Lindsay smiling wearing a black and red top

Lindsay's story

Lindsay was a fit and healthy 32-year-old when an initial diagnosis of a UTI turned out to be ovarian cancer. She is now cancer free and determined to raise awareness of the disease and its symptoms.

I’d never had any health issues before. I played football regularly and cycled to work every day, so I considered myself quite healthy. 

In November 2021 I started experiencing the need to go to the toilet a bit more. Initially I thought it was due to anxiety or excitement as I was hoping to change jobs at the time. Other than that, I felt well so didn't think too much about it.

I went home to Italy for Christmas and the urge of needing to go to the toilet seemed to ease. However, once I got back to the UK in January it started again, to the point where it became unbearable and that was when I decided to seek medical attention. 

Online appointments and misdiagnosis 

I went to the doctor in January 2022 and I was treated for a UTI, but it didn’t relieve any symptoms (which now included bloating and stomach pain) and left me with difficulty going to the toilet.

It started to feel like there was a tennis ball sized object on the left-hand side of my pelvic area and I began to get more concerned. As I was constipated, the doctor then prescribed laxatives which still didn't help and the need to wee more returned.  

It was then that I asked for a face-to-face appointment – until that point I had been using an online medical service. I could still feel the ‘tennis ball’ as I referred to it, and I just knew I wasn't feeling ok.

During that appointment in February, the doctor felt my stomach and referred me for an internal and external ultrasound as she couldn't tell if the problem in the pelvic area was related to my bowel or my uterus and ovaries.  

My ultrasound appointment was at the end of March, and they called me the next day to say I needed to do more tests as there was an anomaly. They made it clear that these tests needed to be done within two weeks. Unfortunately, that person on the phone wasn't allowed to explain the results of the ultrasound. She could only tell me they had found a cyst.  

After a search on the internet, I understood what a two-week referral could mean. I started to face the possibility of having cancer. 

Waiting for confirmation 

Despite the urgency it was still a struggle to get an appointment, but three weeks later I was at the hospital.

There the doctor explained that I had a cyst on my left ovary the size of a grapefruit – my ‘tennis ball’ – approximately 11cm in diameter with a solid component in the middle. At that stage they couldn’t tell me if it was benign or cancerous.

They did a CA125 blood test and told me someone would be in touch to share the results once a multidisciplinary team had analysed my notes and decided what would be the best course for me.  

I was in shock. As a healthy 32-year-old you imagine a gynaecologist telling you you might be pregnant – not that you might have cancer.

After about a month I met with a surgeon that explained to me that surgery was necessary to remove the cyst and my left ovary.

I had a CA125 of 1788 (healthy women’s CA125 is between 0-35) but they still weren't able to confirm if it was cancer or not.  

They explained that confirmation would happen once the cyst had been removed and tested. If it was cancerous, they would also remove my appendix, omentum and lymph nodes during the operation.  

Just after my 33rd birthday, I awoke from surgery and asked the nurse if they had had to remove my lymph nodes. She confirmed that they had. It was then that I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Stage 1A clear cell carcinoma of my right ovary arising within endometriosis.

I'd never heard of ovarian cancer before, and I wasn't aware of any of the symptoms. 

Thankfully, at a follow up appointment a few weeks later I found out that I was cancer free. The surgery had been a success, to the point that I didn’t require chemotherapy. 

The fact that the tumour was so big meant it put a lot of pressure on my bladder and I had to go to the toilet more – that saved me. If it wasn't for that, I would have probably ignored the other symptoms of bloating and stomach pain. 

Recovery post-surgery  

The recovery was really hard. I was in the hospital for almost a week and it then took me about two months to get back to feeling ‘normal’. I had 50 stitches in my stomach so moving around was a struggle – even walking. I would get tired very easily.  

A short five-minute walk or a half-hour conversation would leave me feeling exhausted. I had to take painkillers regularly to help with the pain and other medicines to help with the healing process.  

Even after 3-4 months, I was only really able to work as I felt so tired afterwards that I couldn’t think about socialising with friends. 

Getting back on the pitch 

Thankfully as time has gone on, I’ve slowly been able to get back into cycling and football. I'd say football really helped me mentally throughout my recovery. It helped me before my surgery as I was still able to play a bit, and it eased the anxiety I had around not knowing what my final diagnosis would be. Afterwards, it was something I could look forward to getting back to – it kept me going. 

I still have some problems with the top of my legs as they removed 50 lymph nodes from that area. Sometimes they get swollen at the end of the day and can be quite painful. The waiting list is long, but I am hoping to get an appointment at a local lymphoedema centre soon. 

Finding Target Ovarian Cancer and spreading awareness 

I found out about Target Ovarian Cancer when I was researching the symptoms of ovarian cancer online, looking at the website and social media channels. I now use lots of the banners and information leaflets available to share information about ovarian cancer with my friends, family and colleagues.  

When speaking to women my age or younger, they often express fear or apprehension about going to a doctor or gynaecologist. To be honest it's a miracle I went to the doctor myself as I would have never thought it could be anything as serious as cancer. I didn’t know anything about ovarian cancer.  

I think everyone should be aware that unfortunately ovarian cancer does affect women of all ages, and everyone should know what the symptoms are.

That’s why I believe that the work Target Ovarian Cancer does is essential, and I’ve made it my mission to spread the word with as many women in my life as possible – both through my work and socially. 

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.

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