I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment – my tenth visit in 14 months – and I knew this time it was going to be different. I had been experiencing stomach cramps, regular bloating, and acid reflux, which often got so bad I felt like I had swallowed bleach. I was told they were classic IBS symptoms and given medication but nothing worked.
By now my stomach was swollen, solid and domed shaped. My GP referred me to have an ultrasound scan. When the date of my scan arrived I was so nervous. I knew something was wrong; my stomach was so swollen I looked about four months pregnant.
The scan revealed a very large mass so I was told to go to A&E. My mum took me there immediately, and I had further tests, including a CA125 blood test, which came back normal. However it was confirmed that I had a large ovarian tumour and would need to be operated on soon.
At 24 my main concern was that I would lose my right ovary. I was beyond distraught when I was told this would probably happen. My consultant was amazing. He talked me through my procedure and answered all my questions. I completely trusted him, which made a hard situation easier.
My operation went well. The tumour was 15cm by 10cm and 3.5 litres of fluid were drained. My right ovary was removed as it had been squashed by the tumour.
After a few days I was allowed home, but less than a week later I received a letter saying I needed to return to see my consultant. He said I had a borderline mucinous tumour. Because the tumour type was very rare, I would be referred to Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital’s oncology team.
I felt totally numb. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I had just turned 25 and it didn’t seem real. I don’t have any family history of ovarian cancer. My consultant told me I had the classic signs but because of my age it was overlooked.
I met my oncology team and was introduced to my Macmillan nurse. I was so emotional I don’t remember much of what got said, except that I needed to undergo surgery and some investigative procedures. Thinking about the distraught look on my mum’s face still upsets me.
My tumour type is usually found in women in their 20s. Not much is known about this rare form of ovarian cancer so – reassuringly – the doctors made sure they left no stone unturned. Before the next operation, I had a colonoscopy – which came back clear - and CT scans. The scan showed raised lymph nodes, which was concerning. The next step: further surgery.
This time I had my appendix, omentum and a small piece of my bowel removed, and a full stomach wash to check for any cancerous cells. The next few weeks were an emotional roller coaster while I waited to find out if I would need further surgery.
Back at the hospital, I was finally given good news: everything had come back clear and there wasn’t a spillage of the cells from the tumour. I would need a check-up every 6 months and was told that once I’ve had children it would be best to have my other ovary removed.
I often say after every storm a rainbow will always appear, in fact this is one of my core beliefs. How can cancer become your rainbow? Because I refuse to let it become my enemy. I feel if I do that I’m wasting my precious heartfelt emotions on something that doesn’t deserve it. I deserve all my loving positive emotions to be used in a productive and empowering way as do my family and friends. I share my story in the hope that other people become aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and newly diagnosed women have hope. Together we can make a difference.
Almost two decades are stolen from a woman who dies of ovarian cancer in the UK. A screening tool would change this. Help Ovarian Cancer Action raise £1million to protect future generations – visit www.ovarian.org.uk or Text OVCA12 plus the amount you would like to donate to 70070.