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Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

“I was lucky”:

Ann shares her story and asks other women not to put off a visit to the doctor if feeling unwell.
By Ann Hobday
Date: June 03 2013
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When I was 48, in June 2010, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I had hip pain and lower abdominal pain intermittently for at least eight months or so prior to the diagnosis. During this time, I didn’t have any time off work at all, and just keep thinking that ‘this is how it is when you get older’.

By the end of May, 2010, the pain was no longer intermittent, but continuous, and I needed to take Panadol every day in order to be my usual self and go to work and to sleep through the night. I am never ever sick and had a major phobia about going to the doctor. The last time I went to the doctors prior to this was in 2005, when I had shingles, and I only went then because my head was so swollen that I looked like a monster!

Eventually, in the middle of June, I felt so unwell that I was unable to attend work, and even then, I only went to the doctors very reluctantly. I said to myself, I will go to the doctor today if the same doctor I saw five years ago is working today, and luckily he was.

The doctor was immediately and easily able to determine that I had a huge tumour in my lower abdomen. He estimated that the tumour was 20 centimetres long. A blood test showed the tumour marker, CA125 was over 5,000 (the normal is between 1 and 35).

I had scans that week, and then saw my surgeon Dr Felix Chan four days later on the Saturday and he booked me for surgery the following Friday. I asked Dr Chan, "Will I die on Friday 25th?" He assured me that I wouldn't, and he was right!

Both the hip pain and the lower abdomen pain were caused by the tumour, so after my surgery, I was immediately aware that these pains were gone. Fortunately, although the cancer had spread a little, it hadn't spread to the lymph glands. 

I asked my surgeon how long people with ovarian cancer stay off work while they are recovering, and he said “six months”, so I decided then that is what I would need to do too. It was hard for me to get used to being at home as I was used to being so busy all the time. 

I then had chemotherapy approximately once every three weeks for six sessions in all. I was told prior to chemotherapy that my hair would definitely fall out during the process and I was mentally prepared for that. What I didn’t realise is that my head would hurt and that the stubble would feel like splinters when I put my head on the pillow. I also had the most terrible pimples on my head, and my head was very, very itchy, and felt like it was on fire. I had chemotherapy at Westmead Private Hospital in the most caring environment. The staff there are absolutely wonderful. I was very lucky with the chemotherapy in that it didn’t make me that sick.

I had seven months off work, and returned to both my jobs in February 2011. Following the conclusion of my chemotherapy, I had checkups with my surgeon and oncologist alternately every three months. Now I see my surgeon once every six months and the oncologist once a year. My oncologist said that my recovery was a textbook case of how treatment should go. I am now in remission and feel extremely lucky and grateful for the medical treatment I had.

Having cancer had a huge impact on my life. Fortunately, because I had worked in both my jobs for such a long time and had hardly used any sick leave over many years, I had enough long service leave, sick leave and annual leave to cover the entire seven months I was away from work. Without this, I would have had to return to work in the weeks between the chemotherapy sessions, which would have been extremely difficult and unpleasant.

Although I had the highest level of private health insurance, there were still thousands of dollars to pay following the surgery. Many months prior to my diagnosis I had considered getting additional insurance and picked up leaflets several times. Unfortunately, I procrastinated and didn't sign up, which became a very significant regret following my diagnosis, as it would have helped so much.

I’m now a supporter of the Eggtober Foundation, a tremendous organisation that raises money to support research and education about gynaecological cancers. The medical advisor to the foundation is my surgeon, Dr Felix Chan.

My message to women is that if you have backache, are feeling continually tired, have loss of appetite and fill up quickly or are feeling bloated, please go for a check up. Don't be afraid like I was and wait and wait and wait. I am so lucky to be well now!

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