Chloe Pointon of Murchison, New Zealand, was a carefree 20-year-old, living the life of a young person, drinking, socializing and not getting much sleep. Working long hours as an apprentice builder, she didn’t pay attention to her extreme tiredness — attributing it to her lifestyle.
Over an 18-month period she made numerous visits to the doctor for tiredness, bloating and stomach pain and was tested for sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections and pregnancy. “My GP never considered cancer because I was ‘too young.’ Instead I was prescribed numerous courses of antibiotics and told to rest and slow down.”
Over Christmas, Chloe’s mother noticed that she was in pain and said she was sure there was something majorly wrong. Chloe visited friends for New Year’s, but an older woman became very concerned about her health and made an appointment at the local health center.
“I was sent to Christchurch for a scan for a suspected miscarriage but during the scan, the radiographer stopped halfway through and I was sent to see a specialist. By now, I too was sure that something was not right.”
A specialist examined Chloe and told her she had a cyst which would require surgery. She was booked to have the surgery 12 days later. But only a day later she took a turn for the worse and underwent urgent surgery to remove a large mass which was suspected to be cancerous.
Four days later it was confirmed she had a rare type of ovarian cancer called a Yolk Sac Tumour. A rare type of ovarian cancer which affects young women and in contrast to many ovarian cancers has good survival. On February 1, Chloe started a chemotherapy regime called BEP (bleomycin, etoposide and cisplatin).
BEP is an older generation of chemotherapy agents which are also used in testicular cancer. The side effects can be particularly harsh. Though Chloe’s cancer was able to be cured with this treatment, she experiences continued side effects which limit her quality of life and ability to work to this day. As a young, highly active person — these limitations were a difficult adjustment. Though Chloe is grateful for her amazing family, supportive husband and children.
“Throughout the whole process I was told by every doctor I saw that they thought I was too young for ovarian cancer and they never would’ve expected to see it in a 21-year-old,” she said. “I had no prior knowledge of ovarian cancer but did have limited knowledge of other female cancers, as I’ve had smear tests in the past and vaguely knew what they were for but did not know that a smear test does not pick up all female reproductive cancers.
“Like the doctors, I thought ovarian cancer was only seen in older women not young women like me. We were all wrong and it must not continue to be discounted when women like me, no matter our age, present with symptoms.”