“If people do start treating you differently, realise that it’s not you. Having cancer doesn’t change who you are. You can still be you and achieve the things that you want to achieve.”

“Having the same GP throughout the journey is important. My GP was able to support me as a mother, saying, ‘How are you doing? Are you looking after yourself?’”
Marilyn, Brydie’s Mum

How old are you? 22-years-old

At what age were you diagnosed? 20-years-old

With kind cancer did you have? Borderline ovarian cancer

What were the main challenges for you?

Not being taken seriously in the lead up to diagnosis

I had pain, like really bad period pain, 24/7. I had a weird feeling in my legs, all the time. One day I would wake up looking six months pregnant, then the next day normal. I was urinating frequently. During my period I was passing out with pain, and ending up in emergency all the time. There they would say to me, ‘Harden up, don’t be a sook’.

I really felt that no-one would listen or take you seriously – I went through quite a few years being unwell, unnecessarily.

Losing friends

I did lose a lot of friends when I was diagnosed. It was pretty devastating and it took me a while to understand. People got to the point where they couldn’t even ask you how you were – they were scared of the answer. I’m like, ‘We can have a normal conversation’.

Because I was young, you are at an age when your friends are going out, and partying, and I just couldn’t do any of that. So I wouldn’t hear from them. I really struggled with that at the beginning.

My closest girlfriend, we can talk about it when it needs to be spoken about – but we also have normal conversations and do normal things. Sometimes if we have plans and I’m not up to it, I say, ‘How about we just have a movie night in?’ My friends just get it.

Gaining weight and skin changes while on hormonal treatments

When I got diagnosed, I was a size 8. Because of hormones, I went up to size 12, borderline size 14. For me that was really difficult. When I did have the energy to go out, I wasn’t fitting into clothes and I wasn’t feeling good about myself. I’d wake up one day and be a C cup bra, and the next day an E cup bra. I’d be like, how did that happen overnight?!

When taking hormones, your skin can get really bad and you get hot flushes. Sometimes the acne was out of this world. At times I would isolate myself.

Questioning whether I’ll be able to have kids

I voiced pretty early on that I want to have children in the future. My oncologist understands that’s where I’m at. I really didn’t want to have the injections for the menopause so that was put off for a good year – 21 years old and starting menopause, you know, not all that attractive! If I was older, the hysterectomy would be the be-all and end-all of my treatment options, but because of how young I am, and because I’m ridiculously clucky, they’re trying to do anything but that.

What worked best for you?

Getting the right information

My gynaecological oncologist explained everything. There were no dumb questions. Every time I got a new hormone to take, she would explain to me the side-effects and what to expect and how I was going to feel. If you didn’t have a heads up, it would been harder to deal with.

Requesting a female doctor

I was really firm about wanting a female doctor – this was something I really wanted and asked for.

The support of family and friends

Mum comes to all my appointments. She’s an amazing woman. If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have pushed and it might have been diagnosed much later, at a more progressed stage.

There were some times when I think ‘this sucks’ and I was conscious that the people that were closest to me were finding it hard to deal with. So I didn’t talk about it, and it wasn’t healthy – seeing someone at those times would have been good. But the majority of time I felt I could talk about it and get their support.