"About a year ago, my great aunt in Australia was diagnosed with breast cancer. Discussions regarding the family history of breast and ovarian cancer prompted her oncologist to carry out genetic testing. My great aunt tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation so her oncologist advised her to inform family members.
My grandfather tested positive, which meant my father and aunt had to be tested. My aunt tested negative, but my father tested positive. My three siblings and I then had to go through the process. I am the only one who carries the BRCA1 mutation out of my siblings. I remember the day when I answered the phone and received the news that I carried the BRCA1 gene mutation. I did not know what to think or feel. In a strange way if felt like I had been told that I had cancer.
I didn't feel like I could wait until the age of 30 to screen my breasts so I took control immediately. I started to have my breasts screened every six months and I had my ovaries and CA125 levels checked once a year. I felt more at ease knowing I was being checked. I never imagined that I would be told that I have ovarian cancer at 27.
‘Cyril’ (as I refer to it) was not in my ovaries seven months ago, which shows you how quickly it can happen. ‘Cyril’ in the ovaries is usually silent, so I thank God that my body screamed for help.
My symptoms began with severe stomach cramps. This did not sit right with me because I was not due a period. After a few days, I experienced intermittent cramps and I was feeling full very quickly after eating. Eventually, I started to notice that my abdomen was hard and there was slight bloating (this bloating was not alarming).
A few days later, the constipation began which lasted for well over a week. It was during this week that the bloating got worse and would not go away. Half way through the week, I looked four months pregnant. Whilst experiencing this bloating, I suffered severe pelvic pain. It got so bad that I struggled to sit down for longer than a couple of minutes.
During these few weeks three different doctors told me, categorically, that it was not my ovaries. I am very thankful to the A&E doctors who noticed the worrying features on the CT scan when I went to A&E for the second time.
I am now on the road to recovery and I have set up a website – 'Finding Cyril' – to raise awareness of BRCA mutations and ovarian cancer for women of all ages. What has happened to me at 27 is very rare, but it can happen.
There is not one minute where I question my decision to get tested. It meant I was able to get regular checks and at the time 'Cyril' was diagnosed in my ovaries, I knew about the BRCA1 mutation. It was very tough to find out about the mutation at age 26, but it allowed me to make choices about my body. We have to remember that knowledge is power.
I want women of all ages to be vigilant. If you experience symptoms connected to ovarian cancer, please get yourself checked. Share my story and let's reach as many women as possible.
If you would like to share your story or become an ovarian cancer voice, please contact Ross@ovarian.org.uk