Brittany Freel of Roseville, California, was diagnosed with stage 3A low-grade serous ovarian in 2020, at the age of 30.
“I used the term medical unicorn a lot,” she said. “I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I saw doctor after doctor. I wanted to give up. I always felt like they didn’t believe me, that I was making it up. No one would ever take me seriously.”
Brittany had been fighting chronic hives for two years. When she told her allergist about some pain in her side, he thought it might have been caused by the medication suppressing her immune system. He ordered labs and an ultrasound, which found a 10-centimeter mass.
A more invasive ultrasound and an MRI confirmed a mass on her ovary or uterus. Most likely a fibroid, they told her. No big deal.
Months later, after many tests, Brittany underwent surgery to remove the mass.
“My surgeon discussed with me the possibility of a hysterectomy,” Brittany said. “However if it was cancer she would remove everything. She reassured me that she didn’t think it was cancer. Many times.”
When she awoke from surgery, Brittany learned that the surgeon “took everything because it looked suspicious.”
Two months after surgery, Brittany got the call that it was low-grade serous ovarian cancer.
“They sent it off to Harvard for testing. That is why it took so long,” she said.
“I was told by my oncologist that my hives are a very rare side effect of my body telling me it was fighting something bigger than it could handle,” she said. “And that they could come back if my cancer recurs.”
Brittany struggled with cancer treatment. After her first round of chemotherapy she developed a fever and was admitted to hospital. Because of covid, she was unable to have any visitors. “It was the worst I’ve ever felt. They had to give me extra medication with chemotherapy after that. But I managed to complete all six rounds.” She then was prescribed a maintenance therapy called a hormone inhibitor. Unfortunately the side effects were too severe and it had to be discontinued.
“I’ve been told there is a high chance my cancer will come back. My hope is that if it does, researchers will have found better treatments to help me.”