Marita Mathews and husband

Be diligent about anything that doesn’t feel right

Name: Marita Mathews

Date of diagnosis: 4th September 2019

Age at diagnosis: 55

Country: Australia

I am: a mother who loves her daughter and husband.

The cancer was found when: I had a Pap smear that came back with insufficient cells. I was eventually referred to a gynaecologist. I decided to ask for a Ca125 blood test. I’ve always tried to be proactive with my health. I have only one child and I am very conscious of how important it is for her to have me in her life. In retrospect I wasn’t feeling quite right. I had mild and vague symptoms of constipation, bloating and spotting post intercourse which I now know can be symptoms of ovarian cancer.

The gynaecologist asked if I had ovarian cancer in my family. I said there was even though there wasn’t! I was worried they wouldn’t take me seriously and test for it otherwise. My colposcopy was all good, but I think she felt something in my pelvis as she referred me to a gynaecologist radiologist who discovered a mass on one of my ovaries. She made it very clear that it was concerning! I was phoned on Monday by an oncologist surgeon who wanted to see me ASAP!

To say I was out of my depth, terrified and felt like my world was turned upside down is an understatement! I had laparoscopic surgery the following week to investigate. They discovered a 7cm mass on my ovary and scattered cancer in my peritoneum and on the outside of my intestines. They told me I had stage 3C low grade serous adenocarcinoma. My CA125 was elevated as well.

The shock was my worst fear and all I could think about was my daughter and husband. I had 3 cycles of chemo, followed by a laparotomy surgery to remove the mass. As it was not possible to give me a temporary stoma due to the location of the mass, we have decided to do more chemo to shrink it and the part on my bowel. I’m now taking an estrogen blocker medication called Letrozole as they’ve discovered it’s hormone driven.

There are some medications developed for other cancers that you can take if you have specific mutations. I had a DNA test though and it was negative. This is often the case with low-grade serous ovarian cancer, and means we have less treatment options. As chemotherapy isn’t as successful at treating this type of cancer compared to the more common high-grade serous ovarian cancer, it leaves us in a dark scary place. I have spent all of the festive season not knowing if my cancer is progressing or shrinking as I wait to see my Doctor to see how the hormone treatment is going. My life will never be the same .

How your donations would impact me: We desperately need funding into research into this rare subtype of ovarian cancer. Low-grade ovarian cancer is often treated the same way as high-grade ovarian cancer. But the reality is, apart from the name they have little in common. With current treatments the chance of having the cancer come back is high. We need research to find better treatments. I’m just like anyone else, not rare or special! I really want to be here for my only child and be there for all the important milestones that as parents we so look forward too!

What I would say to someone else going through this: Be brave, stand up for yourself! Ask questions, research all you can. Be diligent about anything in your body that doesn’t feel right. It’s a tough journey, but all you can do is hang in there and hope that a cure or at least better treatment becomes available. Good luck xxx

Clarification from Cure Our Ovarian Cancer: In general testing asymptomatic women for ovarian cancer is not recommended BUT if you experience any symptoms that could be ovarian cancer, and they last for two weeks or longer you should see your doctor and ask whether a Ca-125 blood test and trans-vaginal ultrasound is appropriate.