Ovarian cancer survivor makes urgent plea to women: 'Violently ill'

·3-min read

Every year, around 1700 Australian women receive the devastating news they have ovarian cancer.

In 2003, Cheryl Waller, from Sydney, was one of them.

Now, the 64-year-old is pleading with women to “listen to their gut instinct” and be on the look out for symptoms of the disease that tried to take her life.

Ms Waller told Yahoo News Australia she was just 44-year-old when she began suffering from a constant cough, a bloated and firm tummy and unusual bowel movements.

“I also couldn’t sit still on the lounge for more than 20 minutes. There was no pain, I was just really uncomfortable,” she said.

Cheryl, who had ovarian cancer, and her wife in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Cheryl Waller (left) was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 44. Source: Supplied

However, it wasn’t until six months later that she learned why.

During a holiday in Queensland with her wife, Rhonda Beach, Ms Waller said the pair stopped at the Bundaberg Rum distillery for a tour.

“We got some free samples. I’d had one or two but nothing excessive. Then I was violently ill,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

Concerned, a tired Ms Waller, who was also unable to eat much, cut her trip short and headed home to see her doctor.

After ruling out any bowel issues, the 64-year-old was sent for an x-ray, which led to the discovery of “something in her tummy”.

“The doctor said unfortunately there’s a 50/50 chance it’s ovarian cancer,” Ms Waller detailed.

Ms Waller holding flowers.
Ms Waller said she became 'violently ill' while on holiday and rushed home to see her doctor. Source: Supplied

'Go and get checked out'

A fluid test confirmed the physician’s suspicions and she was sent to a specialist, who performed a full hysterectomy just one day after their appointment.

The 64-year-old then participated in a clinical trial investigating breast cancer treatments and how they interact with ovarian cancer drugs, undergoing eight rounds of chemotherapy.

“They lasted six months, longer than expected because the white cell in my blood was a bit low,” she said.

“One stage I had to have a blood transfusion”.

Ms Waller, who said the whole process was “quite emotional”, has since been really lucky and the cancer has not returned.

She’s now urging other women to listen to their bodies and seek help if anything feels wrong.

“I want other women to know that if you feel that things aren’t right, go and get checked out — don’t keep putting it off,” she said.

“Your body is telling you something. Don’t discard it as only a little thing.”

Cheryl with her wife in front of the ocean.
The 64-year-old underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy. Source: Supplied

Seven signs of ovarian cancer

The Cancer Council has published a list of seven signs of ovarian cancer that should be taken seriously ahead of World Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day on May 8.

They are:

  • bowel habit changes

  • pain during sex

  • unusual vaginal bleeding

  • abdominal pain

  • unexplained weight variations

  • indigestion and nausea

  • feeling tired

“The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be similar to other common conditions,” the Cancer Council said in a statement.

“This can make it difficult to diagnose early. If you have any of these symptoms and they are new for you, are severe or continue for more than a few weeks, it is best to have a check-up.

“Keep a note of how often the symptoms occur and make an appointment to see your general practitioner.”

For more insight on symptoms of ovarian cancer, see here.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, please contact the Cancer Council’s information and support line at 13 11 20.

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