebuds to recover.
  • Eating will help you get your energy back. This can be hard when you feel nauseous. It may help to have small, regular snacks such as cut up fruit, a few crackers or soup.
  • It’s important to drink lots of water, even if you don’t want to.
  • When you feel like it, get out as much as you can.

More information

  • Online information about the effects of cancer is available from Canteen’s Now What website for young people affected by cancer. This has been created from the stories and experiences of young people. It covers topics like whether their feelings are normal, managing relationships, and gives tips on coping with changes to their body as a result of treatments.
  • Fact sheets on various cancer treatments and their effects are available from Cancer Council Australia, as well as those in each state and territory. Phone the Cancer Council on 13 11 20 if you want to talk to a cancer nurse about anything to do with cancer, or ring us on 1300 660 334 for specific information on ovarian cancer.

 

Communicating with your treatment team

Is this really happening to me?

“The gynaecologist told me that during my operation they found some ovarian cancer cells. I started laughing. The oncologist said, ‘I don’t think you’re registering what’s going on. We’d better bring your mum in.’” Brydie

 

It is very common not to hear, understand or remember everything that has been said in a consultation involving bad news. At the time of being told you have ovarian cancer, you may have felt shock or disbelief. It takes time to process the news, and it’s natural to feel confused and overwhelmed in the first weeks and months after a diagnosis.

“I was feeling so overwhelmed by all the information that I had never had time to process and broke down. I felt hurt, confused, scared, and worried.” Christine

 

It may help to try and take it one step at a time.

“Ask yourself, what do I need to do next? Don’t think about possible surgeries, what might happen in the next weeks or months; just get through today, get through an appointment, get through a procedure.” Christine

 

Communication with your treatment team

It is important to establish good communication with the health care professionals involved in your treatment. Many young women say this helps them manage their anxieties.

“We would contact the gynaecological oncologist either via her office, or via email. It might just be to ask things like, “This is happening, is this normal?” Marilyn

 

In very stressful situations, it’s hard to think straight. While a lot may be going through your mind, it’s not always easy to know which questions to ask.

“Everybody has questions – but they don’t often know which ones to ask in the moment of panic; about fertility; the effects of chemo; quality of life… You, or whoever is going in with your daughter, should always have questions prepared for the oncologist. After the appointment, the support person can talk about what was actually said, rather than what they think was said.” Jane

 

You may find that you have to ask the same questions over and over again before you fully understand the answer. It usually helps to write your questions down before your appointments.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking a million and one questions – every time I go to see the gynaecological oncologist, or the fertility clinic, always I have my little list of questions. That way you get your questions answered quickly, and you don’t have to hop onto Dr Google and freak out.” Michelle

 

Tips to help with communication and understanding information

  • Talk with your doctor about the best way to communicate with them if you have any concerns or question in between appointments – is email, phoning or text best? Can you leave a message for them directly, or will you need to contact them through their office?
  • Write down your questions before each consultation. For a list of general questions, refer to page 63 of our Resilience Kit.
  • Invite a support person to attend appointments with you. They can ask any questions that you may forget, and can also take notes on your behalf.
  • Ask the doctor if you can record the consultation so that you can listen to it again at a later time.

 

Fertility

The question of fertility

“(Having children is) something very important to me, and if, in the end I need to have a hysterectomy, or if I can’t for whatever reason have kids, I want to know for myself that we’ve tried every option.” Brydie

 

Having ovarian cancer often brings the question of fertility forward for young women. You may find yourself asking: ‘Do I want to have kids? What if I can’t have kids in future? And why do I have to think about this now?’

“The gynaecologist has asked me ‘What’s your idea of fertility?’ It’s something I had never thought about before.” Michelle

 

Making decisions

There are a lot of things to think about – and it may be hard make decisions about fertility at a time when you are also trying to come to terms with your diagnosis, and thinking about treatment.

“For an eighteen year-old to conceive of never having to conceive is just too far into the future and the shock of having cancer makes the present the priority. But the future comes. Be prepared. The things to take into account are whether you can harvest eggs, whether the ovary can be spared…it’s good to be informed about this and make decisions with that knowledge.” Jane

 

Even if you don’t want to make decisions about children right now, or don’t plan to have children at all, young women (and mums) often say it helps to keep your options open.

