“Dr Gleeson came in and told me that herself and the team would take good care of me and not to worry. She held my hand going in as I couldn’t stop shaking. Looking back, I really appreciated that small gesture and appreciated her compassion.”
My name is Paula Holton and I am a cancer survivor and patient at St James’s Hospital. I was diagnosed with stage 111 B ovarian cancer and this is my story.
In June 2011, I went to St James’s Hospital for a routine check-up. I was referred from the family risk clinic as we had numerous cancer diagnoses within the family which prompted us to get checked out. I was the first of my family to be called and I was very relaxed going to the appointment. I was fit, walking between 3-5 miles a day and was at my best weight. I had no symptoms other than a pain down the inside of my right leg, which I thought was coming from my back so I ignored it.
I remember clearly that it was a beautiful sunny morning and I was sitting in the waiting area of St James’s Hospital wishing I was at home doing my garden and not sitting here wasting their time. I was called to the doctor’s office and the doctor introduced himself as Dr Waseem Kamran. An abdominal examination revealed a small wall mass. Dr Waseem asked me to wait while he called Dr Noreen Gleeson in. I felt something was wrong but nothing prepared me for the news I was about to receive.
I was told I had a tumour and I would have to have further tests. At this stage I went completely deaf, I could see their mouths moving but I couldn’t hear a word they were saying. I was in total shock! I drove home but I don’t remember how I got there and when I met my husband at the door, I just fell into his arms.
Over the next few weeks, I had blood tests and all manner of investigations. It confirmed stage 111B ovarian cancer. I prepared myself for a huge operation and was so grateful that I had great support from my amazing family. I was so anxious I just wanted it done!
Dr Gleeson gave me a date and I prepared myself as much as I could. I remember being in the pre-waiting area of the operating theatre and Dr Gleeson came in and told me that herself and the team would take good care of me and not to worry. She held my hand going in as I couldn’t stop shaking. Looking back, I really appreciated that small gesture and appreciated her compassion.
When I came to, I was disoriented but I recognised my husband and sister who were talking gently and telling me I was through the operation and all would be well. I was in St Johns ward and the staff were wonderful. After six weeks of recovery, I went for chemotherapy. While very difficult at the time, I was determined to get through each cycle without missing one.
I focused on the positive. I decided to let my son shave my head as I didn’t want to wait until it fell out, a small gesture but I felt like I was in control. I also had a focus, my very special niece (Aisling) was getting married and I didn’t want to miss her big day, nor did I want her to postpone.
I had my last chemo in December 2011 and I’m delighted to say I made it to her wedding. I can truly tell you that I WOULD NOT be here today without the intervention of Dr Noreen Gleeson, Dr Waseem Kamran (who first diagnosed me!) and all the incredible team who gave me another chance at life.
I got to enjoy seeing my son get married, my beautiful grandchildren (Aoibhe, Jamie and Bobby) being born and we are looking forward to our new arrival in June 2021.
St James’s Hospital Foundation is charity close to my heart and I would respectfully ask, if this was your family or friend wouldn’t you want the best treatment for them? Please read about their Chemotherapy Robot – Cancer Appeal and how it will help patients like me on their cancer journey and consider making a donation.
Dr Gleeson is one of the most dedicated and caring people I have had the privilege to meet. I hope to do all I can to support the incredible work that is being carried out in St. James Hospital. I ask you, if you read my story to please consider donating to this life saving hospital, maybe one day someone you know might need their help.
Thank you so much to Paula for taking the time to share her cancer journey with us.