BEST friends Julia Aherne and Ann Ogle have raised £1,000 for a Coventry ovarian cancer support group they found to be a lifeline since it was set up 19 months ago in Coventry.
Julia, a 60-year-old former hairdresser from Walsgrave, was diagnosed with the disease in 2019.
Ann, with the symptoms of ovarian cancer — bloating, abdominal pain and bladder and bowel changes — easily dismissed as being nothing serious, said: “It was a big shock to us all.”
Major surgery and chemotherapy left Julia free of disease until October last year when she had a recurrence.
She has found being part of the monthly group invaluable. It was set up by the ovarian cancer support charity Ovacome and a clinical nurse specialist Sandeep Chahal from the University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.
Ann, who met Julia 35 years ago as her hairdressing junior at Karen’s Hair Studio in Wyken, added: “She is an amazing strong woman and I don’t know where she gets her strength.
“But I can see that this outlet to share any worries over a chat and a coffee with other women facing similar challenges has certainly helped.”
The group, which now meets face-to-face at 1pm to 3pm on the first Monday of every month, has eight regular members, sometimes joining digitally.
Sandeep and a support staff member from Ovacome are available to give advice on side effects of treatment, appropriate exercise and day-to-day concerns.
Ann said: “It really is an invaluable opportunity to be able to ask questions from experts other than your medical team and also gives people like Julia a chance to be honest about how they are feeling, rather than trying to protect family and friends from some of their realities of living with the disease.”
Ovacome and the NHS Trust are keen to build on the number of people attending the group, which takes place at Binley’s Coombe Abbey.
Ovacome’s West Midlands support hub manager Laura Nott said: “We need to get the message out there that this group exists, as we know that there are more than eight women in Warwickshire with ovarian cancer who could benefit from it.”