“Just before I started chemo, I had an injection that shut down my ovaries to put me in temporary menopause so that my eggs wouldn’t be affected. The treatment shouldn’t affect my fertility. By the third month after chemo, my periods came back. Now I am seeing a fertility specialist. We are going to put some eggs away. It’s a reassurance thing.” Natasha

 

Tips for exploring your fertility options

  • You can talk about your fertility options with your treating doctor. They may need to take factors into consideration such as how quickly your cancer is growing, your age and your general health.
  • You can ask to be referred to a counsellor, or a fertility clinic, so that you can explore your options. For fertility clinics available, see our website.

 

More information

  • Maybe Later Baby is a booklet produced by Canteen, and is a guide to fertility for young people with cancer. You can download it or order a free copy from their website.
  • Can I still have children? Fertility options for young women having chemotherapy and radiotherapy is a booklet produced by The Royal Women’s Hospital Melbourne and is available to download from their website
  • Fertility and Cancer: A guide for people with cancer, their family is a booklet produced by the Cancer Council NSW and is available to download from their website.

 

Body changes

It’s usual to experience a range of changes to your body as a result of having ovarian cancer, surgery or hormone treatments.

“After the surgery, I was a bit self-conscious about the scar. But then I thought, you know what? Battle scars, battle scars. Now I don’t really care. As long as I’m healthy, that’s the main thing.” Michelle

The impact of chemotherapy on your body can be particularly hard:

“On Valentine’s Day, when she was due to go out with her boyfriend, her hair fell out in clumps in the shower. Georgia’s hair was her crowning glory. It made her feel feminine. Her Godfather shaved her head. She hid in bed, too upset to show me. Too upset to go out. It was not a Happy Valentine’s day.” Jane

Tips for dealing with the effects of chemotherapy

  • Talk to a nurse (or following hospital treatment, your GP) about what you can do about the side-effects that are most concerning you.

More information

  • Online information and tips on dealing with cancer treatment side effects is available from Canteen, as well the information booklet A young person’s guide to dealing with cancer
  • For help with self-confidence during and after cancer treatment, the Look Good…Feel Better program has a dedicated teen website, tips for women and workshops for women and teens having chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
  • Wig libraries are run from some Cancer Councils. Call them on 13 11 20.

 

People around you

“My mood swings are crazy (with the hormones) sometimes. My poor dad, living with three women and having to put up with a hormonal, crazy daughter!Brydie

The people around you play a big role in the way you deal with what may often feel like a roller-coaster ride as you move from diagnosis, to treatment, to recovery.

Family

 “I had a lot of support through family. Even though I don’t have any family where I live, I got a lot of support over the phone. My parents were very calm to my face, but I know it was hard for them. Dad wouldn’t show too much emotion, but at home he’d pace around.” Emma

 

It’s not unusual to feel concerned for your family, and to sometimes hold back in talking about things that worry you. Occasionally, it may feel as if you are ‘holding them up’, as well as yourself.

“I can’t imagine what it must be like for parents to be told that your 20 year-old-daughter has cancer. I didn’t want to put too much up on them, didn’t want to bring them down.” Brydie

 

It is important to talk about your feelings where possible. If this sometimes feel hard, it may help to talk to a counsellor.

If we talk about it, people around the woman, their fathers, their brothers, and their partners can support them in any way they can. Cancer is so common these days. For people to go, ‘We can’t talk about it, let’s shut it out,’ it just doesn’t help.” Christine

 

More information

  • Resources for family and friends, including a booklet with practical tips on how others can help you is available from our website.
  • Information for carers of young women with ovarian cancer is available on our website

 

Friends

“My friends are all quite good. We’ve got a mutual friend who has had bone cancer so we’ve been around it before – It was a shock, but it wasn’t too awkward.” Emma

 

Friends can offer emotional support, as well as practical support.

“My friends and family would get my mind off things when I was overthinking. They took me out in the fresh air, to the local park, or the beach, regularly, even if I didn’t always feel like it. At the time I was sometimes irritated, but afterwards I was thankful for it.” Natasha

 

Dealing with different reactions

Not everyone will offer you the support that you need. It can be sometimes be challenging for friends and acquaintances.

“I did lose a lot of friends when I was diagnosed. I guess a lot of people don’t understand it and they can’t handle it so they back off. Also, it was It was like, ‘Brydie can’t go out’, and so I wouldn’t hear from them. I couldn’t keep up, couldn’t do what everyone else was doing.” Brydie

 

You may find that you get a range of reactions from friends that are hard to deal with: disbelief, ignoring that you have cancer, or avoiding you altogether. Young women said it could be particularly hard because of their age, and the ‘private’ nature of ovarian cancer.

