After months of going back and forth to her GP, Ali had abandoned hope of ever getting an official diagnosis for her constant stomach pain. Fortunately, her partner Darren refused to let her give up. Here Ali talks about her struggle for answers, and why perseverance would eventually help save her life…
I had been walking five miles with my dog every morning and suddenly I could barely make it around the block, I was so tired. I’d always suffered pain during my periods, but now I had a new blinding stomach pain. I was also bloated and lost my appetite. My GP told me she thought I had bad indigestion, possibly appendicitis – or maybe I’d need my gallbladder removed.
I was convinced it was just one of those things that I would have to live with. I almost gave up and increased my pain medication, but my partner Darren kept pushing me and taking me to the doctors. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gone back.
Following a CT scan in October, I was referred to a consultant who told me I had a 10.5cm complex cyst and severe endometriosis. As my endometriosis had been left untreated for so long, he recommended a hysterectomy.
I was referred to an oncologist as a safe measure. I was told repeatedly, ‘it’s not cancer, it’s not cancer’. I had three consultants tell me that it wasn’t cancer.
I was admitted for surgery and during the operation they found that the cyst was cancerous. I was told of my diagnosis the day after the op. The operating consultant came to see me and explained she was genuinely surprised. I was on lots of pain medication at the time. I think I just decided that the cancer had gone, and I needed to get on with it. I couldn’t be worried now I no longer had it. The cancer was stage 1a but a grade III, so I had preventative chemo for six cycles.
It’s a really odd one because when it was there I didn’t know it was cancer – and then it was gone. It was this really sort of surreal feeling where something that could have potentially killed me was just gone. I didn’t feel like I could feel sorry for myself. I just felt grateful that I’d been so lucky.
Just after my operation, I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it because it’s all you think about. But now that period has passed. I think my diagnosis is much harder on my friends and family. This is something that most other women I have spoken to agree with. There were lots of tears which confused me as I was not crying. I told them repeatedly that I was ok, but it was hard for them to accept it.
The biggest thing for me was going through the menopause at 36 because you can’t help but feel really old. I don’t think anyone prepared me for how difficult that was going to be. I never wanted children, It was never on the cards for me and my stepchildren mean the world to me. That didn’t stop it from being upsetting, though.
I’m not really sure what the most difficult aspect of my diagnosis is. Maybe the guilt that I am not as ill as some of the people that I meet. I am not going to lose my hair, and I can still carry on working. But I know I am lucky and everyone should have the chance to be as lucky as me.
I think it’s really important to stay positive. It would be really, really easy to let it rule you, but you have to take control of it. I’m not saying don’t feel sorry for yourself because that’s impossible, but you have to be positive. The people I’ve met with ovarian cancer have all been much older than me. But I have met some incredible people. I feel lucky to have met them.
I wanted to help Target Ovarian Cancer because I consider myself to have been incredibly lucky. My cancer was caught at stage 1a, and I have been able to carry on working and studying. I am not sure I had even heard of ovarian cancer before my diagnosis. I think it’s extremely important that people get to hear about it; if everyone was caught as early as me then they would be as lucky as me. I think people should know the symptoms as well as they do for breast, skin and testicular cancer.