No warning for healthy Shepparton woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer
Published at: 28 Feb 2020
IT WAS SIMPLY BLOATING THAT PROMPTED MARG HUDSON TO SEEK OUT HER DOCTOR IN 2017. THE REASON BEHIND THE SYMPTOM WAS SOMETHING MORE SINISTER THAN SHE HAD EVER IMAGINED.
Marg Hudson had no idea significant bloating could lead to an ovarian cancer diagnosis.
The Shepparton woman said that was the only change she had experienced when she decided to visit her GP.
“I wasn’t unwell, that was the problem,” she said.
After taking blood tests, nothing turned up in her results, but Mrs Hudson knew something was not right.
“My stomach was getting really big,” she said.
After undergoing further testing, Mrs Hudson discovered she had had ovarian cancer for well over 12 months and was quickly admitted to the Royal Women’s Hospital to have surgery to remove a tumour.
Mrs Hudson was required to have a full hysterectomy and described the size of the tumour as being not quite as large as a football.
“Before I was operated on, they told us they wouldn’t get it all,” Mrs Hudson said.
She explained she did in fact have two spots of cancer left and therefore Mrs Hudson began chemotherapy at the Peter Copulos Cancer & Wellness Centre, six weeks after surgery.
Mrs Hudson said GV Health’s Oncology department had become like a second home.
“I actually look forward to going in there once a month,” she said.
Having developed a close relationship with nursing and oncology staff, Mrs Hudson says she even goes walking after
The silent killer
WITH VAGUE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS AND NO SCREENING TEST, OVARIAN CANCER CAN BE ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT CANCERS TO DETECT AND DIAGNOSE. TEAL RIBBON DAY WAS HELD ON WEDNESDAY THIS WEEK, RAISING AWARENESS OF THIS SILENT KILLER.
GV Health breast and gynaecological cancer liaison nurse Melissa Gilmour supports those diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the Peter Copulos Cancer & Wellness Centre.
She said while patients did receive treatment and support at the centre, the majority of patients who required surgery were referred to the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne.
“They certainly would come through here as far as their initial diagnosis and then maybe be referred to Melbourne,” she said.
“My role is to help and support and make sure everything happens in a timely manner.”
Ms Gilmour said ovarian cancer was particularly challenging to detect at an early stage due to the vague signs and symptoms.
“That’s why, in a lot of cases, diagnosis isn’t actually found until very late in the process,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the majority of people are diagnosed late and therefore the five year survival statistics are only around 46 per cent.
“It is known as the silent killer for a reason.”
Ms Gilmour said symptoms could often be dismissed as being the result of something innocent like a dietary change.
“The symptoms include persistent bloating, feeling full quickly, loss of appetite, urinary urgency, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, changes in bowel habits and pelvic, stomach or lower back pain,” she said.
“Sometimes people might experience spotting during their menstrual cycle as well.”
She highlighted the fact that ovarian cancer affected women of all ages.
Ms Gilmour said if people had persistent symptoms then they should visit their GP.
“The only real way of diagnosing it is through the physical examinations and having imaging done,” she said.
“There’s also a blood test that can be done with tumour markers so there’s a number of things that need to happen to be diagnosed.”
Ms Gilmour said there was also a common misconception that pap smear testing detected ovarian cancer.
She stressed pap tests did not detect ovarian cancer.
“Pap tests only detect cervical cancer,” she said.
GV Health breast and gynaecological cancer liaison nurse Melissa Gilmour.
Dedicated to fundraising work with one of her nurses.
“I’m very lucky,” she said.
Mrs Hudson said she had been quite uneducated about ovarian cancer prior to her diagnosis.
“You always hear about breast cancer,” she said.
“But I had no idea.
“I’d actually put a lot of my symptoms down to old age.”
Mrs Hudson said her family had also been fantastic throughout her journey, with her husband Wally Hudson, son Andrew and daughter-in-law Melinda accompanying her to appointments.
“They’ve been great,” she said.
Mr Hudson said Mrs Hudson had maintained a fantastic attitude and outlook throughout her diagnosis and treatment.
“When she was first diagnosed, she said ‘these are the cards I’ve been dealt; let’s deal with it’,” he said.
“In the last few months we’ve joined the gym and Marg does the parkrun.
“She’s always been into sport as well.”
With his wife still working three days a week and having treatment on an ongoing basis, Mr Hudson said due to Mrs Hudson’s positive attitude, life just kept rolling on.
“What happens, happens,” Mrs Hudson said.
“I’ve only got three priorities in my life: family and close friends, because I don’t survive without them; second is my footy club because I don’t survive without them; and third is my health.”
Dedicated to fundraising
In recent years the GV Health Foundation and GV Health have supported the Silver Lining Riders.
Headed up by co-founders Clinton Stanaway and Georgie Herbert, the group has been dedicated to raising funds for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.
In November last year the group embarked on a gruelling 1300 km 10-day bicycle ride for the second time after Ms Herbert’s mother died from ovarian cancer in 2017.
‘‘She fought the disease for nearly a decade and unfortunately it just got her in the end,’’ Mr Stanaway said.
He said initially just the two of them intended to take part in the ride but soon many friends and family members jumped on board as well.
Ms Herbert said it was incredibly important to make everyone more aware of ovarian cancer and its symptoms.
“When my mum was diagnosed, we had never heard of ovarian cancer but we soon learned it kills one Australian woman every eight hours,” she said.
“It’s really important to me that we find a means of detecting the disease early because we know that will improve survival rates significantly.”
Ms Herbert said they had loved pedalling through Shepparton on their past two rides, building a strong relationship with GV Health.
“We hope to make Shepparton an annual destination on the ride and are working towards a way to get all local riders involved in the event,” she said.
“The final route isn’t yet locked away, nor are the dates, but we hope it’ll be around November once again.”
Ms Herbert said if the group could get significant support in Shepparton it would love to fund a local ovarian cancer support nurse alongside raising funds for an early detection test.
Ms Herbert also recently attended the GV Health Foundation and Soroptimist International of Shepparton’s Valentine’s Day fundraiser as a guest speaker.
Ms Herbert discussed the project and the work they had been doing to raise funds and awareness.
To support the work of the Silver Lining Riders visit www.facebook.com/ silverliningride/