Before her diagnosis, PR Manager Chrissie was more familiar with high-flying festivals on the DJ circuit than high levels of CA125.
She was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in 2021 but, after successful surgery and treatment, relapsed earlier this year.
This December, she’s hopeful for another Christmas with her two children Ava and Ray and her husband Nathan.
It started when I began to feel bloated. Like when you’re on holiday and you’ve eaten and drunk too much.
It was a slow burner over a couple of months, and I actually put it down to the start of the menopause, then within 24 hours, I started to feel really full. I was cooking a yummy curry and thought “I can’t wait to eat this” but then I had one mouthful and couldn’t eat any more. I felt like I needed a massive burp.
My husband Nathan had also Hodgin’s lymphoma when he was young. He was the one who said to phone the non-emergency line. I phoned and they asked me a lot of questions.
I felt silly saying "I’m a bit bloated and I can’t eat my dinner" But they asked me a lot of questions and called me into A&E immediately.
Again, I felt silly. It was the middle of COVID. Nathan was like, “Go now and get it done.”
I went on a Thursday evening, and they took my bloods which were showing as normal. The doctor explained that the quickest way to get me scanned was to put me on something called the Two-Week Wait.
By Saturday, the bloating had accelerated to quite a level and I was in a lot of discomfort. Nathan and I went to A&E early Sunday morning because I wasn’t sleeping due to the discomfort. They gave me some painkillers and did an ultrasound first.
The doctor said, “Okay I can see a lot of fluid on the organs” and I’m asked what the next steps were. What can we do?
At that point, I’m Googling “fluid on organs” and there’s nothing nice on that list. The doctor ordered a chemical blood test and told me I'd receive my results tomorrow when the lab was back open.
Another doctor called me on Monday, and asked if I could go into hospital. I replied that she should just tell me over the phone. and she said “I don't really want to tell you over the phone,”.
I knew what they were going to say and I didn't want to wait.
The doctor said “You've got high CA125 levels. They were coming in at about 987.” So I asked what the normal level should be. 35.
I ended up going into A&E again because it was so bad and painful. They started the tummy drain and got six litres out. I've had three tummy drains altogether. They also drained one and a half litres off my lungs. That's when they tested the fluid in there and said “Okay, it's stage four cancer because there are some cells in the fluid around.”
Before I had my first chemo, I was in the hospital for about eight weeks on and off. My mum would come down and help with the kids. We tried to carry on as normal.
For the kids, it's great, we've got a successful cancer story in the house with Daddy. Having that positive mindset has helped me because what is the point otherwise? It's not going to change what's going on.
The hardest part with the kids was seeing me in bed. I lost a lot of weight. But even when I was quite poorly, I’d come down and put the washing in and Nathan would be like “Don’t do the washing!”
I want to do the washing. Let me do it because I might not be able to do it tomorrow.
Simple acts, like doing the washing, just had that sense of normality which was important for the kids to see.
They gave me four blocks of chemo and I had a full hysterectomy and another two rounds of chemo. It all worked, and I was cancer-free!
To prevent the cancer returning, they prescribed me an inhibitor drug for a year. But during an end of treatment scan they noticed I’d had a relapse. I underwent another six round of chemo and then was on a different treatment that I took every day.
But recently, my markers have started to rise, and I got the news you never want to hear that my cancer has returned. All I want now is another Christmas with my family and friends.
By sharing my story, I hope that other women like me would have the confidence to go and say to their doctor, “Actually, can you check for this as well, please?”
Chrissie is not alone. 7 out of 10 women with ovarian cancer will see their cancer return.
Professor Iain McNeish and the team at the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre are working tirelessly to change this statistic.
Please consider a gift this Christmas so more women like Chrissie can enjoy more love and more life for years to come. Donate to the Ovarian Cancer Action Research centre today.