Real Life

I’m 23 and have had ovarian cancer twice

23-year-old Kristen was living in London when she first started getting pains in her stomach. She thought it was just period pain, however it turned out to be something much worse.

By Natalie Babic
I was 21 when I was living in London and started getting really bad cramps in my stomach. At first, I put it off as period pain until one day, it got so bad that I started vomiting. I called in sick to work and saw my doctor. At first, she thought I was pregnant, but those tests came back as negative.
All my symptoms lined up with appendicitis so I went in for surgery to get my appendix taken out. But when the surgeons opened me up, they saw it wasn’t my appendix – they couldn’t even see my appendix because there were tumours everywhere.
The biopsy was done at the same time in the surgery and when the results came back, they told me to come in straight away with a loved one.
I knew it wasn’t going to be good news but I never thought it would be cancer. Ovarian cancer.
I was immediately given the choice of staying in London for treatment or going back to Australia. I chose to stay because it was always my dream to live overseas and I had a good life with amazing friends and a great job.
Because the cancer had spread so far – it was Stage 3c - I was warned that the chemo might not work and if it didn’t, I’d only have a few months to live. I was really lucky because it did work and I was able to go through with surgery. It was an 11 hour surgery which included a full hysterectomy as the cancer was everywhere, from my abdomen to alongside my liver and all around my bowels.
All the visible cancer was taken out of me and then the recovery started. I was so weak; I had a walking stick and was so frail. But then, I was finally in remission.
It was the sweetest news I could have ever been told. I kept living it up in London and was able to do some travel around Europe.
When my visa came to an end, my sister and I decided to move to Canada. We’d been there a few months when I had to fly back to Australia for a check-up. I told my friends, “See you in two weeks!”
But, I didn’t see them in two weeks because my cancer had come back.
It was around my lungs, breasts and abdomen. I had to have surgery again and then it was back to chemo and a clinical trial.
I’m now in partial remission; the chemo worked but I still have a tiny bit of cancer. It’s manageable but it is disappointing to still have it sitting there.
Kristen and her sister Elsa at Niagra Falls.
When it comes to cancer, it’s taught me that you can be living a really active and healthy life with the most subtle of symptoms – but it can be something serious. Trust your body. If you see change or you notice something different, get it checked out.
Life is precious and things can change overnight.
I’ve now got more of an urgency to travel and have learnt to not put things off. It’s given me a big shake up.
I’m about to go back to Toronto to visit my sister and my friends I left there. And then I’m off to Baltimore for an Ovarian Cancer Conference.
Sharing my story is a positive way for me to give back because I was so lucky to survive and if I can tell my story, it will give some meaning to what I went through.
Kristen and her dog Henry holidaying in Paris.
February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. 1,500 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year and around 1,000 will die. It has the lowest survival rate of any women’s cancer. Know the signs and symptoms by visiting Ovarian Cancer Australia.
You can also follow Kristens story on her blog Kristen vs. Cancer.

read more from