When the 24-year-old woman approached doctors with a list of painful symptoms, all of them brushed off her concerns. Turns out it was just the beginning of her life-threatening illness. Since 2019, the woman would frequently have urinary infections, bloating, and irregular periods which was “extremely painful.” But whenever she went to her doctors, they simply prescribed her antibiotics saying it was just menstrual stress.
If their alleged negligence wasn’t upsetting enough, they told the 24-year-old, Hannah Catton, that she just needed to lose weight to resolve the symptoms. Then one day she collapsed in pain. That day, she was finally diagnosed with her actual problem – stage 1 ovarian cancer.
According to reports, the veterinary nurse had been experiencing the pain for years until it became unbearable in September 2020. During this time, her periods would leave her with constipation, bloating, pain, diarrhea, and hot flashes. One doctor told her that the changes in her menstrual cycle were just due to stress and so in March she went to another medical professional to get a second opinion.
“She told me to lose weight which was hard to hear, and I definitely wasn’t overweight… I’m pretty physically fit,” she said. “She didn’t palpate my abdomen, and if she had taken the time to do that she probably would have felt something was wrong in there,” Catton noted that her weight was definitely not the issue as the pain persisted.
Thus, he visited a gynecologist who performed an ultrasound that finally revealed a likely 10-centimeter fibroid around her uterus. Catton was placed on the waiting list for surgery but following a horseback riding session in October last year, her pain ramped up. “When I dismounted after the first-day riding, I collapsed in pain to the point of almost vomiting. It was excruciating,” she recalled.
“I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time so I took as much pain relief as I could and tried to sleep it off.” When tried to work out the next day, Catton collapsed and had to be rushed to the emergency room. Initially, doctors suspected an ectopic pregnancy but following MRI, CT scans, ultrasounds, and blood tests, they finally determined that she had stage 1 ovarian cancer and her tumor had ruptured.
Following an emergency surgery to remove it, Catton’s cancer treatment began. “My wonderful oncologist wanted to hit me hard and fast with chemo,” she said adding that she goes through four rounds of week-long chemotherapy. “It was an extremely hard conversation to have with my parents over the phone, to tell them I didn’t know if I was going to die. It’s a lonely time anyway because of COVID and it’s extremely hard having all your family on the other side of the world, and knowing you can’t get home.”
Catton is now sharing her story with the world hoping to help others, who got their pain dismissed, get an earlier diagnosis. “The number of messages I’ve had from ladies with stories so similar to mine — where they have been brushed off by doctors and told it’s weight, hormones, menopause, etc. — is shocking,” she shared.”
“Not talking about experiences like these means that they will keep happening to women. It shouldn’t happen. I should’ve been offered an ultrasound and referrals months before. The stigma attached to complaining about period pain/issues and all the symptoms that include needs to stop. So many lives are affected by it,” she added.