Makala Francis has hailed mum Rona Passmore as her survivor, ten years on from Rona’s recovery from ovarian cancer.
She’s especially grateful to have her mum after recently becoming a mum herself, with her baby girl Nova arriving into the world in November 2018.
Makala, 21, from West Barns, near Dunbar, was just ten when Rona, now 57, was diagnosed in 2008, following a trip to her GP to get agonising pain in her lower abdomen checked out. After examination, Rona, who had been experiencing bloating and weight loss everywhere except her stomach, was sent to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.
Tests that followed found Rona had a 25cm cyst attached to her left ovary, and a full hysterectomy went ahead in October 2008 to remove the tumour.
Rona then underwent six sessions of chemotherapy, and a year long drug trial, which is when her involvement with Target Ovarian Cancer started – the charity working to improve early diagnosis, fund research and provide support to women with the disease.
“My mum was never ill, so hearing that she was needing to go to hospital was a shock. I was obviously quite young, but it felt like everything happened so quickly after she was diagnosed.
“She shielded me from quite a lot of what was going on; my mum isn’t someone who would have let me see she was struggling, even if she was.
“But looking back, it was hard as I wasn’t used to seeing her like that. I remember being worried about her losing her hair.
“Her diagnosis did change things. I guess it just gave me an appreciation of what I had and I now don’t take things for granted. I suppose it’s also made me more conscious of looking after myself. Even though my mum was a healthy active person, these things can happen.
“I’m just so glad she was sent for tests straight away. Even if you think it’s nothing, it’s still worth getting checked out.
“I’m very glad to have her, especially after becoming a mum myself. It’s always been just me and her, and I don’t know how I would have coped if it had been any other way.”
Rona, who is a support worker for adults with learning and physical disabilities, said:
“I wasn’t surprised when I was told I had a tumour, I knew something didn’t feel right. Going into the surgery that day, I looked about four months pregnant, and had unbearable abdominal pain.
“I think my diagnosis and treatment has made me even more annoyingly positive. Life is too short and I know through my involvement with Target Ovarian how lucky I’ve been. The vigilance of my GP led to a crucial early diagnosis, meaning my cancer treatment was successful.
“I was back at work just after finishing chemotherapy and fitted the drug trial treatment around work. I just wanted to get on with life, and I try to enjoy it as much as I can.
“Seeing my only daughter give birth to my first grandchild makes me appreciate what would have been missed if I hadn’t had been diagnosed early.”