Survivor Dee Gardner from Colchester tells her story in Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
- Credit: PHIL GAMMON
A Colchester grandmother will hit the catwalk this weekend to highlight the signs of ovarian cancer after her own battle with the disease.
Retired social worker Dee Gardner, 67, had to fight for a diagnosis, visiting her GP almost every month in the year before getting the confirmation in September 2013.
Mother-of-three Ms Gardner had not considered she could have the disease as she wrongly thought her ovaries had been removed during a hysterectomy in her 30s.
She was experiencing “classic symptoms”, such as bloating, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and toilet changes, but her doctor wrongly diagnosed her with various conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, reflux and urine infections.
It wasn’t until Ms Gardner was rushed to A&E in excruciating pain that a scan revealed a 10cm tumour.
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Ms Gardner, who used to work in palliative care at Saint Francis Hospice in Romford, has undergone surgery and chemotherapy to tackle the ovarian cancer.
Having lost a brother to prostate cancer, Ms Gardner more recently decided to have the BRCA test to see if she carried the faulty gene which predisposes women to ovarian and breast cancer - which came back positive.
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This November Ms Gardner had a preventive double mastectomy, which confirmed she had pre-cancerous breast tissue.
“I’ve been so lucky and now want to share my story so that other men and women know what to look out for,” said Ms Gardner, who volunteers for the Cancer User Group at the Colchester Hospital.
Tomorrow she is taking part in the Touch of Teal fashion show by charity Ovacome which aims to raise awareness about ovarian cancer and its symptoms.
“This is hugely out of my comfort zone, but the rehearsal was wonderful,” Ms Gardner added. “It made me feel that I am still here as a woman, not just my diagnosis, and actually I don’t look too bad. It has also allowed me to give something back and say to women watching ‘come on girls and ladies look after yourself’. You can spot this disease if you know what to look out for.”
Ms Gardner has told her story in Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
You can sponsor Ms Gardner on JustGiving.Anyone concerned about ovarian cancer can contact Ovacome’s freephone support line on 0800 008 7054.