Tiffany Basson: “At 17, my life was about to change dramatically”

06 December 2020
Tiffany

Tiffany found out she had ovarian cancer when she was still a teenager, after months of doctors dismissing her symptoms. Now 30, she reflects on what it was like to be a young person coping with a cancer diagnosis. Read her story below.

After middle school, I was offered a place at a college that allowed me to play for the Chelsea Girls’ Football team four days a week. Having always wanted a career in sports, it was a dream come true. Naturally, I was fit and healthy and attuned to my own body. However, I seemed to be rapidly losing weight everywhere but my middle. I felt tired all the time, lost my appetite, and had intense pains in my stomach. Sometimes, I would have episodes where the pain was so bad, I physically couldn’t move. 

The doctors dismissed my pain as “imaginary”, but I knew something was wrong. It wasn’t until I had one of my episodes during a doctor’s appointment, the pain was so bad I had to curl up in the foetal position, that a scan was organised. I had waited seven weeks for an ultrasound, but in just 20 minutes they called me with the results. The scan showed a four stone tumour, the size of a watermelon, growing on my left ovary. 

Within three days I had gone from being told I was fine, to having to prepare for an operation, shave my head, and consider the fact that I might not be able to have children. It was a lot to process at 17.

As a teenager, I found treatment particularly difficult because I had no one to relate to. Whilst my friends were going out for the first time and celebrating their 18th birthdays, I was stuck in hospital. The closest person to my age on the ward was 40. 

“I just want younger people to know that there are other people who have had the same experience.”

Tiffany Basson

Once I had finally recovered, I tried to go straight back into my sporting career, but my body wasn’t ready. I had to completely rethink what I wanted to do. It was a friend who suggested I looked into childcare, as I had always loved children. 

At 30, I have found my true calling working with kids. I have developed multiple other health issues since my original diagnosis, but in spite of this, I feel like I am a stronger person.

“I wouldn’t be the strong independent woman I am today if I hadn’t been through what I went through. If I can deal with cancer, I can deal with anything.”

Tiffany Basson

For information, advice, and access to support for younger women with ovarian cancer, visit this dedicated page on our Patient Hub.