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Maria and her mum
Maria is keen to help raise awareness of the disease and its symptoms

When her mum started complaining of stomach pain and heartburn, Maria assumed it was just a bug – after all, the symptoms sounded pretty harmless and her mum was almost never unwell. Here Maria talks about her mum’s shock ovarian cancer diagnosis, and why even the most harmless of symptoms can sometimes mean something more serious is going on…

Mum never gets ill – she’s always been fit and healthy. So when she went to the doctor with heartburn and a swollen tummy, we all thought it was a bug. When we found out it was actually ovarian cancer we were angry and very scared. When I did some research I was shocked just how many everyday symptoms are mistaken for ovarian cancer. How do you go from heartburn to this?

Heartburn

Mum first went to her doctor with heartburn, a swollen tummy and loose bowels. After examining her, the GP told her it looked as though she had a large mass on her ovary and quickly sent her for a CA125 blood test. Later on, she had an ultrasound and a CT scan.

Soon after, mum had a sudden swelling on her stomach and had to go into hospital for four days to drain fluid from her stomach. During this time she also had a biopsy done. The biopsy confirmed that she had high-grade serous ovarian cancer with peritoneal cancer

Disbelief

The whole family reacted with disbelief to the news. Mum has never been ill. She is a fit and active 64-year old. She doesn’t drink or smoke. In fact, before all this, the last time she was admitted to hospital was 45-years ago when she gave birth to my brother.

As soon as I found out about mum’s diagnosis, I researched everything I could. I soon discovered a huge lack of awareness or screening for ovarian cancer.

I own my own domiciliary care company and we look after many people with cancer at the end of their life. Doing this job and finding out mum has cancer has been hard because I only ever see the worst side of cancer.

Mum hasn’t started treatment yet. We do know that due to the size of the tumour she will have three sessions, then a CT scan to see if the tumour has shrunk. After which she’ll have a major operation and then more chemo.

Screening

My mum has never missed a smear test, bowel test or breast mammogram, so finding out there is no screening for ovarian cancer is shocking. There isn’t even widespread information about the symptoms. Had we of been aware of symptoms when mum first began to feel unwell, we would have gone to the doctor straight away. Sadly, mum just thought she was suffering with heartburn and didn’t go for at least six weeks after her symptoms started.

Since mum’s diagnosis, I have spoken to many people and not one person was able to identify the symptoms of ovarian cancer. They also confirmed they would not go to the doctor with the symptoms mum had. Now I really want to help make other people aware of the symptoms and encourage them to seek medical advice.

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