Today is World Ovarian Cancer Day and I have a story to tell you.
It is now one year that I had my latest surgery. A surgery that I was not expecting and came out of the blue. For the first time in many years I had no major pain and I thought to myself I’m finally feeling good and I am on the road to full recovery from all my previous surgeries.
How wrong was I? Every year in January I go home to have my medicals check-ups. I have private health insurance and attend a private hospital that I trust 100%. The care and quality provided are second to none and I’m not willing to compromise on my health anymore.
So off I went and my Gynae consultant asks me how I was to which I replied I could not have been any better. For the first time I had no pain except for the pain on the right side of my groin but I knew it was coming from the laparotomy scar and I know how to manage it by now.
After a basic assessment, she decides to take a quick look at my pelvis by means of ultrasound and she starts asking about my ovaries specially my left ovary. I said it was fine, no complaints.
She is not happy and asks me to go back to Portugal as soon as possible for another Ultrasound with a specialist consultant. So, in February I went back to Lisbon and did this ultrasound only to be told I had to go back again because she was not happy with what she saw in the screen as there was something big on my left ovary. And I kept insisting …”but I have no pain”. She insisted too and said I needed a pelvic MRI with contrast. So back I was in March for the MRI and for the tumour markers blood test. A few days later I was back in Dublin and I got an email from my Gynae saying I needed to go back ASAP and have surgery for a suspected ovarian cancer. In my mind I just said “Not again!!! Not another surgery and I can’t have ovarian cancer!”
One out of three of the tumour markers was positive the CA125 and the MRI showed a big mass on the left ovary. All I could think was “why am I not in pain?”. I also said to her I cannot put my body through another surgery, it would be my eighth surgery. She just said I had no option. Two days later I got an email with the date of my surgery and a date to attend the Oncology Consultant prior to my surgery. My Gynae had said she would not operate on me without his presence as he would be one of the best in his field. After preparing things in the clinic and organising admin and appointments with my staff, off I went. I was upset and angry that I was going to put my body yet through another surgery. I didn’t want to do it and for the first time I was scared. Not so much scared of the outcome (something inside of me was saying it wasn’t cancer) but that my body was not ready to be “butchered” again. Apologies for the term but that’s how I felt. I was just recovering from an Achilles Tendon surgery on top of many others I had in the past 10 years. I was just not ready and I couldn’t believe that I was going through the same again.
As I met the Oncology Surgeon, he prepared me for the worse. A very knowledgeable man full of compassion that said he was curious to meet me as he has heard about my medical history through my Gynae. I was by myself again and overwhelmed by all the info. I just took a long breath and said to him “I appreciate what you are saying, but I don’t think it is cancer. However, I know that the only way to know for sure is to have the proposed biopsy and I prefer the laparotomy as suggested by you.” I also implied that he could try and remove the scar tissue/adhesion on the right side of my groin that was causing me some pain and I believed that was contributing to my Lymphoedema in my right thigh. He just looked at me as if I was a complete crazy woman and nodded a shy yes.
The following day Mr. P arrives from Dublin to be by my side and to help calm down my nerves. I thought I was going to faint and my heart would not handle the surgery. I was happy to know that the anaesthetist was the same from 2 years and 12 years ago. So, she knew me well. At 7pm I was brought to the theatre room. At 10pm in the recovery room the Surgeon stops by to tell me I still have my ovaries but they found a big nasty cyst that of course he had to remove. As I was being wheeled completely doped to my room, I hear my friends’ voices in the corridor trying to talk to me and even making me laugh and me trying to say I am OK, all is good. The relief was unbelievable. I was a lucky one; I’ve gotten another chance after another fright. I was exhausted.
The following day he comes to visit me and he shows me a picture of my cyst. It was nasty and big as he said.” How come I had no pain?”. I still ask the same question but now I attach a feeling of gratitude to it. I’m grateful for the support I had from Mr. P and all my beloved friends and I am extremely grateful that my Gynae decided to do a proper check up on me and a follow-up with all the other consultants as I was undergoing the different exams.
You see, if you google Ovarian Cancer, often called "The Silent Killer," you’ll find out it is one of the most deadly cancers in women. According to the American Cancer Society only 20-30 percent of women diagnosed with late stage Ovarian Cancer are alive 5 years later. That means 70-80% of these women died. Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. Each year over 300 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Ireland so it is important that despite the absence of symptoms you go for a regular check up from your GP. As I said I was lucky but some women were not because they were not diagnosed on time. Do yourself a favour and learn and share more about ovarian cancer and what you can do and the support available by reading the ovarian cancer section in the Irish cancer website: www.cancer.ie
Prevention is key!