Annella’s Story – An Ovarian Cancer Journey28th February 2023
Annella Rea was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2019 and has very kindly shared her story to raise awareness and to encourage other women to get their symptoms checked by a GP.
After being previously diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2011, Annella, aged 70, started to feel unwell in December 2018. However she couldn’t actually pinpoint her symptoms to a specific area of her body, explaining, “I initially visited my GP as I was feeling slightly lethargic and more tired than usual. I was finding it difficult to pinpoint where the actual pain was coming from but I knew in my gut something wasn’t right with my body. Having previously battled breast cancer and suffering from a few different health conditions including arthritis in my spine, I think the pain from my arthritis masked some of the symptoms, in particular back pain.”
Annella visited her GP on a few occasions with varying issues and was then referred to the Ulster Hospital to be assessed by a Consultant. An ultrasound test was carried out and gallstones were found which seemed to explain her symptoms, however she received a phone call later that afternoon where the consultant explained that a mass was found on one of her ovaries. Annella was informed that this would need removed urgently and she underwent a full hysterectomy in July 2019, 7 months after her first appointment with her GP.
Annella was supported throughout by the Gynae Clinical Nurse Specialist Team. The staff stayed in touch with her regularly and simplified her routine blood test by arranging for them to be completed at her local GP surgery. Annella has praised by the Gynae Clinical Nurse Team because although she couldn’t pinpoint her symptoms, she did the right thing in raising her concerns with her GP.
Now that she has recovered fully Annella has been able to enjoy her regular routines once again, she added, “My advice to anyone that has any sort of worry that something could be wrong is to be proactive! Don’t hesitate, just contact your GP. Your symptoms could turn out to be something minor but like me, it could be something else.
“Thankfully I got help and I am now able to be as independent as I had been before my diagnosis and I can look forward to enjoying plenty of trips away with my friends.”
The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognise, particularly in the early stages of the disease. Early symptoms can include those similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, for example; persistent bloating, difficulty eating, feeling full quickly and persistent abdominal and pelvic pain, other symptoms can include loss of appetite, indigestion, nausea, pain on intercourse, increased abdominal size, urinary and bowel habit changes, shortness of breath, lower back pain, tiredness and abnormal vaginal bleeding.