Rosie taking a photo in the mirror wearing her student nurse uniform

Rosie's story

At 15 years old, Rosie, now a student nurse, had spent three months experiencing abdominal pain and bloating, but had no idea it would be stage 2 ovarian cancer

It was a school day, in the middle of my GCSEs, when I found myself sat in a waiting room surrounded by pregnant women and older women.  

“Why am I sat here?” I thought to myself.

I was 15 and had no idea about ovarian cancer. The only cancers I knew about were breast cancer and cervical. But this was the beginning of the whirlwind I was about to embark on.  

Rosie laying in a hospital bed

In the months leading up to this moment, I'd been experiencing a frequent pain in my side. I would massage it until it subsided, and didn’t think any more of it until it came back. 

I'd also noticed that my jeans no longer fitted, and I couldn’t see my toes as my stomach had become enlarged. Maybe I was naïve, but I just put this down to not exercising often enough and maybe eating too many snacks!

A pain so huge I passed out

That was until one day when I was at rugby training. I was tackled to the ground, which had happened many times before, but this time as I hit the ground I felt a pain so huge I completely blacked out. The next thing I remember is sitting on the wet grass with the coaches asking if I was ok.  

My dad took me to the GP following this incident. He'd become concerned about the pain and the sudden weight gain. Having read other women’s stories on Target Ovarian Cancer’s website, I think I was lucky that my GP took my concerns seriously. 

They examined my stomach, noted it was swollen but rigid, and took a blood test. Soon, I was referred for an ultrasound.

So there I was. In a waiting room, surrounded by people much older than me, suddenly feeling very overwhelmed. I should’ve been at school, not here.  

The sonographer looked confused as he scanned my abdomen. He called someone else into the room and said he saw a lot of fluid in my abdomen. Concerned, he sent me to A&E. As we walked to the department, I couldn’t understand what was wrong. Everyone has fluid don’t they?

Someone said I looked like I was pregnant – but it was a tumour

Rosie in hospital with a swollen abdomen

At this point we were unaware that a 20cm cancerous tumour had grown on my right ovary. This was causing a build-up of fluid (ascites), which had been growing. It was pushing on my organs causing the pain in my side, and had been the reason my stomach had gotten bigger.  

I was admitted to the children’s ward immediately and underwent multiple scans and asked hundreds of questions. I stayed for two nights before being sent to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

I sobbed in the car as my dad told me about the mass on my ovary and suspected ovarian cancer. Would I lose my hair? We wouldn’t know until after the surgery whether I’d need chemotherapy.  

During surgery, they found that there was significant evidence of disease. As a result, they had to remove my right ovary, fallopian tube, and omentum, plus drain eight litres of ascites. 

Rosie pictured laying in a hospital bed with her sister Lauren standing beside her. They're both giving a thumbs up

I spent five more days in hospital, fortunately during this time my dad and sister were never more than a few minutes away as they were given a place to stay at Acorn House, run by The Sick Children’s Trust. 

I was then discharged to recover at home, when a couple of weeks later I was ecstatic to find out I didn’t need any further treatment. They managed to remove all the cancer, I could focus on my exams, and not worry about losing my hair.  

Raising awareness until more is done

Ever since then I've been regularly monitored through scans and blood tests and this year will mark five years and the end of this part of the journey.

My experience has driven me to make a career choice in nursing. I was so grateful to have three amazing nurses who were incredibly supportive throughout – at the children’s hospitals and my cancer nurse specialist. I want to be that person for someone else.  

I’m now 20 years old and know there are lots of women who don’t know about the disease or its symptoms. Without a screening tool (which I really think we need) sharing the symptoms could help encourage women to visit their surgery, receive a an early diagnosis to prevent a life-threatening situation.

Rosie taking a photo in the mirror wearing her student nurse uniform

I became involved with Target Ovarian Cancer after my surgery, when I was searching for information about ovarian cancer on social media. In between then and now there's been a global pandemic, and coming out the other side I feel there's better awareness of ovarian cancer, but still not enough. 

I see Target Ovarian Cancer’s adverts on billboards in the tube and they're doing what they can to improve awareness. I hope by sharing my story that it’ll help raise awareness too.

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: