Anna's story

February 7, 2018

Saturday morning, 3am. I was woken by crippling abdominal pain. I’d had a sore tummy all week, similar to the pain I’d had previous years and been to my doctor about. I’d been given multiple diagnoses – appendicitis and gallstones to name a few.

I forced myself out of bed and crept bent over to the bathroom, I tried to convince myself it was just bowel related and I needed to relieve myself. Nothing eased so I went back to bed and somehow drifted off to sleep again. 5am, awake again, pain worse than ever. I started to cry and realized I needed to get to hospital. As I sat in A&E I thought how embarrassing it was going to be when they told me it was just bad constipation. If only that’s all it was.

I don’t remember a lot about that day in hospital, or the days that followed, they all became a blur of shock, tears, information overload and trying to deal with everyone else’s emotions. What I do remember is the news changing from a couple of easy ovarian cysts that would need to be whipped out of my belly, to 2kg of cancerous tumours that urgently needed to be removed. Within days I was flown from Dunedin to Christchurch for urgent surgery. At age 25, I could do nothing but hope they wouldn’t give me a full hysterectomy and send me into early menopause with no children.

My 1st surgery was major, and recovery was long and slow. That recovery was nothing compared to the three rounds of chemo that followed. My Oncologist told me the type of chemo I was about to get was one of the roughest. He was right, it was. But at the end of it, my tumour marker was lower than ever, and it was 100% worth it. My 2nd surgery was a walk in the park. I’d been lucky enough that my original surgeon was thoughtful enough to leave whatever he could behind to give me the best chance of having babies. As it turned out, one tumour was cancer, one was benign. The 2nd surgery was to completely remove the ovary that had the cancerous one.

I’m now over two years in remission. Give me three more years and I’ll be yelling from the rooftops that I’m cured. My hair has grown back – I’ve never been so happy to have a bob! My scars have faded. My memories of that time have become hazy. My mind doesn’t think about cancer as soon as I wake up anymore. My life has returned to ‘normal’ (whatever that is) for a 20 something year old female.

But I will never be the same person I was. And I will always wonder, perhaps if people were more familiar with the symptoms mine would’ve been picked up in one of the numerous doctors’ appointments with the same complaint over the previous 6 years. I don’t blame anyone, and I am at peace with my experience, but without increased awareness there will be more 25 year olds going through exactly what I did. Please make sure the females in your life know the symptoms.

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