Donna's Story

March 1, 2018

“When I think about it now there were many alarm bells ringing but I didn’t actually take notice until I started getting really tired. I was super fit and yet feeling fatigued. I knew something wasn’t right. I started to closely monitor my menstrual cycle, diet and exercise and requested weekly bloods. After four weeks nothing showed, and my energy was decreasing. I knew something was wrong. Back to the doctors. Different bloods were taken, mammogram was done and still everything came back normal. Okay onto the third doctor where I requested an internal examination, smear and a scan (previous history of a cyst). 

Results were back. A complex cyst was sighted on the right ovary, and a CA125 blood test was ordered. Yes, it was high. I really didn’t have a clue what this test meant until now. Everything started speeding up, but it is this part that I will always remember. 

Within a couple of days of that blood test result an appointment was made to immediately see the hospital Gynaecology clinic. I was firing questions but told I was just speaking to the administration making the appointment. The following day I went to the appointment by myself, not knowing what it was about. I was told that "it appears you have ovarian cancer and it now goes to a team who will provide the best plan for the removal of the cyst and the best way forward". I could expect a couple of weeks for the decision followed with an immediate action plan. I was gobsmacked and a mess, so upset.

Two days of processing I have ovarian cancer was pretty rat shit for our family. By the third day I knew this was a wrong process and I felt let down by the Gynaecology clinic. I started to make a plan, gather a team and another option. I had two weeks to pull it all together before the Gynaecology Oncology Multidisciplinary Meeting was delivered. This time I wanted to go prepared. My new GP was fantastic and super-fast, I knew I was in good hands. I was seen by a private gynaecologist and booked in to have the cyst removed but after the Gynaecology Oncology Multidisciplinary Meeting plan was delivered.

I was called back to the hospital and seen by a Gynaecology specialist. That day we were told you don’t have ovarian cancer it’s endometriosis and the operation could be 3-4 months away. That sounded like fantastic news, but I didn’t feel like celebrating; I left there thinking no way that's wrong.

I was back to the private gynaecologist and within seven days I had had a full hysterectomy and during this, my
understanding is, a washing was performed, and microscopic cancer cells were found and removed along my stomach lining. This surgeon was my hero and I knew it from the get go. I was in great hands and I felt amazing after the operation.

The cyst came back malignant. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, high-grade serous carcinoma stage 2a. I began to make a plan for wellness and build a team to help me with this.

I was put back into the public system to have six chemotherapy treatments. Chemotherapy has been quite an
experience and the team there has been massively supportive. Through this I have been really blessed to be able to continue what I love doing, waka ama (outrigger canoeing) - I know this has been the best medicine for me. I know that I have a solid team that cares for me and I know that I have had a good start. I am super excited about the future.”

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