A SINGLE dad who lost his wife months after she gave birth to their second child is speaking out on World Ovarian Cancer Day in the hope of sparing other families the same heartache.
Aidan Duggan from Grenagh cared for his wife Marion and premature son Conor after they arrived home from hospital 10 years ago. She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer while pregnant and started treatment shortly after their newborn son’s delivery.
The mother of two passed away seven months later, aged just 37. Now, 10 years later, Aidan continues to thrive as a single dad. Despite recently overcoming a brain tumour, Aidan remains determined to spread awareness around the disease that took his wife. The father of two shared his story to mark International Ovarian Cancer Day this Saturday.
“Having been through what I went through with Marion I can see the lack of awareness around ovarian cancer symptoms. If there is only one in 10 who knows what the signs are it wouldn’t surprise me.
"After losing Marion I feel like it’s my responsibility to be an advocate and hopefully offer information that might help even one or two people.
"Ovarian cancer is a silent killer and by the time people find out they have it, it’s often too late and they die. If it’s identified in time then there’s a chance this would not have to happen.”
Ovarian cancer is most common in those aged between 50 and 60 years. However, Aidan warned that it can affect women of any age.
“Many would not associate ovarian cancer’s symptoms with an illness,” he said. “Some of the most commons signs are bloating and the feeling of needing to use the bathroom. These are issues that people experience all the time so it’s just not on their radars. Marion was 37, which is young for someone to be diagnosed, but I have heard of younger people who were affected. For me, it’s really important to get the message out there about the basic symptoms.
“The survival rates of breast cancer have improved but ovarian cancer hasn’t seen much of a change since people don’t identify it early on. There is no such thing as a good cancer but this is a one that can really go downhill if it’s not caught in time.”
He described the challenges Marion had to endure right up to her death.
“While a lot of patients have chemo and get back to good health Marion never experienced remission. She was always struggling and spent the whole week sick. She would only have another week to recover before facing the next round of treatment.
“It eventually spread to her lungs and there was one time where we ran out of oxygen about five or 10 minutes away from the hospital. We went from crisis to crisis in a way that was brutal.”
Aidan, who also has a 12-year-old daughter named Aoife, described how he never gave up on his wife.
“Even when Marion went to a hospice and I saw a hearse coming out I can remember thinking ‘that won’t be us’.
"They turned out to be her final couple of days. I suppose we had experienced so many ups and downs that I was always convinced we would be on the up again.”
However, Aidan hopes that his awareness-raising of the illness can help others in Marion’s position.
“It gives me hope that even one person reading thing might be compelled to take action and get tested so the illness is caught on time.”
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include persistent bloating of the abdomen, difficulty eating, a feeling of fullness as well as persistent abdominal and pelvic pain. Other indications can include changes in urination or bowel habits. This can be accompanied by fatigue, backache, vaginal bleeding and weight loss.
To find out more about the illness visit cancer.ie.