Jane finds our services invaluable

On Valentine’s Day, 2015, Jane Metcalfe and husband Rob Bolton were married. What most of their guests didn’t know was that Jane had been diagnosed with cancer just days earlier, and that the following day she would learn her prognosis.

“I had had no symptoms whatsoever,” said Jane, of Heworth. “A week before Christmas I went for a routine smear and at New Year the GP contacted me to say they had found some abnormal cells, but he didn’t think it was serious.”

That early optimism gave way to concern. An ultrasound detected a possible cyst, but blood tests found an ovarian cancer marker at very high levels.  A CT scan suggested a cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes, and a biopsy was taken for a final diagnosis to be made.

Jane and Rob went ahead with their wedding while awaiting those results, and stayed quiet about her illness in order to enjoy their big day.

The newlyweds returned home to grim news: the cancer also threatened Jane’s bowel. The tumour was large and inoperable, but might shrink with chemotherapy. “That was really hard,” said Jane; but at last, fortune was on her side. After intensive chemotherapy, surgery was allowed to proceed.

“The consultant rang Rob after the operation and said they considered it had gone very well. Because I was quite thin, they were able to look around and get everything out.” Sadly, they had had to include some intestinal surgery, and Jane faced a difficult recovery.

“After the operation, it was awful,” she recalled. “I was used to being a fit, active person, - we used to go to Scotland regularly and always tried to fit in some Munro bagging. I went in to hospital alert and came out fragile. But I did handle the treatment reasonably well and tried to be as good a patient as I could be.”

Further chemotherapy followed, and by September she could visit York Against Cancer’s Whitby respite apartment. “It was my first trip out and we had four absolutely fabulous days. Just to be able to walk on the beach, its location was wonderful. The flat is bright and the facilities are gorgeous, and within 20 minutes you can be in Whitby looking around the shops. There is also a cliff walk that is flat and you are soon out in the country.”

Jane had further, planned, intestinal surgery just before Christmas, and is gradually adjusting to life in recovery.  “For the first two months I didn’t feel confident to leave the house,” she said. “I still get tired, which is understandable.”

However, Jane is getting stronger, helped by exercise classes that are a part of a recovery package supported by York Against Cancer. “The exercises are tailored to the individual and it is definitely worth sticking to the programme,” she said.

During her chemotherapy treatment Jane used a cold cap, a treatment that helps people keep their hair. She found it very cold but recommends wearing fleeces, gloves and scarves to preserve body warmth.

She managed to keep enough hair to make wearing a head scarf feasible, and her hairdresser helped her manage the regrowth, keeping her hair short. Jane also took part in the Look Good, Feel Better make-up lessons offered through York Against Cancer and the Cancer Care Centre.

 ”That was really great,” she said. “We all met, feeling quite shy, and went to have the lesson. By the time it was half way through everyone was relaxed, sitting and chatting. It was quite sustaining and everyone is so supportive of one another – and it is just nice to have a bit of pampering.

 “For a lot of people, cancer comes out of the blue, and it is life-changing. But if you use the support systems that are there, it just makes it an easier journey, and York Against Cancer is part of that,” said Jane.

Jane’s latest check-up showed her progress has been good. Now, she is enjoying the British summer, recently going to the wonderful Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Leeds - and further ahead, she’s looking forward to a long-awaited honeymoon in the Caribbean.

“I am just starting to feel a bit better, and looking back, I recognise how valuable the additional care is alongside the medical treatment. It is space and time that is yours and it helps you as an individual. I think the charity does a fabulous job.”