“Listen to your body, be brave and ask for help. Accept the help. Whatever you do is right for you.” – Andrea
I am a wife, mother of 2, daughter, a member of a large and loving family with a few quality friends, and I am a high school teacher. I use humour to get by in many situations. I am active in volunteering, particularly in the education of young women, supporting their ability to cope with change, as well as being active in health promotion and fundraising.
At 30 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC), an inflammatory bowel disease. UC symptoms are very similar to ovarian cancer, so in 2018, when I started having worsening symptoms, combined with changes in menstruation, I put it down to perimenopause. Mistake number one – diagnosing myself.
The doctors completed scans and said there was a cyst on my ovary, and that I had a thickened uterus – both symptoms of the start of ovarian cancer, but both are also very common in the onset of menopause. The doctors said don’t worry, so I didn’t. At this stage, they should have asked me to come back in six months for monitoring, or warned me to keep a close eye on any changes, but they didn’t, so I didn’t. Mistake number two – trusting someone else explicitly – even when I felt uncertain of it.
Fast forward to August 2019, now aged 48, when my symptoms were extreme, and even after I spotted a poster by Cure Our Ovarian Cancer on the back door of a toilet where I checked off all the symptoms – I still thought I was overreacting and ignored it!
I was supposed to be watching my daughter play hockey at a tournament, but I was really sick, and despite the regular bouts of severe pain, which were bad enough to contemplate calling an ambulance, I still didn’t! Mistake number three – worrying about being embarrassed with an ambulance or wasting hospital staff time!
It took three trips to the GP before one doctor asked to feel my stomach. She thought I must be pregnant as she could feel the 20 cm tumour in my pelvic area.
I had enough warning signs; the poster was there, the worsening pain and every ovarian cancer symptom but I did not listen to my body.
After surgery and chemo I realise I am one of the lucky ones, despite having a large tumour that burst, I was still caught early and have a good prognosis; this drives me to use each day as wisely as I can and to do what I can to support others navigate their way in their health journey. I try to spend more time with my friends and family. Of course, I still make mistakes, but I am trying to learn from them.
We are grateful to Andrea for sharing her experience with ovarian cancer and for helping us raise awareness. If you would like to share your story too, please get in touch.