“Like the doctors, I thought ovarian cancer was only seen in older women not young women like me. We were all wrong and it must not continue to be discounted when women like me, no matter our age, present with symptoms.” – Chloe
Chloe from Murchison, was a carefree 20 year old living the life of a young person, drinking, socialising and not sleeping a lot. Working long hours as an apprentice builder, she did not think anything of her consistent, extreme tiredness, simply attributing it to her lifestyle.
However when she also experienced bloating and stomach pain, she decided to visit her GP. Over 18 months, she made numerous visits to the doctor, and she had tests for sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections and pregnancy.
“My GP never considered cancer because I was ‘too young.’ Instead, I was prescribed numerous courses of antibiotics and told to rest and slow down.”
Over Christmas, Chloe’s mother noticed that she was in pain and said she was sure there was something majorly wrong. Chloe visited friends for New Year’s, and became very concerned about her health, so one of her friends made an appointment at the local health centre.
“I was sent to Christchurch for a scan for a suspected miscarriage, but during the scan, the radiographer stopped halfway through, and I was sent to see a specialist. By now, I was sure that something was not right.”
A specialist examined Chloe and told her she had a cyst, which would require surgery, and she was booked in for the surgery 12 days later. But only a day later, she took a turn for the worse and was rushed into urgent surgery to remove a large mass which was suspected to be cancerous.
Four days later, it was confirmed she had a Yolk Sac Tumour, a rare type of ovarian cancer which affects young women; in contrast to many ovarian cancers, Yolk Sac Tumours have a higher survival rate.
On February 1, Chloe started a chemotherapy regime called BEP (bleomycin, etoposide and cisplatin), an older generation of chemotherapy agents with side effects that can be particularly harsh.
Though Chloe’s cancer was able to be cured with this treatment, she experiences continued side effects which limit her quality of life and ability to work to this day. As a young, highly active person, these limitations were a difficult adjustment, though Chloe is grateful for her amazing family, supportive husband and children.
“Throughout the whole process, I was told by every doctor I saw that they thought I was too young for ovarian cancer, and they never would’ve expected to see it in a 21 year old,” she said. “I had no prior knowledge of ovarian cancer but did have limited knowledge of other female cancers, as I’ve had smear tests in the past and vaguely knew what they were for but I did not know that a smear test does not pick up all female reproductive cancers.
We are grateful to Chloe 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.
OCFNZ started as Cure Our Ovarian Cancer in 2018, with a focus on low-grade serous ovarian cancer. In 2020, we expanded our focus to include all ovarian cancer and, in 2024, we changed our name to the Ovarian Cancer Foundation New Zealand.