Ovarian cancer: Survivor want to help others

Gail Pullen, who works at Rushden Community College, is an ovarian cancer survivor and is playing a key role in an awareness month for the disease

Gail Pullen, who works at Rushden Community College, is an ovarian cancer survivor and is playing a key role in an awareness month for the disease

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An ovarian cancer survivor says she hopes her experiences dealing with the illness can help others in their battle against it.

Gail Pullen, of Wellingborough, was diagnosed when she was a teenager, but has since made a full recovery.

The 38-year-old is keen people understand the disease, with March marking Ovarian Cancer Action Awareness Month.

A recent survey indicated as many as two thirds of women were not aware of the main symptoms associated with ovarian cancer.

Gail, a modern foreign languages teacher at Rushden Community College, said: “I do WI talks, which is where I do most of the awareness stuff.

“I have been involved in fundraising and support groups, quite a lot of bits and pieces.”

People like Gail are vital parts of charity Ovacome, a support network for people who have been affected by the disease.

She added: “March is always a big month for us. It’s just letting people know of the signs and symptoms and that there’s help and support for them.”

Gail said her own experiences meant she could understand and empathise with other people suffering from the disease.

She said: “Anyone can read stuff on the internet, but someone who’s actually lived through it – it means a little bit more to people.

“I don’t think it’s something you ever get over, you just learn to live your life in a slightly different way.”

Gail was a first-year university student when she was diagnosed in May 1994.

She said: “I feel I was extremely lucky.

“Lucky that my cancer was found, lucky that I had such great doctors and specialists and lucky that I survived to tell the tale.”

And she added: “It’s impacted on the fact I can’t have children. Your life takes some different pathways.

“I firmly believe it was meant to be. Perhaps I wouldn’t have gone into teaching without it.”

Detecting ovarian cancer

The main symptoms are stomach pain, bloated stomach, difficulty eating, feeling full quickly and having to urinate more often.

Gilda Witte, from Ovarian Cancer Action, said: “Many doctors mistake ovarian cancer for irritable bowel syndrome, but there is a difference. Ovarian cancer symptoms are frequent and persistent.

“It’s important to stress that cervical screening doesn’t test for ovarian cancer.”