After undergoing successful treatment for breast cancer, Nicoli thought she was finished with doctors and hospitals. With a wedding to plan and a new job to look forward to, she was just starting to put her life back together when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Here Nicoli talks about the positivity surrounding her second diagnosis, the difficulties of juggling work and treatment, and how a passing remark and a persistent doctor may have helped save her life...
I didn't know the symptoms
I was hoping to be signed off by my breast cancer oncologist when I happened to mention that I was concerned about the stomach pain I was experiencing and my crazy menstrual cycle. Just to be safe, she referred me to the local women’s hospital. Initially I heard nothing, so when I met again with my oncologist in April she was amazed and referred me once again. That’s when things started to happen. If I hadn't been under this oncologist I probably wouldn't have pursued it any further, and then it might have been too late.
I had a transvaginal ultrasound and met with the gynaecologist who took biopsies and bloods. The biopsies were clear, and my CA125 marker came back as 90. I was sent for a CT scan and due to my history, age (47 at the time) and problematic periods, the multidisciplinary team decided that a total hysterectomy was the way forward. No malignancies showed up on the CT scan. I had the surgery successfully, and a month later I was diagnosed with grade 1C2 high grade serous ovarian cancer. However, at my meeting with the oncologist, they altered the grading to 1C3.
I took the news very well. I’d prepared myself to be told that I had ovarian cancer; I just knew somehow. I’m a realist and very positive - all I wanted to know was how we were going to treat it and when would we get started.
I then began my chemotherapy treatment. I’m having six cycles of Carboplaitin and Taxol every 21 days.
I was prepared to lose my hair; I lost it during my breast cancer chemotherapy. I also have numerous scars as a result of the breast surgery. The scars remind me that I’ve already dealt with cancer once, and my hair will grow back
My only concern now is what if they had acted on my referral last November. Would my grade of ovarian cancer have been less? Now I do have the worry that the cells were found in my abdominal washings. I just pray that the chemotherapy zaps any remaining cells.
I have had genetic counselling. They recommended this due to the type of ovarian cancer I was diagnosed with and because I had triple negative breast cancer at age 42.
I’d say the most difficult aspect of my diagnosis has been twofold: firstly, I became engaged to my fiancé not long ago, and I have had to postpone my wedding. Secondly, I had just started a new job when I went off for my hysterectomy. I am a paediatric intensive care nurse and I love my job and being able to support the parents and carers of some pretty sick children. Unfortunately, due to the exposure to bacteria and viruses I am unable to work. Cancer has seriously slowed down my career advancement!
A lovely work colleague taught me to crochet one night shift before I went in for my hysterectomy, so now I crochet to take my mind off things. I used to love reading books, but I find it hard to concentrate since having chemotherapy. In my spare time, I love doing anything crafty, gardening, and walking our dog, Bailey.
I found out about Target Ovarian Cancer after doing some research following my diagnosis. I’ve had cancer and didn't know the symptoms, so if we can get women to question their symptoms earlier, then we would have better survival statistics. I recently told my story on Facebook and listed the symptoms to look for. Since then, a few ladies have privately messaged me to inform me that as a result of my post they have contacted their GPs. If I can help one woman get diagnosed earlier, then that will be wonderful.