When Seren started her first year at university, she knew the experience would be life-changing - she just didn’t know how much…
I was 19 years old when I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
I started feeling a bit rough just after Christmas. I was in my first year of university and although I was going to the gym and eating well, I was still putting on weight. My tummy was really bloated and I was also bleeding outside of my period. Then I started to get lethargic, stopped eating and struggled to get out of bed.
I made an appointment to see my doctor. He didn't seem too concerned (he even put it down to constipation and gave me some medicine on that basis) but did some tests, mainly in relation to my periods. A few days later the results came through. I was in a lecture not feeling too good but confident I would get better now I'd seen a doctor. That was until my GP advised me to visit A&E as my CA125 count was high. I wrote it on a sticky note and took it to hospital where the doctors thought I probably had appendicitis. They were going to take me to surgery but decided to CAT scan me first. That's when they found the mass on my right ovary.
The next week was terrible; it grew more quickly until I started to look pregnant and I needed to be put on a feed. I was sent for surgery to have the mass removed at the Christie Hospital as my condition was deteriorating. I was then sent home and three weeks later I was called back to the hospital on 2 April and I was officially diagnosed with stage IC, mucinous adenocarcinoma.
My parents were in the room with me when they told me the news. They cried; I didn’t. I was calm. The first thing I asked was would I lose my hair. I was trying to be level-headed and ask questions about my treatment; it was my body and I wanted to know everything that was going to happen to make me better.
I found telling my family and friends really difficult. I was worried about them – especially with my new boyfriend. I started going out with him a month after I was diagnosed. I think some of my friends were scared about what to say – some backed off a bit, some did the exact opposite.
People said to me how young I was to have ovarian cancer. Normally, on the young person ward, they have a doctor for each type of cancer – but they didn't have one for ovarian cancer. I had to go to an adult clinic for my consultants, then walk down the corridor for my treatment.
The month after being diagnosed I began my six cycles of carboplatin chemotherapy, which I finished in August. My appetite was quite suppressed and I lost weight after my surgery and during my treatment too. That was difficult, body image-wise - I didn't fit into my jeans and it was really strange to look in the mirror and see that. In between cycles I could eat more and put on a bit more weight but it wasn't until I finished chemo when I got back to how I was before it all happened.
At the time, I was studying English at Salford University and I was going into the last term of my first year. I deferred my essays at first, but when I found out I had cancer and needed treatment I knew I couldn't do my exams during the summer, so I decided to restart my first year in September.
Being so unwell means you become a bit more aware of your own health. It makes you want to live your life to the full because you realise how precious it is. I try so much harder at university now. I try to learn new things and stay positive, and to appreciate all I have been given. You learn to appreciate those people around you more than the things, and I'm glad I learned these lessons.
After university I really want to take a year out and go travelling. Eventually I want to pursue a career in something to do with English. But I do have a natural need to want to help people, so maybe some charity work too.
I think that raising awareness for ovarian cancer is hugely important. When I was ill, I didn't even think it could be ovarian cancer; I'd naively never thought of it before. I've since told all of my female friends about the symptoms and I'm trying to tell as many people as possible about how important it is to be aware of the changes in your body. Sometimes it can be nothing, but there are rare instances like mine where it can be cancer. You can never be too cautious with your own health.