In the winter of 2002, Wendy a fit and independent 52 year old woman who has a career first in nursing and then for many years in health planning and management in Auckland and overseas, had a cough that would not go away.
Wendy went back and forth to her GP had a gastroscopy that found nothing, and her GP suggested a second opinion.
She knew something was wrong when she couldn’t keep up with her friends and had to ask them to ‘slow down’. Her GP talked to a colleague at Green Lane Hospital.
Wendy had a Chest X-ray that showed her right lung was full of fluid, they drained it that day and tested the fluid, the following day the Respiratory Consultant told her she had cancer but not of the lung.
Wendy had Ovarian Cancer Stage IV, that had invaded her lung and abdomen cavity. Wendy had an operation to remove the tumor, followed by six doses of chemotherapy. While having her chemo, Wendy sat with a drip in one arm and a pile of papers she was working on in the other. She then had three years of ‘normal’ life.
Wendy attended the ‘Look good, feel good' sessions at the Cancer Society, and went back to work and continued to do very well.
Just before Easter 2006 Wendy presented with what looked like a nasty ear infection, staggering, nausea and the dizziness - due for a CT Scan that day her doctor suggested she call 111 to get into hospital fast. Wendy just thought this nothing other than a particularly bad middle ear infection. An MRI scan showed her distress was caused by a walnut-sized brain tumor caused by a rogue ovarian secondary cancer cell.
Wendy was shattered, at first she thought it was the beginning of the end, but then you just keep on going. Her philosophy didn’t change ‘I accept your diagnosis but I reject your prognosis’. The treatment was harder, she was advised to take 3 months off work, steroids got her in shape for another huge operation on her head to remove the tumour and surrounding cyst, followed by 25 doses of radiotherapy . At this time, CT scan showed more secondary tumors in her abdomen - post radiation chemotherapy followd for 5 cycles. This time Wendy had a potential extra weapon, the DMXAA-laced chemotherapy. A locally developed ground breaking cancer trial drug, her Oncologist Michelle Vaughan knew of. The trial involved patients with relapsed ovarian cancer. Auckland only had two slots and in the fall of the electronic dice, Wendy was fortunate to received the drug. Having this trial drug also made Wendy think about what it may do for women further down the track and what have i got to lose? With the conventional chemotherapy successive scans showed the tumors shrinking away, with the addition of the DMXAA her tumors appeared to disappear completely from sight.
Wendy was in remission until July 2007 when her CA125 started to rise, by September 2007, a further encapsulated tumour was found by her rectum. She is currently on chemotherapy and possibly will have surgery early next year, followed by more chemotherapy post-surgery. Meanwhile she continues on - “accepting the prognosis, rejecting the diagnosis”, however, she is very much aware that it will recur.
A big thank you to Barbara Dodd, for this charming, donated photo of Wendy:
Barbara Dodd | Photographer | Captured in Print