“Ovarian cancer has symptoms that often are masked as other more common things and are overlooked by medical people and the unwell person, so diagnosis often comes after the disease is well advanced and too late to be cured.” – Diane
Diane from Ashburton was diagnosed with stage 3C high-grade serous ovarian cancer in November 2021 at age 53.
While working in a busy veterinary clinic, she experienced intermittent lower back pain and fatigue but attributed both of those symptoms to something else.
“The first real sign something wasn’t right was having excruciating pain under my ribs and down the ribs on one side and really struggling to breathe, resulting in a collapse at work and a hospital admission. An ECG showed I wasn’t having a heart attack, so a chest CT was taken and showed several blood clots in both lungs.”
An abdominal CT scan found a 17-centimetre mass originating from her ovaries.
“My hospital admission and diagnosis came just as Omicron had taken hold in New Zealand; there was a no-visitors policy in all hospitals. I struggled with being alone with the diagnosis after that until I was discharged on day four as it wasn’t the news I wanted to tell my husband and family over the phone.”
After three treatments of chemotherapy, a scan showed that the tumour had shrunk from 17 centimetres to 11 centimetres. Following a complete hysterectomy and debulking surgery with the removal of her omentum and a mass from the pouch of Douglas, all visible signs of cancer were gone.
Post surgery, Diane underwent a further three rounds of chemotherapy and is waiting to learn whether she will start a maintenance treatment. However, she has not yet been well enough to return to work.
“Recovery from treatment and surgery hasn’t been as instant as I thought it would be, but I am listening to my body and just going with what I can do each day.”
She is hopeful that additional education and funding for ovarian cancer research will help women get diagnosed at an earlier stage.
We are grateful to Diane 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.