Geri spent 2021 living in Melbourne with her husband, George, and two young children, Charlotte and Annabelle, aged 4 and 8. She was working full-time in her job as a Customer Delivery Manager and, like most Melbournians, had spent the past year navigating COVID-19, Victoria’s rolling lockdowns, and all the stress and anxiety that came with it.
“Life was busy, but fun. I was juggling a full household with two active kids, a full-time job and enjoying many social and fitness activities,” said Geri.
Mid-way through the year, the 43-year-old began experiencing a host of unusual symptoms, including persistent headaches, recurring UTIs, and severe bloating. Despite initially dismissing her symptoms as general fatigue from her busy life, they continued to increase in frequency and severity.
Following multiple consultations with her GP and undergoing several tests, including a pregnancy test, Geri’s doctors still couldn’t identify the source of the problem.
Growing frustrated with her situation, Geri turned to Google to search for answers.
“It was through my own online research that I stumbled across Ovarian Cancer Australia. When I first read through their website, my stomach dropped – I could relate to so many of the symptoms listed,” said Geri.
Following her research, Geri felt empowered to challenge her doctor and ask for a CA125 test, which, for some people, can be used to look for early signs of ovarian cancer.
To her despair, the test results returned as abnormal, and Geri was sent for a PET scan, confirming her diagnosis of Stage 3 high-grade serous ovarian cancer.
When I first heard my diagnosis, I was completely shocked. My thoughts then immediately turned to my family, especially my children. How was I supposed to break the news to them? What would they do if I wasn’t here anymore?"
Geri’s routine of working and caring for her kids was soon replaced by multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and illness. Initially, Geri underwent an exploratory operation, however the surgeons were unable to locate a tumour. This was followed by three rounds of chemotherapy and a full hysterectomy – a major surgery involving the removal of the uterus, cervix and ovaries – where later, a biopsy found the tumour hidden inside one of Geri’s ovaries.
“I’d gone from this lively, social, hard-working mother-of-two to someone who just didn’t have the energy to contribute. My husband had to take on the role of a single dad. He was working and looking after the kids full-time as well as cleaning, cooking, and caring for me,” said Geri.
Following the discovery of the tumour, Geri underwent three more rounds of chemotherapy and is now on a two-year trial for Niraparib, a maintenance treatment for women with advanced ovarian cancer.
During her treatment Geri reached out to Ovarian Cancer Australia for support, who put her in touch with our team of specialist ovarian cancer nurses.
“My nurse, Jacinta, is amazing. I was so sick and overwhelmed by my diagnosis and treatment, I don’t know what I would have done without her. She was able to offer me practical advice, answer any questions I had and explain in layman’s terms exactly what was going on with me. She also talked to me about my fears and emotions and gave me a sense of peace about my situation,” Geri said.
For Geri, her ovarian cancer diagnosis forced her to reevaluate her life values.
“I've always worked hard, but the reality is that by choosing to push through my symptoms and ignore them, I was only making myself sicker. I’ve reassessed what’s important in my life and am choosing to spend more time focusing on my kids, my family and my health and fitness."
“I hope I can get my message across and encourage more women to take control of their health and not be afraid to ask more questions,” said Geri.
"And I'd especially like to thank my family, friends and work colleagues for their support throughout my journey and now in helping me raise funds and awareness."