During the summer of 2020 and into early 2021 I experienced severe lower abdominal pains, severe headaches, I became bloated and had a constant feeling of needing the toilet.

I booked a telephone consultation with my local GP surgery, explained my symptoms and concerns and I was therefore informed to take paracetamol and it was probably just “period pains”.  A month later, my abdominal pains had not subsided and thus I spoke to a different GP at the same practice.  I was informed the same, take paracetamol but also told to take “the mini pill” which would help any hormonal imbalance which could be causing the headaches and other symptoms.  Unfortunately, my symptoms worsened, and I was booked in to have an internal scan as I had to explain my previous medical history to the GP.  This scan showed an ovarian cyst 6cm by 6cm.  My GP told me to give it time and it shouldn’t cause me any concern but, in the meantime, to take more paracetamol. 

Given my previous medical history (I have had 3 previous ovarian cyst), I pushed the GP to refer me to a gynaecologist - I was informed that the waiting list was 12 months to see a gynaecologist.  I then asked if I could see a gynaecologist on my private medical care.  I was then referred to a private gynaecologist 5 days later.  I then had another internal ultrasound with my private gynaecologist and was diagnosed with a very large (8cm by 8cm) ovarian cyst and was booked in for a private laparoscopy 6 weeks later.  During those 6 weeks, the cyst grew and by the date of my laparoscopy it was 20cm by 20cm and an MRI showed that there were "suspicious" cells visible on my MRI scan.  My laparoscopy was therefore cancelled, and I was referred to an oncologist in London.

Thankfully, I saw an oncologist 4 days later who confirmed that the cyst could potentially be malignant.  A week later I was admitted to King Edward Hospital in London to have the cyst removed.  The cyst had grown so big that it was pressing down on multiple organs which meant a risk of any malignant cells spreading.  The operation was however a success, and they removed the cyst in one piece along with my right ovary and samples of other organs which had to be tested in case the malignant cells had spread. 

I was diagnosed with Stage 1A Ovarian Germ Cell Cancer, and I am being monitored heavily by two amazing oncologists.  I now have trimonthly appointments, semi-annual MRI scan and monthly blood tests  . 

Had this been left any longer, I have been informed that the cells could have spread, and it might not have been such a success story.  In addition, I am now having to discuss fertility options as my left remaining ovary is polycystic.  Had my symptoms not been ignored or passed off I fear that this could have been avoided.  However, it is important for me now to speak up about my symptoms and journey because had I not reacted to my symptoms and pushed the GPs, I may not have been so lucky.  I am very fortunate that I had private medical care as I feel this is what saved my life, but I know others are not in such a position.  I am now working with Ovacome to tell my story and I am volunteering with training doctors and nurses to help them identify these symptoms so that more can be done to assist women.

Zoey Wickens