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Bronwyn's Story

14 July 2021

~ 6 minutes

My whole world changed on 27th August 2020. This was the date I was given the diagnosis for Ovarian Cancer. Like anyone who is suddenly thrust into the unknown world of all things cancer, it turned my life upside down and inside out.

My symptoms started to show themselves only weeks before the diagnosis, or so I believed. The symptoms, in fact began months before, but only in retrospect was I able to see everything as it actually was and understand the signs that my body had been trying to tell me.

I explained away the drastic weight loss from my already slight frame, putting it down to the physical work I had been doing since the beginning of the year. The flu I had in January, that lasted for two months, I excused as stress. Funnily enough, everything else was working well. My energy levels were fabulous and apart from the weight loss and the never ending flu, there were no other signs and symptoms.

I have always been healthy and active and made good choices regarding my body, so it was surprising but not alarming that these two symptoms had presented themselves.

It was one month before diagnosis that things started to really speed up for my body. Three weeks out from diagnosis, my bowel movements changed. Still regular and not having changed my eating habits or any other aspect of my lifestyle, my stools became quite loose. I thought that it was just something that had upset my stomach and explained it away again as stress. My stomach became bloated the following week, but still I thought I was just working hard. 

One week out, with my stomach growing daily, I knew I had to go to the doctors. This was confirmed when lying in bed, my stomach looked like a basketball and I felt something resembling a brick on my right side. I was at that time going to Cairns on a road trip with a girlfriend to visit our friend who was to undergo a double mastectomy in two weeks time. I refused to not visit my friend and give her my support and besides, by this stage I believed I had a hernia. 

By the time, I was on my way back from Cairns, my stomach not only looked like a basketball, but also the tumour was protruding significantly out of the right hand side of my basketball. I had no doubt that what was happening in my body was serious, but at no stage did my mind ever consider what I was going to be told in two days time.

Attending the doctors appointment the day after my return from Cairns, I was nervous, but trusted that my self-diagnosis of a hernia was what my doctor was going to tell me and that it would be a relatively smooth and simple fix. My doctor definitely did not have a poker face and when seeing my melon like stomach and giving me an examination, I started to think that perhaps it was a little more than a hernia. I was sent directly for an ultrasound and the sonographers face and remark about an ovary, sent my mind into a spin. I went home and talked to my Mum and my then husband and prepared them and myself for being called back to the doctors the day after.

On the morning of the 27th of August, I went to work , explaining to my manager that I might have to leave to go to the doctor. Shortly after, my phone rang and as planned, my husband and I met my Mum at the doctors surgery. When he walked out with his kind and gentle, but tormented face, my heart sank and I steeled myself for what was coming. The words that came out of his mouth were words that seemed to be directed at someone else. I could sense Mum and Aldo`s confusion, agony and suffering and all I could think was to make sure they were alright. I must have noticed every scratch in the paint, rip in the carpet and grey hair in my doctors beard, so heightened my senses were.

Walking out of the doctors, it was like my body said to me, “Yes you are sick and I can not hide it from you anymore.” From that very moment, I was severely fatigued, in pain and indeed looked sick. Then began the gynaecologist appointments, the exploratory procedures and in what seemed an eternity, finally a date to travel to Brisbane for further investigations. Sensing they would keep me in Brisbane for surgery, Mum and I were prepared for a long stay.

More procedures, MIR, PETscans, things that up until two weeks earlier, were only vaguely familiar from other peoples stories. Surgery was a six hour ordeal that left me with femoral nerve damage, unable to use my right leg, a sensitivity to all of the pain medication and the uncertainty of if I would ever be able to walk again. My specialists however were certain that my tumour, that was the size of a football, was borderline. This was a welcome relief from cancer and I was able to concentrate on making my leg work. 

When the results came back, it wasn’t great news and my tumour that I had nicknamed 'Willomena the Witch', was indeed cancerous and that it wasn’t alone. They also discovered I had uterine cancer, a rare condition to have the two cancers presenting at the same time. Because during surgery, they believed Willomena was borderline, no lymph nodes were taken out, leaving me with few options, so I choose Chemo. This was in October 2020. It has since been confirmed that I have Lynch Syndrome, a condition in which the carrier is predisposed to certain cancers, two of which I have had.

Although I haven’t had any tests done since finishing Chemo in March, I feel great and refuse to think that cancer could return. I now have 85% recovery in my leg, treatment is finished and I have an incredible scar that reminds me everyday how amazing and strong I am. I have an army of people around me that I will never take for granted again. The love, support and strength they continue to give me is the life force that got me through the darkest days.

I have been gifted many things through this period, but I think one of the most important lessons I learnt, is to listen to my body. Don’t minimise or ignore the signals that your extraordinary body is trying to tell you. If something feels wrong, it quite possibly is. 

Ovarian Cancer, as we know is a silent cancer and the signs and symptoms often can be minimised and excused away as something else. Get to your doctor straight away, because only you can know what feels right or wrong in your body.

The Ovarian Cancer Australia Helpline is available Monday to Friday (9am - 5pm AEST.) To speak with an ovarian cancer nurse please call 1300 660 334 or email support@ovariancancer.net.au 

Acknowledgement flags

Ovarian Cancer Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where our office is located, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation and we pay our respects to Elders past and present.