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Jo-Black-and-White-sml-630x580Joanne Henebery’s story – leading a blessed life (ovarian cancer and all!!)

I have to say that I have always been a very healthy person, trying to eat the right foods, never smoked even a puff of a cigarette and only drinking alcohol very occasionally. The thought of me getting cancer was ludicrous!

I had a hysterectomy in 2006 after being diagnosed with endometriosis. Six months later I developed a very large endometrial cyst consuming my left ovary. It was removed along with my left ovary and was benign. In October 2011, I woke up with a slight tummy ache, had breakfast and started to get ready for work when the pain in my stomach worsened. Instinct told me I needed to get to the hospital so my husband drove me to Caloundra Hospital. After fainting in the emergency room, a barrage of tests were ordered including an ultrasound that revealed a mass and fluid in my abdomen. I was transported to a private hospital and was operated on the following day.

The operation turned out to be quite a major one, the mass and fluid was a very large tumour on my left side that had ruptured. I was operated on by Dr George Bogiaztis in Nambour and the operation had complications as I had lost a lot of blood and needed transfusions. Another surgeon, Dr David College had to be called in as the tumour had surrounded my large bowel on the left side and he had to do a bowel resection to remove it. Five days later the results revealed the tumour was malignant. It was called an Endometrioid Adeno-Carcinoma. Apparently some of the cells from the previous endometrial cyst had been left behind and turned cancerous for whatever reason.

Professor Andreas Obermair operated again on me 6 weeks later in December 2011 where he performed a laparotomy removing my right ovary, lymph nodes, appendix, omentum plus other tissue samples. The results revealed that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes but had spread to my right ovary changing the diagnosis to Stage 2 Ovarian Cancer.

I then saw an Oncologist, Dr John Reardon and commenced chemotherapy on the 31st January 2012. My treatment consisted of 18 weeks of weekly intravenous chemotherapy although this extended throughout the time because of side effects developed throughout the course. I didn’t finish my treatment until the 10th July 2012.

I now have a blood test and see the Professor every 3 months for a check up. I owe my life to the Professor and my other doctors. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for them every day and I know Bill and my children feel exactly the same way!

The experience has subtly changed me in lots of little ways. I try to experience new things and get out of my comfort zone! I try to look after myself with healthy eating and less stressing!

I have always been a positive person and I am sure this attitude made the whole ordeal much easier to cope with and endure! I tried to laugh my way through most of it which worked very well for me! It has made me a stronger person because I hate anyone feeling sorry for me and going through cancer accentuates this reaction from people, even when they don’t mean to. I have always been very independent so accepting help was probably one of the hardest things I had to do.

I care less about what other people might think as I have learnt that we all have and feel the same sort of inadequacies so I try to do what is right for me and my family.

I spend lots of quality time with Bill, my caring, devoted, hard-working husband and my children, Krystle, Eli and Rachael and their husbands/wives/partner, Dario, Lizzie and Aron, along with the rest of my family and friends. Having cancer has certainly made me realize just how lucky I am to have such a supportive and caring network to help me through the hard times.

I feel I am blessed! I am alive, well and still laughing!