“I think some people thought, ‘Oh don’t be ridiculous, you can’t possibly have that diagnosis, you’re only young. You’re probably making it all up’. People still don’t believe that young people get cancer.Marilyn

 

Common reactions can include:

  • avoiding you because they don’t know what to say, or because you don’t have the energy to go out or do the things you normally do
  • talking about everything else but the ‘c’ word
  • talking about the cancer all the time and making you out to be the ‘sick girl’.

Tips for dealing with difficult situations

  • Try to ask for what you need – Would you like a friend to accompany you to chemotherapy? Go for a walk to the local park? Come and watch a movie, even if you doze off in the middle of it? Often people are relieved to be able to help in practical ways.
  • Let your friends know that you are still available to talk on the phone or online, even if you don’t have the energy to go out – and that you appreciate them touching base with you.
  • Ask a friend to keep others updated via social media, email or text about how you are if you are getting too many phone calls or messages.
  • Let people know that sometimes you don’t have the energy to talk – but that you appreciate their being around and doing the things you normally enjoy together when you are up for it.

More information

  • A guide to supporting your friend when they have cancer is an information booklet produced by Canteen, and is available to download from their website.

 

Partners

“I asked my boyfriend why he was still around, as he could leave me at any time to find someone else who didn’t have all these problems. He hugged me and said ‘I love you. I’ve been here all this time – why would I leave now?” Christine

 

If you have a partner, their reactions may range from disbelief, concern for you, and worry about both of you as a couple. You may have to talk about commitment and fertility – even if it wasn’t yet on your agenda. Partners may not always know how to talk about these things or know how to deal with them.

“There were a few times with my boyfriend just didn’t comprehend the gravity of it. I had him come along to an Ovarian Cancer Australia forum and that there was the eye opener – it made him realise that this is actually real. That got us both on the same page. That’s when the support and understanding got better.” Michelle

 

Tips for communicating with partners

  • Try and be clear about what you need from your partner.
  • Reassure your partner that sometimes it’s okay just to listen, rather than trying to ‘fix’ things for you.
  • Give your partner as much information as you think he/she will need or can cope with.
  • Encourage your partner to get support from her/his friends or other people around them.

More information

  • A guide to supporting your partner when they have cancer is an information booklet produced by Canteen, and is available for download or to order from their website.
  • Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer: A guide for people with cancer, their families and friends is an information booklet produced by Cancer Council and is available for download or to order from their website.

 

Other young women with ovarian cancer

“It would help to speak with someone who has been through it. When I was first diagnosed, I was trying to find someone of a younger age group to talk to.” Emma

 

Young women have said that speaking with others who have been through a similar experience can help them feel like there is someone who understands. It may be that you meet other young women with ovarian cancer informally, or you seek people out through a support group or an online connection.

“I met women in the chemotherapy centre. It’s nice to speak to someone who is going through a similar situation to you.” Natasha

 

Others however may not feel like speaking to other people with cancer – there is not right or wrong way to go. It’s up to you.

“Sometimes connecting with others can be comforting, but other times, it’s like, God, ‘I’m 18 years old, I do not want to be dealing with this…’ You have to go with what works for you – everyone is different.” Jane

 

More information

  • We hold a tele-support group over the phone for women no matter their location, as well as an online forum. There is also a range of ovarian cancer support groups listed on our website.
  • In Australia, online peer support especially for young people with cancer is available from Canteen (12-24-year-olds) and The Warwick Cancer Foundation (18-40-year-olds).
  • In the United States, the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance has an online forum called the Inspire community. This has a broad range of discussions going on, as well as a special section for young survivors.

Life matters

Managing emotions and worry

Dealing with the rollercoaster of emotions

“There were a few times, I’d be at home by myself, and completely out of nowhere, I’d be bawling my eyes out into my pillow. I had no idea why. It was just time to unload I guess. It’s healthy.Michelle

 

During the time of diagnosis, treatment and recovery, it is natural to feel a range of strong emotions. Even if you feel ‘on top of things’ some or most of the time, strong emotions can take you by surprise, even months afterwards.

“There would be times I would be crying and I didn’t know why I was crying. One day I was watching The Block – and someone dropped a hammer – and I cried for 10 minutes. I was thinking, ‘Why the hell are you crying?’ You’re told about the mood swings with some hormone treatments, and you expect it to some extent, but not to that degree.” Brydie

 

Some women say that it helps to try and keep to their normal routines, and to keep their mind busy.

