Kristie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when her daughter was 6 months old.
This is her story...
Kristie had been suffering from persistent bloating since the birth of her baby. At first she put it down to post pregnancy belly, then lockdown weight gain and then it just got too big for her to ignore, so she decided to go have it checked out at A&E.
“I only thought they were going to say I had a stomach muscle issue or something, never in a million years did I dream I had this coming.”
A CT scan showed a large mass on her right ovary. She was told it was a dermoid cyst, 98% of which are benign and was sent home to wait for an appointment to have it removed. Later that day she received a phone call to come straight to hospital. Not only had the cyst burst, but more scans and tests revealed it was cancerous and she needed to have surgery immediately. At 29, with a six-month-old baby at home, she had just been diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. COVID restrictions meant Kristie was alone, trying to take in what she had been told.
"I felt like I was suffocating, terrified I was going to die and leave my daughter without a mother. That dark day in July this year was like a bad dream. Because of COVID, nobody could be with me and having to phone Micah and my family with the news was awful. This year was meant to be all about being a new mum, maternity leave and watching Louisa grow. I was not meant to be fighting for my life amid a global pandemic.”
Within hours of being diagnosed, she was in theatre having her damaged ovary and the burst cyst removed, and a month later in early August, she started nine weeks of chemotherapy. The intensive treatment meant she had to spend 5 days in hospital every 3 weeks.
"It was so gruelling. I was sick and lost my hair, but the worst part was spending at least five nights away from my family, who weren’t allowed to visit. I’d Facetime Louisa, but knew I was missing out on so much of her first year, it was heart-breaking. She’d babble at the camera, or I’d watch Micah feeding her and I ached to hold her in my arms.”
“All I wanted to do is rip my drip out and run away, especially when I was already feeling so ill and knew having the treatment was going to make me feel worse.”
Because of COVID Kristie wasn’t able to have guests in hospital, usually she would have been able to have people with her for that time. Psychologically she feels she would have got thought it a lot easier if she could have visitors, but found it scary and isolating. Her Dad and brother live in Canada and would have rushed over to visit if they were able.
"Cut off from the world in my hospital bed, I felt so alone. I even spent my 30th birthday in hospital hooked up to an IV. At home I was so weak and tired that it was hard to care for my own baby. It was nothing like the maternity leave I’d planned.”
During this time, Kristie found Mummy’s Star and reached out for support. She was allocated a one-to-one Information and Support Worker, joined the forum and was able to apply for a grant to help with travel and parking costs.
“Everything happened so fast, I went in hospital and 5 days later I had cancer. So having Rebecca to talk to on the phone helped me process things, it was nice to have someone who really understands! The facebook group was an absolute life saver at times, having the connection to people who had already been through what I was about to go through.
There was one time in particular I was told I needed to have a blood transfusion. I was so scared about what this meant. I reached out to the group and everyone was just so lovely and reassuring! Without Rebecca and without that group who would I have talked to? There would have been no one.”
Kristie finished her chemotherapy in October and later that month received the best possible news – the all-clear from cancer, meaning there is no evidence of the disease in her body at this point in time.
Kristie will be monitored for the next five years, having blood tests once a month and six-monthly MRI scans. She and Micah would like a second child, but have been advised to wait before trying because if the cancer returns it’s most likely to happen in the next 2 years. She was also given injections to stop her ovaries working temporarily.
However, Kristie has recently had her check up after 3 months and is pleased to say there is still no sign of cancer.
"It’s still sinking in that in just 12 months I’ve become a mum, been diagnosed with cancer and beaten it, all against the backdrop of the Covid pandemic. There was a time I feared I wouldn’t be here to see her reach her first birthday or celebrate the festive season with her and Micah. To be here and healthy feels wonderful.”