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Patricia's Story

I hadn’t felt well for a while, about eighteen months. The symptoms I was experiencing were thought to be early stages of menopause. The possibility that I had cancer was the last thing I expected.

I even joked with my girlfriend that if a tumour was the reason for my bloated tummy, I would have to have it removed, resulting in a more healthy, skinnier me. Eventually the fatigue became so extreme I would need to sleep for three hours after working the morning at the child care centre.

After suffering back pain for a fortnight I began spotting. The pain got worse. My GP provided me with a referral to a new gynaecologist and recommended an ultrasound. The results of the ultrasound showed an abnormality and my GP suggested if my condition continued to decline to prepare for emergency surgery. I was a bit shocked but only had to wait two days for my scheduled appointment with my new gynaecologist. She recognised abnormalities on the ultrasound and ordered an extensive, more conclusive range of blood tests. Two days later I first heard the term “CA125”.

A CA125 count is a measurement of tumorous cells, and mine was alarmingly high.  Nevertheless, it was also explained that a high CA125 count doesn’t always mean that cancer is present, but I was sent to a gynaecological oncologist that day to determine the cause. I was still not daring to think about cancer or believe it might happen to me. The oncologist discussed all possibilities and outcomes and why surgery was necessary. I had to wait seven days to go into surgery.

It was the start of the most emotional time in our lives. It’s funny looking back now - my husband and I can’t remember what we did in those seven days. Having my family and close friends around me for support was, and still is, a wonderful blessing. But they also remind you of what you may possibly lose, and I worried for them as much, if not more, than I worried for myself. There were so many unknowns - if I had cancer, how far had it spread, how much of my reproductive system would be removed, how well would I recover.
I woke from surgery to bad news - the cancer was in both ovaries and my uterus. They removed them all, and my cervix. Lymph nodes were also taken and tested and thankfully showed no further spread of the cancer.

Chemotherapy was the next step, yet another process I had heard about, but never thought would affect me. After six sessions of chemotherapy, I was relieved to be finished with the treatment but absolutely exhausted; physically and emotionally. Despite how unwell I felt, my spirits remained high, and I never lost sight of the fact that I really believed I would get through this. I was so fortunate to have loving family and friends around me all the time, who have helped me maintain a positive attitude.

I have been well for quite a few years now, and often think how lucky I was to survive a disease with such a high death rate. Then again, I remind myself and others that it was also my persistence that ensured I caught this thing at stage two, when the chances of survival are much greater, than at later stages. It seems unreal that in this day and age of high technology, we are still at the mercy of such a deadly disease. I can only imagine what a difference a simple screening test would make to the lives of so many women and their families and friends. I hope that by telling my story I can help to raise awareness of ovarian cancer, and motivate people to support the tremendous effort that the Women’s Cancer Foundation invest in finding the screen and the cure for ovarian cancer.

Patricia Andrew

Personal Stories
2 out of 3 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will die.
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