“In the weeks after treatment, I needed to keep my mind busy, otherwise I’d find myself thinking about it too much. I was thinking about everything…what if we can’t conceive, and then we’ll have to go through IVF, and the financial stuff that you don’t need, and ‘Oh my God, did this really happen?’” Emma

“Keep to your normal routines as much as you can – get out of bed, get dressed, go for a walk, even if you have to come back to bed later!” Christine

 

Seeing a counsellor

“I did have a bout of depression last year but I have since come off anti-depressants. I think everything that happened just caught up with me. Going to my support group has helped. Seeing a counsellor helped massively too.” Christine

 

Young women said it often helped to speak with a counsellor. This was good because they could talk about their worries and ‘vent’ a little with someone who wasn’t family or a friend.

“Sometimes, when you’re when you speaking to people about the treatment it, you can just tell that you should probably stop because they may have heard about it too many times – which I can completely understand, especially with friends and family that were around me every single day … Towards the end of chemo, which was one of my darkest times, I did speak to a counsellor over two or three sessions. My mum asked a nurse and she gave us a number. It was just nice to speak with someone who hadn’t heard my situation and who could listen to my problems.” Natasha

 

Tips for finding a counsellor

  • Speak to a hospital nurse or social worker on your treatment team to refer you to a counsellor who specialises in speaking to people with cancer.
  • Access Canteen’s free online and phone counselling.
  • Contact a nurse counsellor at the Cancer Council on 13 11 20.
  • Find a psychologist in your area through the Australian Psychological Society search engine.
  • Speak to your GP about a Mental Health Care Plan. These plans offer up to 10 subsidised visits with a mental health professional such as a counsellor, psychologist or specially trained social worker.

 

Money, work and study

Getting back to work or study

While you are having treatment for cancer, it may seem your life is on ‘hold’.

“If I hadn’t been diagnosed, I would have finished my degree by now. I hate that it’s not finished. Everything is happening a bit slower now that what I have originally planned.” Brydie

 

It may take some weeks or months for you to get back into normal routines. Getting back to work or study may take some getting used to. It is important to care for yourself physically and emotionally, particularly in the early days of your return to work.

When I returned to work, I got tired a lot more easily, but now it’s back to normal. I’m just a bit more cautious. It’s still only a new surgery, so I try not to hurt myself.” Emma

 

Communicating with people at work may at times be awkward – sometimes people say that their work colleagues were uncomfortable.

“I worked when I could, except when I have to take time off for surgeries.  When people asked at work, are you OK, I would be, ‘Well, actually, I’m not OK’.  I don’t think women should have to put a brave face on it.Christine

“My employer was very supportive. They gave me four months off. A lot of my work colleagues came and visited me in the hospital. A year later, it hasn’t impacted my work. No one has treated me differently. You don’t want to be known as the girl that had, or has, cancer – it’s just something that happens, you do what you have to do, and then you get on with things.” Natasha

 

Financial challenges

Taking time off work may also pose financial challenges.

“I had taken annual leave to cover the nine weeks I was off work, but that only covered half of the time. Then we had to live off my partner’s 29-hour a week wage. It was definitely a struggle for a few weeks there– it put a lot whole lot more stress on the whole situation.Emma

“At the time finances were difficult, because I went from working two part time jobs, to doing nothing. RedKite helped with day to day expenses like utilities. They also gave me a grant to help with study expenses. That really sealed the deal with the return to normality – I was back at uni, and back to normal.” Michelle

 

You may need support to ease back into your normal work or study routines. The resources and organisations below can help.

More information

  • Once-off educational grants are available from Redkite to help with study costs. Redkite can link you up with educational consultants to help with short-term education and career goal-setting. They provide financial assistance with utilities and help with links to financial counsellors.
  • Cancer, Work & You: A guide for people with cancer, their families and friends is an information booklet from Cancer Council NSW, which is available from their website, along with general information for employees and employers.

 

Life after treatment

Making changes

“I’ve had to grow up quite quickly. I was 22 when I got diagnosed. Now I need to start getting things into perspective. I can’t go out every weekend drinking, or sitting at home moping. I need to get my life sorted and think about myself instead of other people for once.” Christine

 

Many women say that coming out the other end of an ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment has prompted them to make positive changes in their lives.

