For 40 year old Stacee, the road to her ovarian cancer diagnoses was long and complicated.
Stacee had experienced endometriosis, cysts and many surgeries since the age of 17, so when a small 4cm cyst in January 2018 in an ultrasound after a miscarriage, although her doctor was concerned, she wasn’t.
“I’ve dealt with this for most of my life – 20 years – I will be fine, I thought. But a few months later I started getting extreme fatigue - fatigue that I had never experienced - pains in my tummy, pain in the right side of my back and around my ovary, extreme bloating, then started frequently going to the toilet and getting full quickly. By June, I knew something wasn’t right. Your body just knows, I guess,” says Stacee.
Stacee went to her GP and requested a referral to the best gynaecologist in Darwin. Once she relayed the symptoms to the gynaecologist, they acted very quickly. They performed an ultrasound, biopsies and the CA-125 blood test.
Stacee returned for her results to find the 4cm cyst had grown to 8cm, so immediate surgery was required.
“Being stubborn I told him it had to wait until September. I didn’t want to let my work down as I was super busy. He wasn’t happy at all!” she says.
By the time surgery came the tumour had grown to 10cm with another 7cm hiding behind it. The tumours were removed and they came back as being Ovarian Borderline Mucinous Tumours (pre-cancer.)
“I was then passed onto a gyno oncologist and was in complete denial, I thought, wow is this real? I had no idea how serious this could be be and had not heard the words “Ovarian Cancer” at this stage,” says Stacee.
Living in Darwin means the Gyno Oncologist Surgeon makes a visit once a month, as there are no other specialists in this field in the Northern Territory.
While Stacee kept her right ovary during this time, by the time the Gyno-Oncologist appointment came around, the advice was to remove the right ovary, fallopian tube and appendix, to prevent it from turning into cancer.
So in December 2018, Stacee went in for the surgery and was in and out of hospital for a few weeks due to complications.
“It was a very uneventful Christmas full of hospital visits, scans, blood tests and more medications.”
It was now 2019 and Stacee and her husband were now ready to take on the New Year after the most horrific few months.
Stacee received a call from the hospital to go in for an appointment.
“The nurse told me to bring my husband. I said he is working. The nurse insisted. We then went in and got told those dreaded words…the pathologist had found cancer in my removed ovary. There was no stage at this time, which was the most stressful part, waiting for a correct diagnosis.”
This was a devastating shock for Stacee and her husband.
Dealing with the diagnoses was extremely challenging and Stacee was hospitalised after not sleeping for three days due to stress. Stacee had experienced a mental breakdown.
“I was trying to suppress everything, but I think there was a grieving part of it. You’ve got to try to stay positive and on top of it.”
She also was given a high dose chemotherapy every 21 days. In August 2019, during a follow up, Stacee was advised to have a full hysterectomy.
Stacee continues to spread awareness in order to help others.
“Know the symptoms for ovarian cancer because knowing the symptoms can save your life.”
“Listen to your body and don’t delay going to the doctor and putting it off because your life is too busy.”