A STRABANE woman who was twice told that she did not have cancer has had to spend the past year battling the disease, following a late diagnosis.
Rosaleen Duffy (65) had to press her case with medics for six months before she was eventually diagnosed with Stage 3C High Grade Serous Ovarian/Fallopian Tube Cancer in January of last year – just as she was on the verge of stepping into retirement.
This week Mrs Duffy’s son, Barry is campaigning for a better awareness of this particular form of cancer because, as his mum’s case has demonstrated, it can often go overlooked.
“The problem with ovarian cancer is that it’s much harder to detect,” Barry explained.
“My mum had been going to the doctor for six months before she was diagnosed. And that is the case for many women with advanced ovarian cancer. Doctors and consultants tend to look at other things.
“She had been told twice at Altnagelvin that she didn’t have cancer. And we were relieved about that. But if it wasn’t for herself and her persistence, she might never have been diagnosed. She knew there was something wrong.
“I don’t know what the situation would have been six months earlier, had she been diagnosed then.”
In the end, a CT scan detected the cancer, which Barry added, his mother had to “more or less demand.”
He continued, “What I am saying is: There are symptoms there to look out for. But if you’re being seen by a GP or specialist, always push it to the very end so that they can tell you in no uncertain terms that it’s not cancer.”
Barry also paid tribute to his mother’s strength. After undergoing a major operation and then six months of chemotherapy, he says she is now doing OK. Unfortunately, at a check-up in February, specialist noticed a slight reoccurrence of the cancer and the local lady now faces a further six months of chemo.
“The diagnoses came later than we would have liked but she’s doing OK at the moment,” Barry remarked. “She went through a massive operation in February 2020 where she partially lost ten organs. It was major, major surgery.
“She was in hospital for three weeks after the op. And then had six months of chemo from April to August. She had a CT in September which was clear. But in her most recent in February, there is a bit of recurrence. So she has to go for another six months of chemotherapy.”
Mrs Duffy, who was a classroom assistant at St Mary’s Primary School, Cloughcor, lost three stones in weight between the operation and the aftermath but according to Barry, she is now becoming stronger and she’s keeping her spirits up.
“Mum was just about to retire but six months before that, everything changed for her and for all of us.
“She had been looking after her own sister the year previous, who had been diagnosed with lung cancer. She’s had a tough couple of years. And as tough as it has been, to give her credit, she’s a good patient. She never complains and she takes it all in her stride.”
Paying tribute too to his mum’s surgeon, the oncology team and the cancer specialist nurse as well as Mrs Duffy’s GP, Barry says the whole team have been, “great the whole way.”
The Strabane man added that he, his father, Charlie and sister, Carol are now, “hoping and praying for better times.”
With March having been Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Barry is also urging local women to be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer – persistent bloating, feeling full, tummy pain and using the toilet more often than normal.
And as well as raising awareness, Barry has also undertaken a fund raising mission for Gynaecology Cancer Services at Belfast City Hospital and the charity, Target Ovarian Cancer. To that end he is doing at least 10,000 cardiovascular steps per day, running and walking and for the month of March, he has completed some 500km. In that time he has so far raised over £10,500.
To local women, he concluded, “If you have any doubts push it on. Don’t let anything sit.”
• To donate to Barry’s fundraiser, search for ‘Mum’s ovarian cancer battle, raising awareness’ on Gofundme.com