When doctors told Natalie, that she was too young to have ovarian cancer she refused to listen. Armed with a family history of the disease, and a list of ‘classic’ symptoms, the 36-year-old mum of two kept going back to her doctor and asking for a second opinion. Her perseverance ended up saving her life…
I went for many visits to doctors, and was brushed off so many times.
Even though I had a family history, I was told I was too young to have ovarian cancer. I’d also had terrible periods throughout my 20s and possible endometriosis, but had never had that followed up. At no point did anyone go out of their way to investigate my symptoms, so I just kept going back.
The truth at last
I was first diagnosed when I received a hand delivered letter from the hospital. When I arrived for my appointment I was told I had cancer; no one had mentioned it to me before. They told me I had a lot of scarring and so they thought the cancer had spread – this was without waiting on a CT scan. At that point I was preparing for a terminal diagnosis. I was devastated. My mum, who
was with me at the time, lost both her sister and her aunt to ovarian cancer, so she was also completely devastated. Fortunately, I later got a call from my Macmillan nurse to tell me a CT scan showed that the cancer hadn’t spread after all.
I think the worst part was telling my two young boys the news. It was obviously very hard, but I don’t think they really understood was it all meant.
The treatment was a radical hysterectomy. When they did the operation they found cysts and a grade III clear cell tumour. Clear cell tumours don’t always affect CA 125 results, so my previous tests had always been inconclusive. The cancer was stage 1a, but because the tumor was a stage III, I am currently having chemotherapy for six sessions, every three weeks. I’m scared of chemo, but it’s important to keep doing the normal things in life. Fortunately, my one-year-old has lots of energy and keeps me pretty busy!
A family history
One of the first things my oncologist asked was if there was anyone in the family with ovarian cancer or breast cancer. When I said yes I was referred to Liverpool Women’s Hospital for genetic counselling. Now I’m just waiting on my BRCA results. If they end up being positive, both my mum and dad will get genetic testing. My auntie died at 48 from ovarian and breast cancer, and my mum’s aunt died from breast cancer. I also have 2 sisters, and if I test positive they will get tested for the BRCA mutation too.
Having cancer has definitely changed me for the better - even when I thought it was going to be stage III and terminal. Despite everything that’s happened, I’m always looking for healthy living tips and ways to live better. Now I’m determined to live well and raise awareness about early diagnosis – especially to GPs and primary care professionals. I am planning on organizing a fundraising event and raising awareness – hopefully during March. Symptoms awareness is so important! As soon as I’m 100 per cent better, I’m going to use all my energy to help spread the word.