02 February 2024•
~ 5 minutes
Meet Georgie, a 44-year-old mother, partner, sister, and daughter from Adelaide. In October 2022, she found herself in a dark place when a discovered mass, following a year of subtle symptoms, led to an ovarian cancer diagnosis.
Georgie's diagnosis unfolded unexpectedly. Initially, she experienced pain under her rib, and scans and ultrasounds provided no conclusive results. A year later, persistent pain prompted a broader CT scan , revealing an 8cm tumor. The rapid growth prompted Georgie to reflect on the only other potential signs, being irregular and painful periods.
In November 2022, Georgie underwent surgery that confirmed the mass was cancerous. Just eight weeks later, two days before Christmas, she started chemotherapy. This led to the cancellation of her much-anticipated family holiday to Kangaroo Island. "Mum's got cancer; everyone gets a puppy and a PlayStation!", Georgie told the kids in consolation for missing their birthday.
“I think I went into it thinking it [debulking surgery] would be similar to a cesarean, which I had before, but it is not; the surgery I had, they cut you vertically. I have this huge scar from my pelvis that goes up and around my belly button, like Freddy Krueger style. I wasn't prepared for that.
It was an out-of-body experience; I felt like I had been cut in half, and then he said it was cancer. And he could see my state; my sister was with me at the time. She told him, "We will talk about that after, she just needs to heal now." The surgeon confirmed it was cancer- and told my sister “we can talk about that after, she just needs to heal now”.
Post-surgery, Georgie's focus shifted to healing. Grateful for the support of her network, her husband played a pivotal role in sustaining family life and supporting her during this challenging period. Her sister was always by her side, creating a playlist called “Ode to my Ovaries”.
Navigating surgical menopause added an extra layer to the challenges Georgie faced. The side effects of chemotherapy, including a metallic taste, body pain, and hair loss, were alleviated with the support of her family, taking turns to keep her company during long hours of chemo. Her son also supported Georgie by shaving his own head to raise money for research.
“It's like layers: the physical impact, the hormonal impact, and the emotional impact. And then you remember this is all happening because you had cancer. It's almost like the least of your troubles at that point.
As a social worker, Georgie was aware of Ovarian Cancer Australia but not familiar with our Teal Support Program. When she found herself in need of support, she conducted online research and connected with a one of OCA’s specialist ovarian cancer nurses, Nerida.
This support encouraged her to build a team around her, incorporating exercise physiology, nutrition, and psychology programs throughout her treatment and beyond. Support from OCA, particularly the emotional support from Nerida, played a crucial role in helping Georgie navigate obstacles across all stages of her diagnosis.
Post-Easter marked the end of Georgie's treatment, but the following three months proved emotionally tricky as the familiar routine of chemo and recovery gave way to an uncertain post-treatment period.
“I finished at Easter time, and that was great. You ring the bell on your way out, everyone cheers, and I wore a special wig.
It was a massive relief to be through that, but I think the three months after that was a really tricky time for me, and that is when I really leaned into OCA”, emphasising the crucial role of continued support beyond active treatment, "Transitioning out was really emotionally hard. People were like, 'Oh, it's over; we just get back to normal now,' and you don't feel or look normal, so that was really difficult. But I guess as your body starts to heal and you start to get more energy, and you start to look more normal like your old self, it gets easier."
Expressing gratitude for Nerida’s support, Georgie highlighted the importance of consistency in care,
“Having contact with one person throughout that journey was invaluable. Even my mum talks about how I had that special nurse to her friends. Their background and experience are so valuable. It's always the same person you speak to; they understand you throughout that whole journey.”
Georgie grapples with her diagnosis feeling like a betrayal from her own cells, “Especially coming from the place where you have made babies and grown life. There is something almost maternal about it, and it is probably still having an impact on my identity.”
She highlights the significant lack of awareness and screening for ovarian cancer compared to diseases like breast cancer. Georgie's personal diagnosis at stage 2B, high-grade serous ovarian cancer, led her to conduct thorough research to grasp the implications. Despite Georgie's assumption that women are screened for ovarian cancer from the age of 25, the reality shocked her. “I would say 9 out of the 10 women I know think that when they go for their pap smear, they get tested for ovarian cancer. I haven't met a single woman in my own circle who is aware there are no screenings for ovarian cancer."
Georgie emphasises the need for more awareness, media coverage, and funding for ovarian cancer. She is now using her voice to raise awareness and highlight the importance of OCA's services in her journey.
Georgie acknowledged a five-year journey ahead, recognising the 49% 5-year survival rate, stating, "In one sense, I don’t want to sit around and wait for the other shoe to drop." Juggling life, work, and family, she underscored a shift towards a more conscious and appreciative lifestyle.
“I just want to spend time with my kids and go on holidays. And try to be in a place where I am conscious of how fortunate we are and how fortunate I was, and be one of the people who is around to advocate.”
Join us on Ovarian Cancer Australia’s Giving Day starting Wednesday, February 28th, at 8:00am AEDT. Every donation you make will be doubled by our generous matching donors. Every dollar donated helps support women like Georgie, ensuring they won't face ovarian cancer alone.