"It never crossed my mind that I could get cancer. I had no health problems and I was living such a good life, then I found out I had cancer raging inside me."
Many women haven't heard of ovarian cancer before their diagnosis
With vague symptoms and no early detection test or effective screening program, an ovarian cancer diagnosis can leave you feeling confused, lonely, and fearful.
While we have come a long way in improving the lives of women diagnosed, the dire statistics fill those living with ovarian cancer with fear. Every day, five more women in Australia are diagnosed with this disease. Women like Sabrina, who need our support to help cope through what she described as “one of life’s toughest challenges.”
Together we can be there for these women, ensuring they have accurate information and supportive networks, while continuing to advocate for better outcomes and quality of life.
Help support and lead change for thousands of courageous Australian women.
Sabrina is a caring mum to three teenagers and a dedicated pharmacist, with a love of helping others. Sabrina didn’t have any existing medical conditions, but persistent pain in her upper abdomen in 2020 led to a scan and a diagnosis of gallstones requiring surgery.
When the surgeon operated, he saw cancer nodules on her peritoneum. He stopped the surgery and a CT scan later that day confirmed her diagnosis.
“In the evening the surgeon came, and he was saying that they’d found fibroids on the ovaries, and I thought it was simple – they can take out my ovaries and I’ll be fine. He said something about discussing the results later, but I didn’t think much of it,” says Sabrina.
Sabrina’s husband, Imran, had moved to Melbourne before the rest of the family to expand their business. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Imran would require an urgent application for exemption to come back over the South Australian border.
“That night I was alone in the hospital, and I saw that a letter had been left behind, so I pulled it out and it said that I have metastatic ovarian cancer – and that was when my world turned upside down,” says Sabrina.
“It was probably the worst night of my life – because of COVID I was alone in hospital, so I called my husband and we just cried for hours.”
Shortly after Sabrina’s diagnosis she had debulking surgery to remove her ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes sending her straight into menopause. Sabrina remembers not knowing what to expect from the surgery but feeling extremely anxious about the side effects of chemotherapy.
“You can never know what it’s like to go through chemo until you experience it yourself because everyone responds differently. The hair loss was a huge thing for me – I even asked my daughter ‘do you still want a bald mum?’” says Sabrina. Supported by her family, Sabrina underwent her treatment plan and following a clear scan in February 2021 was optimistic for the year ahead. Then a few months later a routine PET scan found another two nodules on the peritoneum.
Sadly, 70% of patients diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer will have a recurrence within three years. Sabrina’s experience is far too common.
“When you’re newly diagnosed everything feels unpredictable and it takes time to start thinking positively and even then, I think every strong woman would still have their moments of despair,” says Sabrina.
“But the relapse hit me badly – I just hadn’t expected it and it became so hard to get out of a negative mindset. I kept thinking what if this happens? What if that happens? How will my kids survive? What will my husband do?”
Sabrina didn’t know about Ovarian Cancer Australia when she was first diagnosed and instead had called for advice during remission.
“The helpline nurse was so friendly – we went through my diagnosis, and she asked if they could call me again to see how I’m doing. I said yes, but at the time I was convinced that I’d be fine,” remembers Sabrina.
“Then the day after I was told about my recurrence, my specialist nurse, Anna, called. It was such a relief to have someone to talk to – I was trying to be strong in front of my family and keep my inner fears to myself. It was just such a relief to have someone to talk to and let all those fears out.”
WE HAVE THE VITAL SERVICES TO SUPPORT WOMEN LIKE SABRINA, YOUR HELP MAKES THEM HAPPEN.