Anna was 24 years old when she was diagnosed with a stage 1c dysgerminoma. She shares her story.
It all started in February 2019 when I noticed I was needing to wee more often. I went to the GP a couple of times and both times they sent me home with antibiotics for a urine infection, even though they had tested my urine and said there was no infection visible. I knew that it didn’t feel like my usual urine infection, but listened to the doctor’s advice. I also have endometriosis so I thought the tummy aches I was getting here and there were down to that. I went to see a gynaecologist and asked for an MRI as I felt as though my endometriosis symptoms were getting worse but he told me that I didn’t need one.
My symptoms for the urine infection carried on into March and April. I was confused but didn’t think a lot of it. In April I was in the bath and I noticed that the lower right side of my tummy was higher than the left. But when I got out of the bath and stood up I couldn’t notice the difference. A few nights later, I noticed it again. I asked my sister and my mum to check it for me, it was only visible when I was lying straight down on my back. Of course, they were really worried and the next day we went straight to the doctors. My GP confirmed the lump and sent me to get an ultrasound with a suspected hernia.
The next few stages included an ultrasound and a consultation with a new gynaecologist to talk about the ultrasound results. Both the sonographer and my gynaecologist thought that the mass looked like an endometrioma, but sent me off to have an MRI for confirmation.
Although I felt hopeful that the mass could be an endometrioma, something inside me was telling me that it wasn’t. I remember just sitting in my room googling my symptoms whilst crying.
A few days after my MRI I received a text and I was told to go and see my gynaecologist. I went with my mum, my sister and my fiancé. I was so nervous, I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. We were then told that what I had wasn’t an endometrioma and that it was a tumour. My heart sank but I also felt like she just confirmed to me what I, deep down, thought all along. I actually felt worse for my loved ones as I just knew that what we were about to go through wasn’t going to be easy on them.
"I am so proud of the scar that I now have, it reminds me of the strength that I never knew I had."Anna Hannides
I knew that I wanted to remain strong and get through this whilst trying to have a positive outlook. We were told that the tumour was most likely a dysgerminoma which is apparently — if you were to have any — the best one to have. It is very treatable, (especially when found early) and mine looked like it was just confined to the ovary.
Everything else happened very quickly after that. I had a CT scan the next day and my surgery was booked to take place that week to remove the tumour and my right ovary.
Thursday, 9th May 2019 I had my surgery. I was extremely nervous beforehand, I’m someone that gets scared of blood tests, but I knew that it needed to happen. The support from my family and friends not only helped me get through that day, but the whole experience.
I got to go home five days after surgery but hadn't realised how difficult the recovery would be. I needed help showering, changing and getting around the house. But my family celebrated the small steps that I made and I got better each day.
My dysgerminoma was confirmed and it was stage 1c. Thankfully I didn’t need to have any further treatment, just regular check-ups with my oncologist (blood tests & MRIs). This was amazing news and I felt so very lucky.
That year, I saw a fertility specialist to understand my options around starting a family. I was already living with endometriosis, so having one of my ovaries removed too was quite daunting, not knowing what my chances of having a baby looked like. I found out I’d go into early menopause in my early 30s and already had a lower egg count due to my endometriosis, but was told I could either freeze my eggs or start trying for a baby sooner rather than later. Amazingly, I fell pregnant quite quickly and in August 2021, my beautiful little girl, Anela, was born. Aside from the normal post C-section recovery, I was fit and healthy and I adore being a mum.
I have been all clear for almost three years now. I know what symptoms to look out for; if I get the odd pain, I now know what is okay and what I should get checked for.
I am eternally grateful to my gynaecologist for acting so quickly and for being so supportive, as well as my surgeon, the nurses and the doctors who took such good care of me.
And last but not least, my family and friends. I couldn’t have got through it without them and their love, support and strength. They truly gave me the courage that I needed to go on.
Raising awareness of ovarian cancer is so important to me. I want to help spread the word about the symptoms so that I can potentially encourage someone to go to the doctors if they recognise one of the symptoms as their own. Early detection is vital.
I am so proud of the scar that I now have, it reminds me of the strength that I never knew I had.
90% of women don’t know the four main symptoms of ovarian cancer. Find out more about the symptoms of ovarian cancer.