A young Queensland nurse diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer after dismissing persistent symptoms has warned other women to not delay seeking medical advice. Diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma at the age of 29, Megan Harridge has endured 13 rounds of chemotherapy, the removal of a mango-sized mass and IVF to collect her eggs in the hope of creating a family in the future.
Recently, the Mater Hospital Brisbane nurse was advised she was cancer free and said she had “never felt happier”.
“I was diagnosed at the end of December 2020, just a few days after Christmas,” Mrs Harridge said. “I was severely fatigued, had indigestion, lots of pain in my belly and an irregular menstrual cycle. “I wrote all these symptoms off as something else – being lactose intolerant, burning the candle at both ends and having put on weight from our recent holiday.”
Mrs Harridge, of Birkdale, eventually consulted her doctor, she was diagnosed with a rare type of ovarian cancer.
The survival rate of Australian women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is less than 50 per cent. It is estimated that 1720 Australian women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, and 1042 women will die from the disease – that’s one woman every eight hours. 1
Mrs Harridge said her cancer journey had been “unbelievably emotional”.
“I was so young and in disbelief this could happen to me,” she said. “I was working full time, going to the gym four times a week and was very active.”
With no family history of ovarian cancer, Mrs Harridge said the diagnosis left her in “utter disbelief” and is using her experience to warn other women of the danger in ignoring or being too busy to address persistent symptoms.
“We all know our bodies so well. We know what’s normal and what’s not. I am urging other women not to put off seeing a doctor. Don’t say you are too busy to get things checked out,” Mrs Harridge said.
“It could be a life or death situation. I was lucky because mine was a stage one cancer and found at the right time, but things could have been really different.”
Mrs Harridge is back at work and said her family had been extremely supportive throughout her cancer journey.
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