Lauren Coyle was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013, aged 26. She shares her journey, from diagnosis to recovery, and her plans to hold a Walk In Her Name during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
In June 2013 my four year old son and I flew to Turkey to spend time with my mum. I had visited A&E the week before with bad pain in my side and was told I’d pulled a muscle. My GP had referred me for a non-urgent scan of my gall bladder upon my return.
Two weeks into my holiday I woke in terrible pain and was admitted to a private hospital in Turkey. I was scanned and told I had an infection of my gall bladder and stones. The Turkish sonographer said I had "gynaecology problems, cysts” and to get back to England. I brushed it off and focused on getting rid of the infection.
Four days later, I flew home. My left leg had swollen to 10 times its size. My husband took me to the GP who was worried I had a DVT, but at the hospital I was told it was probably just from flying. Later that evening I had a call to say my clotting level was high and I needed a scan. I was taken for an ultra sound, which didn’t show a clot but did show a ‘complex mass’.
I didn't think in a million years I would have cancer. I was only 26, no family history of ovarian cancer, and no breast cancer. I thought maybe the ‘complex mass’ was just a cyst. Then my GP told me ‘the hospital has rung me, and they think you have cancer.’
The next weeks were a blur, and full of appointments, MRIs, bloods, sympathetic Macmillan nurses, and oncologists. I had surgery in September 2013, and it was a success. The tumour on my right ovary had attached to part of my bowel, but not invaded it, and 4 out of 7 lymph nodes contained the disease. It was high graded at 3c. I was informed that the cancer was ‘borderline serous’ and told that treatment would just be removal. The bad news about this type is that there isn't enough research being done about it, and information is minimal.
I was told I would have to have regular check-ups, but there is a 30% chance of reoccurrence. They gave me two years to complete my family, which I did in four months; healthy handsome son, amazing husband, and Frank our French bulldog.
Every three month check-up was torture, every scan showed a cyst. At my six month check-up I was told I had a hemorrhagic cyst. A year later the cyst was showing "solid particles" and I had to have keyhole surgery. Two weeks later confirmed it wasn't a cyst but reoccurrence. Panic started, and I was told I would have to have a full hysterectomy. Surgery went very well and showed no sign that the disease had spread.
The menopause has kicked in, periods have stopped (bravo!) and I am forever trying to remember to change my little HRT patch, and take regular calcium tablets. This is my life.
Signs of ovarian cancer: bloating? I'd put on weight after getting married six months before. Weeing more? I was mum to a young son; I focused more on how many times he went to the toilet. Abdominal pain, backache? I was working two jobs, and had loads of aches. We put symptoms down to everyday strains.
So now I'm healthy and determined to live a healthy, happy life. I have set a date for my Walk In Her Name. On Sunday 19th March I will be joined by very close family friends. We are meeting at the Cutty Sark and will enjoy a leisurely walk across the river Thames, around Canary Wharf and back again.
There we will be joined by more of my nearest and dearest to have a drink (or three!) and toast to celebrate our achievement, and all those who have fought this disease, and are still fighting. I am blessed to have got through this twice and still come out smiling, and even more blessed to walk in my own name whilst raising awareness for others.
This road to recovery can be very lonesome, and at times I thought I wouldn’t live to tell my story. This is a huge achievement for me, and I'm looking forward to taking part in many more events for Ovarian Cancer Action. This is my third shot at life and I'm not going to take it for granted.