“I try and be positive and do different activities – I’ve just joined a dance school. After all this, I thought ‘Why not?’ It helps me to get out any frustrations, and for an hour it helps me forget about everything.” Emma

“One year down the track, I feel great. I’m back at work, and I’m studying. I’m exercising a lot more nowadays, doing fun runs. I’m getting out and about – I think I’ve spent enough time inside! My mind set has changed. I don’t take things for granted.” Natasha

 

It may take time for symptoms associated with cancer treatment to settle down. It may help to speak with your treatment team of GP about any symptoms that are concerning you.

More information

Resources and organisations

“When I was in the gynaecology oncologist’s office, I remember seeing pamphlets about Ovarian Cancer Australia. So I got in contact and they sent me the little Resilience pack. I was able to give a couple of those packs to my mum, and my boyfriend.” Michelle

 

There are many organisations available to help – they provide short-term counselling to help you through the tough times, peer support and financial help. During the early stages of diagnosis, you may be travelling on adrenalin as you try and get through your treatment and the many appointments you may have to attend. Often people say that it’s when treatment finishes that everything really hits them. This may be a good time to find some more support.

“(OnTrac at Peter Mac) had a psychologist, a counsellor who I was able to speak to – and I was able to really vent. Talk, talk, talk. Everything I had on my mind that was weighing me down, everything that was scaring me, it was gone, out! It was good to be able to talk with someone who knows what’s going on.” Michelle

 

If you don’t feel like contacting organisations yourself, you can ask a hospital nurse or social worker, or family and friends to do it for you.

Find out more here.

Information for carers

The important role of carers

Many young women talk about how important they find the support of family and friends. This includes carers attending appointments, acting as their voice, providing day-to-day support and helping them get through the emotional ups and downs.

“When we were told about the tumour, Dad sort of took it okay, probably because of the reassuring tone of the doctor. He was like, ‘Well, we need to get her better.’ Mum broke down as soon as she heard the word chemotherapy. Both my parents were with me during the consultations and then through the surgery and recovery. They went through everything with me.” Natasha

 

Close family members will go through their own strong emotions; disbelief, fear and concern to name a few.

“It was challenging have been in processing the information – what does it mean? Is it life threatening? Are we doing the right thing? Have we chosen the right doctors? Are we supporting her to make the right decisions around treatment? Do we do the Zolodex? What are the long term effects? And having to help her manage her feelings and anxieties. Managing our family’s reaction to it. And the whole fertility thing. Should we be looking at harvesting eggs? These are all the things that go through your mind.” Marilyn

 

Dependence versus independence

“It’s the nature of it, it’s gyne, it’s personal. She feels she needs to be quite protected around this. There was never an option that I wouldn’t be there. In the lead-up to procedures, I would ask, ‘How can I support you? Do you want me to come in with you or do you prefer me to sit outside here?” Marilyn

 

Even though the young woman in your life may now be an adult, she may become more dependent on you – asking you to stay in hospital with her during treatment, or attending appointments with her.

“Hospitals need to realise that if young people get a frightening diagnosis, they need someone to be there with them in the night. I think this is a very humane and normal thing to want. You can stay overnight with a sick kid, but you can’t stay with your 18-year-old. I said it’s her request and I’m staying. Your child is supposedly an adult, yet they are regressed in some ways, while still trying to separate and individual from you. I think parents need help and support to manage the delicate dance between these polarities.” Jane

 

Looking after yourself

The process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery can be emotionally and physically draining. It’s important to try and look after yourself as best you can during this time.

“I found that going with what (my daughter) needed, and going with what was good for her, was good for me.” Jane

 

Tips for looking after yourself

  • Recognise that in order for you to care for your daughter, you’ve got to care for yourself.
  • Draw on family, friends and or professional support to help with emotional upheaval. See the tips on finding a counsellor here.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, as often people around you are looking for practical ways to be useful. Perhaps you can ask close friend or family members to take your daughter to some appointments, or help with the housework and cooking for example.
  • Keeping a regular journal may help you get things out of your head, get clarity and even form questions that you want to ask the treatment team.

More information

  • Resources for family and friends, including a booklet with practical tips on how others can help you, is available from our website.

More resources and support services have been listed within each section of this site. If you want to speak with someone about your experience, or to ask any questions that are not answered here, you call Ovarian Cancer Australia on 1300 660 334 or email [email protected].