Nelson Drive woman’s warning: ‘Listen to your body and got to GP’

Phyllis Quigley from the Waterside area - diagnosed in January 2012 with ovarian cancer - has urged women to listen to their bodies and go to the GP if they have any concerns about their health.

The local pensioner has spoken about her own experience in support of an Action Cancer awareness campaign. For a number of years prior Phyllis, aged 65, had displayed symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) that got progressively worse.

“I went for a number of colonoscopies but the results indicated that it was just IBS. It was only following a prolapse in November 2011 that it appeared that something more serious was happening to me and I went to the doctor to be checked out.

“My GP sent me to a Gynae Consultant and an MRI scan was ordered which picked up that I had a cyst on my ovary. This was then discussed with a consultant in Belfast.

“Following this I then had an operation in the City Hospital where it was discovered that the cancer was at stage two and had spread. In the same operation the surgeon removed my whole womb, ovaries, omentium and lymph nodes round the stomach area,” she said.

Phyllis then underwent six months of chemotherapy down in Belfast.

“My daughter who came over from England and my sister were so supportive, and travelled up to Belfast with me. I had a lot of appointments and scans so some close friends accompanied me as well. I couldn’t have gone through it without all their help,” she said.

Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer because often symptoms are undetected. It’s not easy to spot as symptoms can be vague and they can just about all be related to other much less serious conditions.

There is more chance that symptoms are caused by cancer if they are new, quite severe, and don’t come and go. If you have any of the symptoms below and they happen on most days for three weeks or more, particularly if you are over 50 or have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, do go to your GP and get a checkup.

Symptoms can include: Pain in the lower abdomen or side; bloated, full feeling in the abdomen; irregular periods or vaginal bleeding after menopause; lower tummy (abdominal) pain; back pain; passing urine more often than usual; constipation; pain during sex, a swollen abdomen; feeling of fullness or loss of appetite; feeling or being sick; tiredness; and shortness of breath.

Phyllis was lucky in that the prolapse prompted further investigation: “I’m now doing well and the cancer has been kept at bay. There is however a danger that it can spread further but you just have to think positively.

“I attended Action Cancer’s Positive Living Programme last year and it really helped me focus on my goals and what I want to achieve out of life. My advice to other women is to listen to your body and if you have any concerns go to your GP.”

To find out more about Action Cancer’s therapeutic support services phone 028 9080 3344 or book online at
Having read Phyllis’ story on the Londonderry Sentinel website cancer sufferer and campaigner Una Crudden got in touch with the paper to call for a stand alone campaign to raise awareness of ovarian cancer.

Una, who was diagnosed with the silent killer a year before Phyllis and is now terminally ill, has spent the last month promoting a ‘Teal Takeover.’

Supporters have been wearing the colour teal in a bid to raise awareness of ovarian cancer specifically.

The Belfast woman has been lobbying the Health Minister Edwin Poots and the Public health Agency (PHA) to weigh in behind a specific campaign for the illness.

Una got in touch via @L_Sentinel to Tweet: “Would be great if my campaign #tealtakeover lobbying for a standalone public health agency awareness campaign appears in Wed.”

The Sentinel promised it would. Tweet @unacrudden #tealtakeover for more details.