Before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year, Luton veterinary radiographer Sue Whitfield was told initially she had gastritis, then a duodenal ulcer.
“Looking back, I’m astonished I wasn’t more aware of the symptoms,” she said. “I’d seen all sorts of cancers when I worked for the NHS and thought I was reasonably well informed, but I can’t ever remember seeing what to look out for with ovarian cancer.
“Of course as soon as I was diagnosed I saw Macmillan posters all over the place.”
Now the 47-year-old who lives in Leagrave High Street is determined to raise awareness not only among women but also GPs.
“I’m on a campaign to inform them,” she smiled.
Sue – along with colleagues Frankie, Nichole and Laura, plus four-legged friends Dennis and Tinks – is taking part in the Walk for One Million at Hatfield House on Saturday, October 11 for the charity Target Ovarian Cancer.
Her modest target of £300 has already reached £1,400 but she believes it’s as important to spread the word as it is to ask for sponsorship.
Sue doesn’t have an ounce of self pity and is very matter-of-fact about what lies ahead.
She said: “I never thought ‘It’s not fair - why me?’ It’s just something you have to deal with.
“I’ve been very fortunate so far, everything is fine. Late stage ovarian cancer is incurable, but it’s treatable.
“I’ve had surgery and six cycles of chemotherapy over 18 weeks.
“My cancer is stage 3 so the assumption is that at some point it will come back. But that could be weeks, months – maybe even years.
“I still get pains in my feet from the drugs which can cause nerve damage in the toes. But I’m back at work and feeling much better than I did before.”
Sue was bloated and uncomfortable last September when she took herself off to an out-of-hours GP. He diagnosed gastritis and told her to cut down on tea, coffee and alcohol.
“It seemed to ease off,” she recalled. “But four weeks later I looked like I was carrying a litter.
“I was told it might be a duodenal ulcer but I ended up in A&E where they did a scan.
“I’d put on 3kg in a week and it was all fluid. Then I knew we were looking at something fairly serious.” She had a total hysterectomy. Her ovaries, the tumour and tissue from the abdominal cavity were also removed.
“It is what it is,” she said philosophically. “But I’ve been lucky to have brilliant support from my friends and colleagues.”
> Sponsor Sue at www.justgiving.com/suewhitfield1967