A photo of Gemma smiling before her diagnosis

Gemma's story

After being diagnosed with womb cancer, Gemma received a separate diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Gemma praises her GP practice for helping her receive a correct diagnosis and encourages others to keep persisting.

Watch Gemma tell her story

If she hadn’t said anything, I would be sat here in a full sense of security that I was OK and past the worst of it. My cancer however would be advancing. 

Womb cancer – the blessing in disguise 

The ovarian cancer was found during an egg retrieval at Manchester St Mary’s. I'd been diagnosed with womb cancer two months prior and was given the opportunity to freeze my eggs, before undergoing a full hysterectomy. 

The nurse saw me flinch as the camera touched the ovarian cancer. She asked whether my cancer had grown out of the lining of my womb, which it had not, and whether I knew about the cyst, which I did not. She took some pictures and consulted with her team who referred me for a CA125 blood test as she was concerned.

A photo of Gemma smiling before her diagnosis

The CA125 blood test measures the levels of the CA125 protein in your blood – if above 35 it can indicate that something is wrong. My reading was over 65. 

In my left ovary was the start of ovarian cancer. The hospital team had in fact seen this on my scans for womb cancer and believed it was benign. On my behalf, my GP practice persisted with the hospital for further investigation and I was assured a biopsy on the ovary would be taken when I underwent my hysterectomy. 


My first hysterectomy removed the womb, fallopian tubes, left ovary, and cervix yet the right ovary remained. The promised biopsy did reveal I had stage 1c ovarian cancer.

I have since been transferred to the Christie specialist hospital in Manchester for my second surgery to remove my remaining ovary, some lymph nodes and undergo an examination and biopsy of all my organs for any spread, which I get the results for in three weeks. The care at the Christie was wonderful and I've recovered well.   

Gemma during treatment in hosptial

Ovarian cancer is a different story to womb cancer altogether. Mine was caught early and the tumour that was removed was less than a centimetre large, but it had ruptured during the womb cancer treatment which means that I will be getting chemotherapy even if the biopsies come back clear. 

My consultant said that even a single cell left over could mean I am back in years to come with a recurrence. This further highlights how important early diagnosis is. I was close to not being diagnosed at all.


What I'm concerned about is that I had little to no symptoms. A dull ache in my back was all, which I’d put down to working from home. I’d also had three scans prior to this due to the womb cancer but it hadn’t been picked up because ovarian cancer is challenging to diagnose – especially in the early stages.

It was due to the radiologist’s skill and advanced equipment that mine was identified. With no effective screening for ovarian cancer, and not experiencing symptoms, how would another woman like me know if she had it?

I was fortunate that it was spotted, and I was then sent for a CA125 blood test.

Gemma during treatment in hosptial

Emotional and physical impact 

This time has been challenging for me, emotionally and physically. It took me two years to get diagnosed – I went through exhausting and painful diagnostic procedures as I had a gut feeling something wasn’t right.

Together, my GP practice and I persisted for referrals to the hospital for further investigation, which was often put down to ‘something else’. I'm incredibly thankful to my advanced practitioner especially for her commitment to getting me the correct diagnosis. 

As the surgery was so big, I couldn’t have my eggs retrieved, as there was a likelihood that if we tried my cancer could’ve been upstaged. This means that I won’t be able to have any children naturally, a choice I’d rather not have taken away from me.

Due to the surgery, I've also had early onset menopause which is really tough. However, thanks to my faith and the support of my husband I'm positive about my future.

Gemma during chemotherapy

Better access and support for diagnosis

If it had not been for the womb cancer, I never would've known that I had ovarian cancer. For me the ovarian cancer was symptomless and it was completely missed by my hospital team. This concerns me and more need to be done. 

With more access to CA125 tests and better ultrasound equipment, I believe headway could be made. Until then, I would encourage anybody whose experiencing concerns to keep persisting and not settle with living with it if something’s not right.

I knew that something wasn’t right, my period cycle changed and this was caused by my womb cancer. Flagging this led to that diagnosis, which eventually led to the ovarian cancer diagnosis. 

Just because cancer is unlikely in young women doesn't mean it can't happen. 

If you’ve been affected by this story and would like to speak to a specialist nurse, you can call our dedicated support line on 020 7923 5475 or contact us: [email protected]. We're open from 9am until 5pm, Monday to Friday.

If reading this story has helped you, join the Ovarian Cancer Community to connect with more people affected by ovarian cancer: www.targetovariancancer.org.uk/onlinecommunity