Last year, I was rushed to the hospital a day before Passover, following a difficult chemotherapy session. The side effects became so strong that I needed to go into hospital. I lost a lot of weight, I was completely dehydrated, I had fever, and had incredible pain in my leg.
But thanks to a close friend who showed up moments before it all started with all the necessary items to make a banquet, my parents and I sat down around the small wheeled hospital table and started to read. The three of us were crying and reading, crying and reading. It was the saddest Passover I've ever had. This year was different. I was surrounded with light. With my children, my family, with hope and love. And I was overwhelmingly thankful!
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in late 2014. I had had a bloated tummy for a little while, was feeling very full all the time and had lost weight. I went to Accident and Emergency at the weekend - the third time I had visited - and they told me they could feel a mass in my abdomen and sent me for a scan. I had two tumours of 14 cm in diameter. I had extensive surgery a week later to remove as much of the cancer as possible and then started chemotherapy.
The thing with ovarian cancer is that it often recurs. For me it came back just six months after I finished my first round of treatments. My diagnosis has been very difficult, but at the same time it has been a huge eye-opener for me. Don't get me wrong, it's impossibly difficult to be so sick, but at the same time, cancer has changed my perception of the world, and yes, it has brought amazing things to my life. I guess I am learning to appreciate winning small battles, in the grand scheme of things. Being with my family this Passover was a win of its own. It had a magical taste.
Right now I'm working on improving people's awareness of ovarian cancer. Early diagnosis saves lives, and the more people are aware of the symptoms and what to do if they are worried, the more lives will be saved. This World Ovarian Cancer Day I want to pass on my knowledge of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. If I knew then what I know now, I'd tell as many people as I could.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
• Persistent pelvic or abdominal pain (that's your tummy and below)
• Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating - not bloating that comes and goes
• Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
• Needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual
Occasionally there can be other symptoms such as changes in bowel habits, extreme fatigue (feeling very tired), unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite. Any post-menopausal bleeding should always be investigated by a GP. You can find out more information at www.targetovariancancer.org.uk.
Another angle is that I'm Jewish, and in the Jewish community a lot of people have a mutation in their BRCA gene, which makes it more likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer. There is not a lot of awareness of this gene and it can happen in and out of the Jewish community - so I'd like to improve awareness of that too. My mother and grandmother both had breast cancer.
On my end, I have enrolled in a clinical trial in Switzerland that gives me early access to immunotherapy. And I will continue to be positive and strong for my kids.
If I can make one woman aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer this World Ovarian Cancer Day, I will feel that there is a purpose in my journey.
In its fourth year, World Ovarian Cancer Day is a major event that receives global support and has grown larger each year. This year 100 organisations from over 30 countries around the world will work together to raise awareness of ovarian cancer, its symptoms and the learnings of those who have lived with it.
Check out the #KnowNow campaign on social media, and show support for World Ovarian Cancer Day by sharing knowledge and life experiences based around 'if I knew then what I know now...'. These words of wisdom will be shared along with key information about ovarian cancer - what women need to Know Now!