A mother whose ovarian cancer made her look like an eight-and-a-half month pregnant woman says she feels like ‘Mary expecting a miracle Christmas baby.’
Andrea Oliver, 54, from Teddington, south west London, initially thought her symptoms, which included bloating, were panic or anxiety related, but a string of tests revealed she had stage three ovarian cancer.
It was October 2016, when the mum-of-two started going to the toilet more often than usual.
Thinking she just had a simple urinary tract infection, such as cystitis, she drank lots of water to fight it, but weeks later, she began feeling stomach cramps and loss of appetite, then things worsened especially her bladder symptoms.
She decided to see a doctor, who immediately sent her for a string of tests at Kingston Hospital in Surrey, where an ultrasound discovered pools of fluid around her spleen and abdomen, and she needed to go through a CT scan to investigate further.
After a few days later, the results of Mrs Oliver’s CT scan confirmed there were cancer cells in her peritoneum and her omentum a double layer of fatty tissue covering the lower abdominal area.
She was then transferred to London’s Royal Marsden Hospital, where the type of cancer she had was reclassified as gynaecological, and a treatment plan was created.
“After my diagnosis on December 7 (last year), that’s when the bloating really got so bad that I looked like I was with child,” she said. “Everything I was going through weirdly reminded me of the nativity story. Mary learnt very quickly that she was having a baby and I felt the same. I’d gone from feeling relatively okay to looking eight-and-a-half months pregnant, like I was expecting a Christmas miracle of my own.”
Two weeks after the diagnosis, around 5.5 litres of fluid have been drained from her abdomen, which medics then sent away for testing. “After the fluid was drained, I felt such relief at being able to sit around and eat my Christmas dinner with my family as planned,” she said.
On New Year’s Eve, Mrs Oliver started a six-cycle course of chemotherapy, then last March, she had a radical hysterectomy and part of her abdominal wall was removed at the Royal Marsden.
A pathology report also confirmed she had ovarian cancer, which doctors believe was the primary cancer which had spread to her peritoneum and her omentum.
Her treatment finished in May, when she was declared NED no evidence of disease in June.
Now, Mrs Oliver is working with the charity Target Ovarian Cancer to raise awareness of the signs to look out for.
“You think with something like cancer, symptoms will be loud and clear, but mine weren’t,” she said. “It’s so important to step out of your busy life for a moment and just consider if everything feels okay, or if anything has changed at all.”