“At any given moment you have the power to say: This is not how the story is going to end.” - Unknown
All I knew at this point was that I had Ovarian Cancer. I had no idea of the specifics and this appointment would spell it out to me. Every time any medical staff would walk past the waiting room I would shiver, I was terrified. Finally my name was called. I met my new support nurse and surgeon. They were both such lovely women and all I wanted to do was sit and chat about anything, anything at all that wasn’t Cancer. Unfortunately we had to face it and face it we sure did.
I spent the next hour learning how the Cancer, despite me being fit and generally well had actually been growing inside of me for many months. I was told that it was low-grade, meaning that it grew slowly. Feeling relieved at this aspect of the diagnosis, I was then informed how low-grade Cancer doesn’t typically respond well to chemotherapy, meaning that for me to have the best possible chance of a cure, then we would have to rely on surgery to be my saviour. My doctor then began to explain to me in detail the spread of the Cancer, organ by organ…
The Cancer had basically obliterated my ovaries and spread further throughout my womb. This meant that it was certain that a full hysterectomy would need to be performed. My current dreams as a 21 year old included living overseas, traveling the world and being successful in my career. Children hadn’t quite entered my mind or plans yet. They’d always been a “yes I’ll have them, but later in life”, but that “later” had now turned into a “never”. I had absolutely no control over the matter, there was no option, my entire womb needed removing. I even asked about freezing my eggs but was advised against it as not only would it delay the start of my Cancer treatment but the hormones I’d need to take would likely encourage further Cancer growth. This was really hard to deal with at first, I felt like I was being robbed. However, as my doctor continued on, resuming her explanation about the other Cancerous areas of my body, I realised that a lack of a womb was the least of my worries. There was no use in worrying about children that I may or may not have had in the future, especially as my future’s actual existence was so uncertain in the first place. I needed to focus on me, present me.
The news however became even worse, it was confirmed that my Ovarian Cancer had reached Stage 3 (with Stage 4 being the worst). It had spread outside of the ovaries to the edges of my bowel, liver, gut and spleen. It amazed me how this bugger of a thing had been growing inside of me, spreading to different organs for months and all I felt was slight pain and cramps, the equivalent of usual period pain. It’s really quite terrifying, the only way to discover Ovarian Cancer is through recognising your symptoms of cramps or bloating and then having an MRI/CT scan. Despite common belief, a Pap Smear test does not even detect it.
The usual practice for tackling advanced Ovarian Cancer is to perform “debulking” surgery. This involves cutting out as much of the Cancer as possible including a full hysterectomy, then followed by many rounds of chemotherapy in the hope to ‘poison’ any remaining tumors/cells. This was the initial plan for me too… until the doctors received the results of a final scan that showed an area in my upper bowel that was inoperable. If they were to cut this part out of me, I wouldn’t be able to receive nutrition and would die. The only possible way to treat it was with Chemotherapy and as I mentioned earlier it has a pretty lousy success rate in my type of low-grade cancer. This was absolutely devastating to hear; my chances were low but if anything it made me more determined.
That afternoon, having re-evaluated my treatment-plan, my surgeon decided to postpone my surgery and attempt a few rounds of Chemotherapy first instead. She introduced me to my new Chemotherapy specialist. I was feeling so demoralised at this point- I had Cancer in places that surgery couldn’t reach and Chemotherapy was not expected to work. Despite this, she greeted us with a big confident smile, and told me “you look strong, I’m going to throw the toughest cocktail of drugs at you I have”. She even said she would give me an extra brand new drug that had only just been approved. I left the appointment filled with adrenalin and determination, and an appointment booked in for my first Chemotherapy treatment to begin the next week.