Married couples vow to battle all of life’s tribulations together, and in their 40 years of marriage Diane and Paul Boothby have been no exception.
But after successfully raising two children and four grandchildren, the pair have just overcome their biggest challenge yet — they’ve both beat cancer.
Mrs Boothby, 63, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer just five months after her husband, 69, was told he had bowel cancer.
‘I went from caring for someone with cancer to being someone with cancer — and Paul went from being someone with cancer to caring for someone with cancer,’ she said.
‘You have to push how you’re feeling to get diagnosed — if I’d left it and left it, who knows what could have happened.’
The couple, who wed in November 1978, were determined to fight the disease and see their 43rd anniversary together.
She added: ‘We’ve been married forty three years and haven’t celebrated our last wedding anniversary yet — we’ve still got lots to celebrate.’
Mr Boothby had been diagnosed in August 2021 after a routine check-up showed he had stage three bowel cancer — the final stage before it spreads around the body.
Despite fighting his own battle, he pushed his wife to get tested privately, worried that she would have to go through something similar.
After successfully raising two children and four grandchildren, Diane and Paul Boothby have just overcome their biggest challenge yet — they’ve both beat cancer
The couple on their wedding day in November 11, 1978
Mr Boothby underwent underwent surgery to remove part of his bowel in September 2021 and began chemotherapy to remove any remaining tumours
While caring for her husband, Mrs Boothby heeded her husband’s advice and was eventually diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She had a full hysterectomy in March (shown right, the scars)
Mr Boothby had been feeling more tired than usual but didn’t think he was suffering from a stage three cancer.
It was the surprise of the diagnosis that led him to convince his wife, who had in fact been struggling with health problems for some time, to get tested as well.
Mr Boothby underwent underwent surgery to remove part of his bowel in September 2021 and began chemotherapy to remove any remaining tumours.
While caring for her husband, Mrs Boothby heeded her husband’s advice and began seeing consultants.
Mr Boothby had been feeling more tired than usual but didn’t think he was suffering from a stage three cancer. It was the surprise of the diagnosis that led him to convince his wife, who had in fact been struggling with health problems for some time, to get tested as well
The couple from Downham Market, Norfolk, are now both in remission
WHAT IS BOWEL CANCER?
Bowel, or colorectal, cancer affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum.
Such tumours usually develop from pre-cancerous growths, called polyps.
- Bleeding from the bottom
- Blood in stools
- A change in bowel habits lasting at least three weeks
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme, unexplained tiredness
- Abdominal pain
Treatment usually involves surgery, and chemo- and radiotherapy.
More than nine out of 10 people with stage one bowel cancer survive five years or more after their diagnosis.
This drops significantly if it is diagnosed in later stages.
According to Bowel Cancer UK figures, more than 41,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK.
It affects around 40 per 100,000 adults per year in the US, according to the National Cancer Institute.
She was eventually diagnosed with cancerous ovarian cysts this January after struggling with severe bloating which had been misdiagnosed.
The couple from Downham Market, Norfolk, are now both in remission.
Mrs Boothby said: ‘We’re traumatised at the moment – we both feel more emotional and traumatised about it [now] than we actually did at the time when we were going through it.
Mrs Boothby originally had an operation to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes in December 2021.
Her husband, still going through chemo at the time, pushed her to spend the £190 on a private scan when her symptoms persisted.
To their shock they discovered that Mrs Boothby had early-stage ovarian cancer.
Out of caution, the grandmother had a full hysterectomy in March to prevent the cancer from growing on other parts of her reproductive system.
Mrs Boothby added: ‘I’ve been extremely lucky – my first operation was removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes and my second operation was a total hysterectomy and debulking surgery and I am also now cancer free.
‘Paul says he felt numb through the experience whereas I talk about it a lot but we both understand how each other is feeling which has been good – he says I can understand it when no-one else can.
‘We’re not back in what we call the normal life yet because Paul had to isolate over December it meant we couldn’t do Christmas with the family but at least this year we’ll be here.
‘We would like to thank the cancer charities and hospitals that supported us – The Big C, Macmillan and Overcan.
WHAT IS OVARIAN CANCER AND WHAT ARE ITS SYMPTOMS?
Ovarian cancer is a cancer of the ovaries, which are part of the female reproductive system that contain their eggs. There are two ovaries and both are attached to the womb. Cancer on the ovaries can spread to the nearby bowel and bladder.
It is the eighth most common cancer among women, and is most common in women who have had the menopause but it can affect women of any age.
About 66 per cent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in the more advanced stages of the disease.
At the time of diagnosis, 60 per cent of ovarian cancers will have already spread to other parts of the body, bringing the five-year survival rate down to 30 per cent from 90 per cent in the earliest stage.
It’s diagnosed so late because its location in the pelvis means the symptoms can be vague and difficult to recognise, particularly early on.
They’re often the same as symptoms of less serious conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).
The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
- Feeling constantly bloated
- A swollen tummy
- Discomfort in your tummy or pelvic area
- Feeling full quickly when eating, or loss of appetite
- Needing to pee more often or more urgently than normal
See your GP if:
You’ve been feeling bloated most days for the last three weeks
You have other symptoms of ovarian cancer that won’t go away – especially if you’re over 50 or have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, as you may be at a higher risk