A BRAVE Gourock grandmother was stricken with a cancer so rare that it helped to save her life.

Geraldine Gray suffered symptoms which led medics to discover an ovarian tumour the size of a grapefruit.

But the devastated 54-year-old struggled to cope after undergoing a full hysterectomy and months of gruelling chemotherapy.

She said: “I felt my life was taken away from me and that I had no control over what happened next.

“It changed everything and I’m still getting treatment but I feel now there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn’t see myself getting this far.”
She had been visiting her local surgery for months after she started to ‘spot’ but nurses put it down to her age and hormones.

Geraldine, who lives in Arran Avenue, was treated with a form of HRT twice which seemed to alleviate the symptoms, but when she started bleeding a third time she was sent to Inverclyde Royal for tests and finally a biopsy of her womb.

The doctor said: “I think we have got an ovarian cyst and recommended a hysterectomy.

Medics diagnosed an ovarian cyst and carried out more scans, with the result taking eight weeks to come back.

Geraldine, who is married to Jamie, said: “That was the longest wait of my life and during that time and I had myself dead and buried.”

Then she was asked to go for a CT scan.

Geraldine, a nursing assistant at Brooksby Day Hospital in Largs, said: “I told Jamie they don’t put you through a CT scan for nothing - I’ve got cancer.”

Her worst fears were confirmed when a gynaecologist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley told her she had a growth the size of a grapefruit on the lining of her womb. 

She said: “I was in bits.”

Geraldine, who has three daughters and two grandchildren, Jordan 16, and Chloe, 10, was sent to a specialist team at Glasgow Royal and was told that doctors had caught the cancer at stage two.

She underwent a hysterectomy, had 15 lymph nodes removed and shortly afterwards started chemotherapy.

But the fact that she had symptoms in the first place helped medics to detect the cancer earlier.

She said: “Ovarian cancer is called the silent killer because you don’t get any warning signs, but the fact I had these symptoms saved my life.

“The consultants and surgeons said I was very lucky because they told me that usually ovarian cancer spreads outwith the pelvic area to the bowel and lungs.

“My cancer started in the ovaries and spread to the uterus. It was contained.”

Geraldine was told there is a 70 per cent chance of a cure and began six courses of continuing chemotherapy, which started in June.

But even with that positive news Geraldine found it difficult to cope. She lost her brother Alex, 60, who had been given the all-clear from cancer in March, around the same time as her biopsy.

She said: “He’d just been told that he was clear of cancer and his hospital visits would be reduced to every six months and we were all delighted.

Then he was found dead at home and a post mortem revealed he had an enlarged heart.”

Geraldine struggled to deal with his death and the demands of the treatment.

She said: “I felt very low. At times I just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up and I think it was the fear of the unknown.”

Geraldine sought help from her GP and was prescribed anti-depressants. She now also attends counselling at Ardgowan Hospice.

She said: “The counselling at the access centre has been a lifeline. It’s a great service and it’s there to be used.”

But the most distressing part of the whole experience for Geraldine has been losing her crowning glory.

She said: “My hair was never out of place. It was coloured every six weeks and cut every three. 

“Losing it affected me more than having to go through the chemotherapy. I didn’t want to be that person walking down the street and people saying ‘that woman’s got cancer’.”

A turning point was when she took the brave step to shave her hair off as it began to fall out.

Geraldine said: “It was like shaving away the pain. The sense of relief it gave me was unbelievable.”

She now wears a wig and is delighted with the results.

Geraldine said: “Lots of people have paid me compliments and that has really boosted my confidence.

“Even the consultant thought I hadn’t lost my hair.”

Geraldine’s family have been with her every step of the way and her daughter Claire, 31, decided to hold a Macmillan coffee morning at her home in Fearnan Place in Greenock.

The event was used to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support and Ardgowan Hospice.

Claire said: “It’s been a difficult journey for my mum and for everyone close to her, so her cousin Janice McArthur decided to shave her head to raise funds.

“You lose your identity, mum didn’t see herself in the mirror anymore.

“You don’t realise the impact until it affects a close family member. We are very proud of how brave she has been and we can’t wait for the day when she is given the all clear.”