Jas’ story

Jas was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2019. She was treated by Professor Marcia Hall at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre. Below, she shares her story with us.

I woke up one morning in severe pain — like period pain — out of the blue. After a trip to A&E and a couple of visits to my GP, the culprit was suspected to be a large cyst on my ovary. Ovarian cysts are reasonably common, so the only concern at the time was its remarkable size (10 cm), prompting surgery to remove it. The discharge paperwork gave no mention of any follow-up, so I was naturally very worried when the nurse called me back in a few weeks later. That’s when I was told the cyst was cancerous. I was 31 years old. Stage 2b ovarian cancer; squamous cell carcinoma presenting in a dermoid ovarian cyst, a very rare type of cancer to have on the ovary. And, owing to its size, some of it had more than likely broken free when it was being removed, so, cue surgery again — this time to remove the ovary and fallopian tube — as well as ‘peritoneal washing’ to check whether any other cancer cells were hanging about. After the operation, which was deemed to be a success, I had my first appointment with Professor Hall, who recommended a ‘watch and wait’ approach. Over the next fortnight, however, I felt my bowel movements change and the tummy pain got worse; a scan showed that the cancer was spreading fast. This was an aggressive cancer. Professor Hall advised me to start chemotherapy as soon as possible. I didn’t get the chance to freeze my eggs, a process that would only have taken a few weeks — time that we didn’t have.

What did you think and feel when you were diagnosed?

At first, I didn’t really believe it. I thought I was invincible, and that cancer happens to other people, not me. Immediately after I was told, I remember having to fill out a form; I had to ask my nurse whether I should tick the box that indicated I had cancer, as I couldn’t quite believe I now belonged to that category of people.

How did the people around you react to this news?

As I took a very positive stance, I guess people around me picked up on my energy and also used positive language. My family and friends were all very supportive and reassured me that I could fight this. My then boyfriend (now husband) was my main motivation and strength to get through the treatment and look forward to life.

“Even when I was totally bald, my husband always made a point of telling me how beautiful I was”

What treatment did you have?

I had two rounds of surgery and then 12 weeks of chemotherapy. I lost all my hair, which was the worst symptom for me.

How did you feel during your treatment?

The fatigue was like nothing I have ever felt before. I felt like my body was made of lead and I literally couldn’t pick it up. After a full night’s sleep, it would take me 2 hours to work myself up to just to brush my teeth.

How did Marcia and the team help during your treatment?

Professor Hall researched which chemotherapy would be most effective for my case using data from the RaNGO database; she decided to go with a less common combination but thankfully for me it was a successful choice.

How do you feel about your experience now you are at the end of your treatment?

I’m so grateful to Professor Hall and the team that I am here to tell the tale. Not only that, but I’m living a normal life with my family, especially my daughter, to whom I gave birth earlier this year. I was told I probably wouldn’t be able to have children due to the damaging effects of the chemotherapy on the eggs in my remaining ovary. According to a fertility doctor who I visited after the chemotherapy in 2020 to freeze some eggs in case the cancer did return and I had to have a full hysterectomy, I was in the 10th percentile of women with low egg reserve in the UK. I managed to freeze two embryos but miraculously didn’t need to use them.

RaNGO is a project entirely supported by CTRT and is run from Mount Vernon Cancer Centre. RaNGO holds an anonymised national registry of patients with these very specific rare cancers and enables clinicians to make the best treatment choices for patients. To read more about RaNGO please click below