“It Will Never Happen To Me”

Like many – I would even take a gamble here and say all – people on New Years Eve 2014,  I eagerly anticipated the dawning of the 16th year of this millenium. Having graduated one degree and being on the cusp of another, I was sure that this year would hold big things for me.

To be fair, you could hardly say my year has been uneventful thus far, but it certainly hasn’t unfolded how I might have wished.

First – the pesky swelling in my abdomen got to a point where I finally agreed to go to the doctor…who referred me to a gynecologist who recommended immediate surgery which then turned into surgery in-a-few-days-because-this-thing-ain’t-benign-after-all. Then, two weeks later as I recovered from a surgery that had cut me from pelvic bone to navel, I was told in no uncertain terms that a mere week later I would begin the first week of a nine week course of chemotherapy.

Dear reader, I wish I could tell you that I was brave, stoic in the face of adversity, kept a stiff upper lip and looked on the bright side. Sadly, that is not the way I was wired to respond to such an event. Instead? I cried. For nine weeks I cried almost without rest, stopping only to sleep and rehydrate.

Luckily, I’m now six weeks post-chemo and I’ve never felt better. My hair is growing back, my energy levels are increasing every day, food doesn’t taste like metal anymore. Things are definitely looking up for me now and so it is with this renewed energy that I
have undertaken my new mission: Operation Make Everyone Aware Of Ovarian Cancer All The Time.

Every year 1400 women in Australia are diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer, a tiny section of society but it is significant because while other cancers are well researched and curable; OvCa (as it’s known in the biz) still has a shockingly high mortality rate due to a lack of public support and funding. Although I was relatively lucky (on the spectrum of cancers at least) by being diagnosed with the highly curable Germ Cell Tumor; OvCa is notoriously tricky to diagnose and many women don’t realise the severity of their illness until it is too late. I can attest that the symptoms can be relatively mild and easy to dismiss as normal fluctuations in the body – bloating, feeling full after eating a small amount, increased need to urinate. By the time I entered surgery, a 13cm tumor had grown on my left ovary and I hate to think how bad things could have become, had I ignored the voice in my head/my mum and put off going to the doctor even a couple more weeks.

I urge every person who thinks they recognise some of the symptoms, or just has an uneasy feeling about the whole thing to go to their doctor as soon as possible and request the CA125 blood test. Stick to your guns if they try and talk you out of it – my GP asked me repeatedly if I could maybe just be pregnant and then made me do a pregnancy test even though I said no! You know your body better than anybody else and if you feel that something is wrong – well it’s better to find out it’s nothing than to ignore something that could become serious.

Still, it’s not all bad news. Awareness is growing – only a few weeks ago one of Australia’s AFL teams dedicated a football match to women with Ovarian Cancer and this week, scientists announced a significant breakthrough in treating Ovarian Cancer with chemotherapy. Things are improving but we can only reach Ovarian Cancer Australia’s goal for a 25% improvement in the survival rate by 2025 by accelerating our progress.

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