Rachel’s story

In Blog, Our Stories by karineumeyer

Rachel Lehen of Auckland, New Zealand, was diagnosed with stage 3 clear cell ovarian cancer in 2021 at the age of 48.

“I had regular Pap smears and mammograms and no one ever mentioned ovarian cancer,” she said. “I was active, training at the gym three times a week, walking the dog four kilometers a day and completing my post-grad at Massey University.”

But then she developed deep vein thrombosis and was put on blood thinners.

“I googled DVT causes and of course there are many possible reasons, cancer being one,” she said. “I dismissed it thinking ‘it won’t be cancer.'”

A few months later, she had bad stomach cramps and could feel a lump in her belly. “I could grab it like a baseball.”

Her doctor ordered a blood test and after that, things moved quickly. CT scans, chest X-rays and a biopsy of the fluid in her stomach revealed that she had ovarian cancer.

Two weeks later she had complete debulking and her surgeon was confident that she got it all. Five weeks after surgery, Rachel started chemotherapy. She also stopped drinking, cut out coffee and sugar, and changed to a plant-based diet.

“In six months, I’ve gone from being told my treatment was palliative to being told I’m now in remission,” she said. “My fight isn’t over but I’m giving it everything I’ve got. I feel amazing, I feel alive. There’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to make you sit up and listen to your body.” 

Rachel’s advice to women is to “know the warning signs, trust your gut and don’t put off seeing your doctor if something doesn’t feel right. We need to talk about ovarian cancer.”