The Lady Garden Foundation is a national women’s health charity, raising awareness and funding for gynaecological health. Founded in 2014 and initially funded ground breaking research into the treatment of these cancers at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. As the oldest cancer hospital in the world, The Royal Marsden remains one of the largest cancer centres in Europe, with a truly global impact.
The money raised by the Lady Garden Foundation funded cutting-edge studies which aim to revolutionise the treatment of these cancers. We continue to raise funds and awareness for gynaecological health.
The 8th of May marks World Ovarian Cancer Day. The Lady Garden Foundation wants to raise awareness by sharing the story of Tia Daby, a 23-year-old who last year received the news she had a rare form of ovarian cancer. After experiencing symptoms of bloating and abdominal pains months before but dismissing them as hormonal or dietary factors, Tia was diagnosed at the start of the pandemic last year with an immature teratoma.
In the months leading up to my 22nd birthday in December 2019, my life consisted of piling onto packed, sweltering trains for work, leg-burning cardio sessions and enjoying the hustle and bustle of London’s vibrant city life. Despite my mental ability to withstand this fast-paced lifestyle, my body’s life-changing, devastating warning signs were slowly on the rise.
Along with needing to eat less, my stomach began distending significantly. For months, I put this down to weight gain and resorted to high-intensity workouts. To accommodate my body’s physical changes, I wore baggier clothes. Fast forward to January 2020, I was admitted into A&E with nauseating aches churning in my stomach. Emergency doctors believed I was eight months pregnant.
MRIs scans shockingly revealed this was a 25cm suspected malignant cyst (later weighing 8kg, equivalent to three new-born babies) growing on my left ovary. Given my active lifestyle, I dismissed this possibility of cancer and underwent a laparotomy to remove the cyst.
Remembering the chilling, heart-breaking moments of hearing the pathology results never cease to send shivers through my body. In March 2020, I was diagnosed with a rare ovarian cancer known as an immature teratoma. The suffocating and numbing shock went straight through me- I was unable to react. This was when I was referred to The Royal Marsden.
Considering we were entering the worst of the pandemic, Royal Marsden was incredible from the start. I was struggling to imagine what this diagnosis entailed for the rest of my life. At this point, the doctors did not know the cancer’s stage or if I needed to start chemotherapy. I also had to attend all appointments alone due to COVID restrictions. This uncertainty and fear were made easier with Marsden’s supportive and compassionate team of surgeons, doctors and gynaecology nurses easing my concerns.
My approach throughout the process was: take one step at a time. The first goal was to undergo an egg freezing treatment, as any following cancer procedures risk causing life-long fertility problems. Due to the unknown cancer severity, it was a race against my body’s clock stirring significant physical and mental challenges.
After miraculously pushing through with ten eggs, I had surgery to remove the left ovary in April. Here, the cancer was staged at Stage 1, meaning that it was contained within that ovary. With my age and the rarity of immature teratoma’s, there were initially mixed opinions over the chemo. With the doctors’ guidance, I opted for ten-year active surveillance, involving regular scans and tumour marker tests to ensure reoccurrence does not occur. Though it means I cannot completely put this behind me, I have the reassurance that any suspicious changes will be caught and handled quickly.
I am lucky that my body reacted early to this abnormality, despite my initial naivety. The symptoms for ovarian cancer: bloating, eating less, abdominal pain and frequent need to use the toilet (BEAT) are too easily dismissed as minor issues, particularly during menstruation. Six in ten women with ovarian cancer, therefore, aren’t diagnosed till it is too late. Finding an early diagnosis has saved my life. With cancer’s indiscriminative nature, it is important to be attentive to bodily changes- being persistent with GP’s if symptoms remain longer than two weeks.
I consider myself as worlds apart from my pre-diagnosis self, discovering the importance of listening to your body’s signals. Though my needs and abilities are different post-cancer, I am slowly getting back on track with my life and feel confident about the future. I indulge in moments of happiness daily to keep me pushing through any hurdles with hope and resilience.
Lady Garden Foundation fund raising partnerships
- The Lady Garden Foundation and Black Score have teamed up to release some really fun sweatshirts and t-shirts, including the SNOOCHY and VAJAYJAY sweatshirts, all available in Unisex Medium and Large sizes. All profits go to the charity to help fund more projects in the gynae space.
- Their recent partnership with Superdrug, fronted by Emily Atack, sees nurses throughout UK Superdrug stores trained to run health clinics to discuss gynaecological cancers.
- The Lady Garden Foundation has also partnered with Soho House to release a special wellness box designed to celebrate and empower female sexual wellness. 50% of profits from every purchase will go to the charity, funding the vital research that takes place into gynae cancers.