Julie Haworth.jpg


Pictured: Julie (right) with husband Ian and daughter, Lucy

A Lancashire mum diagnosed and treated for ovarian cancer at a young age has praised a support group run by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust which has allowed her to meet other women affected by gynaecological cancers.

Julie Haworth, who lives in Haslingden, was only 44 when she underwent a hysterectomy following her diagnosis.

Julie, who is married to Ian and has two daughters, Lucy, 22 and Sophie, 20, urged other women to trust their own judgement if they believe there is something wrong as she says her GPs dismissed her symptoms as nothing to worry about.

However, Julie says once she was referred to East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, the care she received from the NHS was faultless and she has found the continuing support from the Gyn and Tonic social group for women affected by any gynaecological cancer.

Julie, who is a teaching assistant at a primary school in Helmshore, says: “It all started with a stomach upset. I suffered griping pains and diarrhoea which lasted 10 days and I went to my GP.

“Then it cleared up by itself but I was still experiencing stomach pains.

“I was lying in bed hugging my stomach because I had cramps when I felt this small, hard lump lower down to the right hand side near my pelvis.

“I went to the GP about this and she did an internal examination but did not think there was anything wrong.

“She dismissed it and said it was nothing and probably just a fibroid. However, she sent me for a scan and I went to the hub in Rawtenstall.”

Julie was given her results and told there was a polyp in her bladder. However, she just did not believe this as there was nothing wrong with her waterworks and she knew she could feel a lump.

After discussing it with her husband, Julie decided that rather than waiting for an appointment, she would pay privately to see an urologist.

Julie says: “I had a laparoscopy and the urologist told me there was nothing wrong with my bladder and that I needed to see a gynaecologist.

“I paid around £1,000 but it was worth paying him as I think that saved my life”

Julie went back to her GPs and insisted she needed a referral to a gynaecologist.

She was sent to Burnley General Teaching Hospital where she had a blood test, internal examination and scan.

Julie says: “The specialist told me there was definitely a cyst but they could not tell the nature of it until the results came back.

“I went back a week later and they had done the CA 125 test which is a cancer marker and it had come back high.”

Julie had a CT scan and was seen by the consultant who told her they did not know if it was cancer but the cyst was quite large and needed to come out, and Julie was told she needed a hysterectomy.

She underwent the surgery and it was discovered it was cancer. Luckily, it had been caught at an early stage and Julie did not need further treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Julie has been having regular check-ups since then and towards the end of this year, it will be five years since her surgery. If all is well when she reaches this milestone, it will be Julie’s final check-up.

Julie says: “Once I got to Burnley Hospital, I could not fault the NHS. It was getting there that was the hurdle.

“I understand that GPs can’t always get everything right but I felt a gut instinct that there was something more serious wrong.

“I could feel this lump and I could feel it was getting bigger.

“When the surgeons removed it, they told me the size of a Gala melon had been taken out of me.

“GPs might have lots of training and expertise but no one knows their own body better than you.

“I would urge people to trust their instincts if they truly believe something is seriously wrong.

“My cancer was only caught at an early stage because of my persistence.

“I was 44 when I was diagnosed which is very young for ovarian cancer. I never expected to be having a hysterectomy at that age.”

As she has two daughters, Julie went to Manchester for genetic testing in July 2015 but fortunately, she did not carry any of the faulty genes.

When Julie was attending her appointments at East Lancashire Hospitals, she was given some information about the Gyn and Tonic support group which meets once a month.

Julie says: “I did not go straight away as I wanted to wait until I’d had all my treatment.

“Then I just went along on a whim one night and met Tracy Bracewell, staff nurse in gynaecology and a few other women.

“The women who come to the group have all been through gynaecological cancers but that’s not really the first thing we speak about.

“The group is more a social thing and we chat and go out for meals. It is a really nice group.

“Gyn and Tonic is also a great way of sharing advice. After having my hysterectomy, I started with the menopause and went through hot flushes, mood swings and not sleeping.

“I didn’t know anyone who had been through the menopause overnight like me but I did when I went to the group. It was good to get other people’s perspective on that.

“The care I received at Burnley Hospital was wonderful and although I am looking forward to reaching the five-year milestone this year, in a way I will miss going to the hospital as it is a bit of reassurance.

“I think Gyn and Tonic provides invaluable support and would encourage more women who have been through gynaecological cancers to use it.

“Going to this group is one of the real positives that has come from the cancer.”

  • Gyn and Tonic social group supports women in East Lancashire affected by any gynaecological cancer.

Go along for a coffee and a chat to:

Coal Clough Lane Community Centre, 2 Pasturegate Avenue, Burnley, BB11 4DD on the 2nd Tuesday of every month from 7pm to 9pm

  • Call the group mobile on: 07511921097
  • For more information about the group, call Sister Beverley Walker, gynae oncology clinical nurse specialist or Staff Nurse Tracy Bracewell on: 01282 803123