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Emma: "Never in my life did I think it would be me, especially not at 20"

11 January 2023


Both Emma and her doctors assumed she had IBS, until they she found a 22cm tumour in her ovaries. At the age of just 20, she never considered that she may be at risk of ovarian cancer. This is her story.

"It all started earlier in the year when I started having to get up to wee a lot during the night, feeling sick all the time, and losing my appetite. The doctors and I both put it down to IBS, never in my life did I think it would be cancer.

Then, my stomach ballooned so big that I looked eight months pregnant. I knew something was wrong. The doctors referred me for all sorts of tests, ruling out coeliac disease etc. My mum is a nurse and involved with the “Be Clear on Cancer” campaign, so she noticed the worrying signs. That morning she told me to put CA125 on my blood form. Being paranoid, I googled it straight away and found out that CA125 is a test to look for early signs of ovarian cancer. I assumed the worst. 

Seven hours later the doctor called and said I needed to have a scan. Not wanting to wait I headed straight to A+E. They found a 22cm tumour growing out of my left ovary that was likely to be cancerous.  

I was on my own. No one was with me, no one was there to tell me that everything was going to be ok.  

Fast forward a week and I was going in for a radical debulking surgery as they believed the cancer had spread. The next day I was diagnosed with Germ Cell Yolk Sac ovarian cancer.

After going through chemotherapy, I had an operation to remove the bad ovary, lymph and Fallopian tube in December 2020, just before Christmas. It was very painful but I was well looked after and managed to leave hospital on Christmas Eve. 

I couldn’t have got through it without the amazing nurses and doctors who have looked after me, as well as all my family and friends, who have been my rocks. 

In January 2023, I am two years free of cancer. 

I look back at these photos and I don't even recognise myself anymore. From the unknown of going for the biopsy to being months into treatment, at the lowest point of my life, very vulnerable and extremely poorly. 

Emma Harling Blog Main Image

When I first shared my story, back in 2020, I said how I was just waiting to get back to work and get on with my life again. Now, I'm living with my partner and have just started a new job. I was even contacted by old Grammar school, who asked me to do an interview for the students to tell them about my story. It was an amazing experience and such an honour to raise awareness with them. Life is great - I do still have down days where I think about it a lot, but I believe it's changed me for the better."

Do you know the four main symptoms of ovarian cancer? Only 10% of women do. 

You can help us change that - In Emma's Name, share this vital information and do something amazing for women in 2023.