Laura had no idea she had ovarian cancer until she stumbled across a friend’s Facebook post…
I first realised I could have cancer when I saw a post on Facebook listing all the symptoms of the disease. A friend had shared a post from a friend of theirs about her experiences of cancer and what she’d been through. There was a list of symptoms and I was shocked to realise that I had them all.
I called my doctor straight away and told her that I thought I might have cancer. Before that I thought that maybe I might have irritable bowel syndrome because there are symptoms which are the same. I’d even gone down the gluten free route, but it had made no difference. The idea of cancer hadn’t even entered my head. You just never dream this is going to happen to you.
Finding out the truth
After some initial testing, doctors confirmed that I had a cyst on my ovary. This was quickly removed and sent away for a biopsy.
In October 2014, I was called back into East Surrey hospital for what I thought was going to be a check-up. Because I assumed it was just a routine appointment, I didn't think to take anyone with me. That’s when I was told I had clear cell carcinoma. It all sounded very medical. I had no idea what anything actually meant. Finally, it dawned on me that it was a type of ovarian cancer. I was on my own finding this out - it was awful.
Making tough decisions
I spent ages with the Macmillan nurse afterwards, sobbing in shock. Eventually I phoned my husband Mark and told him over the phone. I couldn't keep it to myself - I had to tell somebody.
I think the worst part was having to tell my son Harry. It was horrible. I told him that I had ovarian cancer, but he was only five so he didn’t quite understand what cancer meant.
After another meeting with my doctors I was given the choice of having one ovary removed or opting for a more radical hysterectomy. It was a difficult decision, but I eventually decided on the full hysterectomy. I already had Harry and although I would have liked to have had more children, I didn’t want my cancer coming back. Afterwards the doctors told me I'd made the right decision. I had stage 1c cancer - meaning the cancer cells weren't contained in my ovary - so I'd have needed the hysterectomy at some point anyway.
Recognising the symptoms
There is no screening for ovarian cancer - like there is with the smear test for cervical cancer - which means it is vitally important women are aware of the symptoms. More women need to know because early diagnosis is the best chance of survival. It can be easy to dismiss the symptoms and put them down to something else but it is not worth the risk. The symptoms are all a bit vague and lots of them could mean other things. I think that uncertainty puts people off going to the doctor.
I had all of the symptoms but some people may only be experiencing one or two. I think the point I’d most like to highlight to other women is that you don't need all the symptoms to have ovarian cancer.
That’s part of the reason I look back now and think ‘thank goodness for that Facebook post’. Without that it could have been another two or three months before I got diagnosed. It might have been too late then. It can be so aggressive and it can spread so quickly that I think I was so lucky to catch it when I did.
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