Since her diagnosis Emily has been passionate about raising awareness, especially in younger women. She's told us her story for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
Diagnosed with ovarian cancer just after her 27th birthday, she explains why her illness helped her learn to appreciate the things she loves the most.
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few days after my 27th birthday. Many people don't think ovarian cancer is a young person’s disease. I'm passionate about dispelling this myth.
My diagnosis all happened very quickly. I had severe stomach pains, nothing like anything I'd experienced before. I also had severe bloating. I got in touch with my GP straight away as it wasn't normal at all for me.
At first they thought I had appendicitis. They ran blood tests and I had a CT scan and stayed in overnight at hospital. The next day I had an emergency operation. It was at this point that they found I had a large tumour on my left ovary.
They didn't remove the tumour at this stage. I had more blood tests to assess my tumour markers and when my LDH level came back unusually high, I was referred to a specialist cancer hospital. It was doctors at this hospital who eventually confirmed my diagnosis. I had a dysgerminoma tumour on my left ovary.
It was very shocking, but at the time you just get on with it. You want to know what the next step is to get you well. My partner was the most supportive person in the world - he was an absolute rock. We were lucky enough that his company allowed him to work from home during my illness, so for three months he was with me every day.
My friends and family visited, bringing thoughtful gifts, including boxsets, magazines and books. I even took up knitting. I think it was hard for everyone. A lot of people get affected by a cancer diagnosis, not just the patient.
I had a second operation – this time to remove both the tumour and my left ovary. Fortunately, they were confident it hadn’t spread and that they had removed it all. There was no need for chemotherapy as it was caught early.
The worst thing was probably living with the uncertainty and knowing that it could come back at any point. During my monitoring, I really struggled. I felt like all I was doing was waiting on test results. I found that very hard. I went to see a psychiatrist and she gave me some tools to live with this uncertainty, which included CBT techniques and mindfulness. It helped massively, and continues to be something I use in everyday life .
I also struggled with the potential implications on my fertility. I've always wanted children, and I'd never even contemplated a future without them. To be faced with the possibility that you might not be able to have them was quite something. On one hand, you feel very lucky that you caught it all very early and you're still here, but on the other you feel like it's still lingering around affecting your future.
I know, 100 per cent, that having ovarian cancer changed me for the better. It sounds like a cliché, but it really does make you appreciate every day. You get less hung up on the small things and it gives you more confidence to get on and try new things.
I’m very passionate about wanting to help make people aware of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. Especially younger women.
I took part in The Ovarian Cancer Walk - it was quite an emotional day and such an accomplishment. I even got featured in my local newspaper.
Since then I've done two walks - raising nearly £2000. I’ve also held two cake sales at work during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
Following my illness, I wanted to get on and do the things I love. I loved horse riding as a child and I’ve since taken this back up. I've also been on a horse trekking holiday with my mum in the Pyrenees, which was a great experience!
I'm getting married in March 2017 – during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month – and I’ll be donating to Target Ovarian Cancer on behalf of my guests. The charity does great work to raise awareness. It’s important to tell people what to look out for. If we don't talk about the signs and symptoms, then how will anyone be able to protect themselves against cancer. It's important to make sure people are better prepared and that they understand and listen to their body.