“Being scared is okay. Uncertainty is natural. It’s all part of getting through it. The more scared you are doing something, the stronger you’ll be once you’ve got through it… Take care of yourself. If you need time off, put yourself first.”
Michelle is 24 years old and was first diagnosed with Stage 1C ovarian cancer at the age of 23.
What were the main challenges?
Getting my boyfriend on the same page
“My boyfriend just didn’t comprehend the gravity of it.”
My boyfriend had no idea what was going on. Unless it’s got an engine and tyres, he’s got no idea. He just didn’t comprehend the gravity of it.
I got him to read the Resilience pack. I also had him come along with me to an Ovarian Cancer Australia open forum and that there was the eye opener – it made him realise this is actually real. When he was informed about it properly, that had us both on the same page. That’s where the support and understanding got better.
Sorting out my finances
At the time of being diagnosed and having treatment, finances were difficult, because I went from working two part time jobs, to doing nothing.
I had no private health insurance. My mum and I had to decide whether to go with the public sector for surgery, where there was up to a 30-day wait, or go private. I wanted to get this thing out. Having the operation privately was very expensive – more expensive than I had ever possibly imagined – but for me, it was the best decision I could have made. I didn’t have to worry about sharing with a 40-year-old man, or moving fast to get out of bed to get out of someone’s way. It was comfy and personal.
What worked best for you?
For me, knowledge is power. If I know what’s going on, I can make the right decisions and ask the right questions that will lead to a better decision.
Getting a second opinion
After surgery, no more was treatment required, I did get a second opinion. I went to another leading gynaecological oncologist. For me, this was very empowering and good for my peace of mind.
I saw a psychologist at Peter MacCallum Cancer Hospital, and I was able to really vent. Everything I had on my mind that was weighing me down, everything that was scaring me, it was gone.
RedKite helped with day-to day-expenses. They also helped with a grant to help with study expenses. That really sealed the deal with the return to normality – I was back at uni, and back to normal.
(Victoria’s) BreaCan was good because in the time I wasn’t studying, I was able to go and meet some ladies there. They were all much older than me, but it was quite good – almost like I was adopted by ten mothers. The resources and information sessions there were really good. When you are surrounded with people with the same concerns and questions and anxieties, they will often ask the same questions of speakers that you have on your own list.
Having a strong mum and a strong will
My mum has had breast cancer three times. She is probably the best example of a strong individual I know. It’s been a huge push and motivator to get through this. I’ve got youth on my side and I’ve got my strong-driven character; this will help me push through.