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Hannah Ward "I want young women to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer so this will never happen to them"

07 October 2021

Hannah shared her story with us before she very sadly passed away in 2014. 

Update 2021: Hannah's father Jonathan fundraised for Ovarian Cancer Action, in honour of what would have been Hannah's 30th birthday.

“From the age of 17 to 18 years old I started going to the doctor telling them I didn’t feel well. The first time I went, I went with bad pains in my stomach but then I’d feel well again for months so I’d forget about it.

There were times when I would sit down on my mum’s bed and start crying. Mum would say – Hannah, what’s the matter? And I’d say ‘I don’t know, mum.’ I was really emotional and I didn’t know why. I just felt so ill and tired.

I hadn’t heard of ovarian cancer.

I was at work once and I felt really poorly so my friend and I googled and two things came up – ectopic pregnancy and ovarian cancer.

I said right, it’s definitely not an ectopic pregnancy and it’s not going to be ovarian cancer.

I had no energy. I had really bad periods and awful pains in my stomach and back pain. My belly got really big and it happened quickly and it didn’t go away.

I kept going to the doctors between the age of 19 and 20, and when I turned 21 that’s when I went to the doctor a lot because my symptoms got really bad.

One doctor put it down to stress. Another gave me antidepressants. The walk-in centre said that it could be appendicitis.

They would push down on my belly and say ‘everything feels alright’.

It feels like they didn’t take me seriously. Maybe if they had taken me a bit more seriously it would have been caught earlier and something could have been done.

A doctor told me that I had a urinary infection and he gave me two weeks of antibiotics. In the second week of taking them I received a letter saying I didn’t have an infection and if the pain continued I should go back.

The pain came back so I saw a lady doctor, she checked my stomach and sent me immediately for an x-ray at the hospital, I was admitted that day and they started doing more tests.

The doctors came to see me two days later and said that they had some important news but wanted to talk to my parents first.

My dad told me afterwards that it was cancer.

We all thought that it was going to be curable. After a biopsy they realised that it was stage four ovarian cancer so I was going to have a full hysterectomy, I had just turned 21.

They stopped the operation as they found out that it had spread everywhere and there was actually nothing they could do.

My dad had to tell me that I was going to die.

I’m not going to see my brother and sister grow up. I worry that they won’t have a picture of me in their head, because they’re too young to remember, so I’m making them memory boxes.

I want young women to know the symptoms so this will never happen to them. And if it does happen, hopefully they’ll be aware so it can be caught in time.

I would just hate any other young woman to have to go through this.”

Donate now to our life-saving research at our own Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre.