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Emilie Woodman: "This was the first time in my life that someone had mentioned the connection between breast and ovarian cancer."

01 March 2017

Emilie Woodman

Emilie always knew it was a possibility that she might have the BRCA gene mutation as her mother and grandmother had both died from early onset breast cancer.

"My two sisters and I had been warned that we must check our breasts and get check ups regularly.

About five years ago my GP referred me for genetic testing.

I was quite anxious but decided it was a good idea.

When I got there they told me I couldn't have it as I had no relative alive to test against.

They didn't want to give me a mammogram either and I had to fight to get one. Everything I had been told to do while growing up was apparently something I couldn't.

Then about two years ago I started suffering from bloating and discomfort, and like so many women, thought I should change my diet.

I started to think I might have irritable bowel syndrome, or there was a problem with my coil so I went to see my GP.

He didn't want to remove my coil as it had a year left but I made an appointment to have it removed anyway.

"This was the first time in my life that someone had mentioned the connection between breast and ovarian cancer."

Emilie Woodman

My symptoms got worse. I called nearly every day to ask for a referral to the gynaecologist and was told I'd have to get an ultrasound scan first.

Eventually, as I was in a lot of pain I called the scan department directly. They said my case wasn't marked as urgent but after explaining how much pain I was in the lady gave me an earlier appointment.

I was convinced I had endometriosis and was happy that it was going to be dealt with at last. I had the scan and the nurse said she found a cyst on my ovary.

Thank god, I had an answer I thought. Two days later my practice nurse called and asked me to go to the surgery. A little surprised at her urgency, I went along.

They asked to do a blood test that was a tumour indicator. I was very shocked but still felt it was ok.

I called the next week for the results but the surgery said they would rather not say and that the nurse would call me.

Eventually the nurse called and asked me to come in to the surgery. She explained when I got there that there were two very large masses, one on each ovary, the size of lemons and that my CA125 blood count was 2009. The likelihood of it not being cancer was very slim.

This was the first time in my life that someone had mentioned the connection between breast and ovarian cancer.

Perhaps if I had heard about the link or the symptoms of ovarian cancer earlier I might have understood what was going on and insisted on a blood test.

I was told after my radical hysterectomy that I had stage three ovarian cancer and that they couldn't remove all of it via surgery.

Thankfully the chemotherapy has shrunk what's left and, at the moment, it is still too small to measure.

Now at least my family are all getting tested for the BRCA gene mutation. So far my sisters are clear but my Aunt is positive.

I'd like to say that actually life is really good, I'm very lucky.

I now eat healthily and exercise as much as I can (restricted by the aches in my joints) and most importantly do lots of fun things.

I feel strong and positive."

Use our BRCA Risk Tool to explore whether your family history puts you at risk of ovarian cancer