When Lynda Toner began feeling tired and below par, she put it down to the dark nights and her age catching up with her. To the heartbreak of her family, Lynda has been diagnosed with incurable ovarian cancer. She tells AASMA DAY her story and why she is determined to raise awareness of ovarian cancer and raise as much money as possible for the centre where she is being treated.
Always on the go with a busy, hectic and action packed life, Lynda Toner thought it was unusual when she began feeling tired as for her, it was completely out of character.
However, she initially dismissed it as being down to the weather or the fact that she was getting older.
Lynda, 61, who lives in Abbey Village, near Chorley, who has been married to John for 41 years, explains: “Towards the back end of last year, we had quite a hectic period with lots of stressful things.
“John had been in hospital to correct an irregular heart rhythm and we were starting to think about retirement but had not made any definite plans.
“I had turned 61 in the August and towards Christmas, I started feeling what I thought was my age.
“I just felt tired and out of sorts - there was nothing specific.
“As I am always on the go and doing different things, this was unusual for me.
““However, I put it down to the winter dark nights and being another year older.”
Lynda, who is a sister in the cardiac rehabilitation team at Royal Blackburn Hospital, had always enjoyed activities such as ballroom dancing, crafts and knitting as well as helping out with her grandchildren.
However, she began feeling exhausted and some days, she would come in and want to just go to sleep.
After Christmas, Lynda felt that something wasn’t right and began experiencing problems sleeping at night and other symptoms.
Lynda recalls: “My tummy felt weighted down and I noticed that every time I had even a small meal, I felt really full like I had eaten a heavy meal .
“Then around the end of February, I began feeling little electric shock type feelings in my stomach.
“It didn’t hurt but was just an uncomfortable feeling and like a twitch. That was what prompted me to see my GP.”
Lynda, who is a mum-of-four to Jill, Matthew, Robert and Anna, and has nine grandchildren had blood tests carried out.
Some of the tests were abnormal so Lynda was referred to a gynaecologist and had numerous scans and tests.
Lynda remembers: “By this time, my abdomen had started to swell and it made me look like I was pregnant.
“I was struggling to walk and breathe as the fluid was so high.
“Then I got a telephone call asking me to go for an appointment with the consultant and I was told to take a family member or friend with me.
“I realised then it was not going to be the best news.”
Lynda was told she had ovarian cancer and doctors put an abdominal drain in and drained five litres of fluid out.
She says: “After they drained the fluid out, I felt so much better as I was no longer in pain and feeling uncomfortable so I almost didn’t care about the diagnosis.”
However, it was a huge shock for Lynda when she learned she had stage three ovarian cancer which was incurable, but treatable.
Lynda handled the news in her matter of fact and accepting way. She explains: “Around 70 per cent of women present with ovarian cancer at stage three as stage one and stage two don’t really have any symptoms.
“Even at stage three, I didn’t have any specific symptoms at first but things got worse quite quickly.”
Lynda says that being a nurse and working in the medical profession, she was used to dealing with bad news, but admits her biggest concern was for her family.
She says: “I was concerned about protecting them.
“My husband and family were devastated and my diagnosis knocked them for six.
“It was a shock to us all, but we have now got our heads around the situation.”
Lynda was referred to the Rosemere Cancer Centre in Preston where she has a definitive treatment plan consisting of chemotherapy. She will then have a scan in June and if the tumours have successfully shrunk, she will have surgery followed by more chemotherapy.
Lynda decided she wanted to do some fund-raising for Rosemere and her daughter Anna Halfpenny, who is a critical care nurse, decided to kickstart it by shaving off her dreadlocks which she had been growing for two years.
Surrounded by family and friends, Anna, her father John, her brother-in-law Matthew Wildman and her seven-year-old son Luke who joined them by having a crop, set to work with the scissors.
Together with donations and raffles, the family’s efforts have so far raised £3,500 on Lynda’s justgiving site.
Lynda says: “I am now on a mission to raise awareness of ovarian cancer and to help others on their journey.
“I also want to raise as many funds as possible for Rosemere as the cancer centre has already done so much for me and my family.
“Everyone at Rosemere has been absolutely brilliant.
“I am fine with my situation. I want for nothing and my family is backing me all the way.
“I want my legacy to be for my beautiful grandchildren, one that says you never give up on life.”
Besides Luke, Lynda’s grandchildren are Keira, 10, Liam, eight, Noah, five, identical twins Amelia (Nana Pix Angel granddaughter) and Isabella, two and Leonora, two, Moses, two and Desmond, six months.
Lynda says John, who works as a building sites health and safety officer, has been her rock.
Lynda’s daughter Anna, who lives in Darwen, says: “Mum’s diagnosis was devastating, literally heartbreaking.
“The thought of the one who has always looked after you, guided you and loved you no matter what having to endure the battle she faces is unbearable.
“Helping her raise money has given us a family a role in her journey and it’s brought laughter and fun with it.
“It also shows how great mum is and through the money raised how much she’s loved by so many people.
“Mum has coped amazingly and she is always there for us.
“She was so strong after her diagnosis and just went into ‘mum’ mode and told us what we were going to do and not to cry.”
Although she has had them chopped off, Anna has carefully preserved her dreadlocks and is either going to donate them to a USA charity for wigs for cancer patients or sell them as dread extensions and donate the money to Rosemere.
Lynda says: “Even though I work in the medical profession, my understanding of ovarian cancer was as much as the person in the street as I have no expertise in that field.
“I want to urge anyone who is unwell, bloated or not feeling quite right to get themselves checked out.
“The symptoms of ovarian cancer are so innocuous that you shouldn’t take it to chance if you feel there is something wrong.”
• Anyone wanting to support Lynda and her family’s fund-raising can visit: www.justgiving.com/nana-pix