Jordan's picture of health
Bupa member, Jordan, was a seemingly healthy 27-year-old when a photo on social media led her towards a diagnosis that would change her life.
After seeing an image of Jordan’s diminishing frame, dressed at a wedding, her family and friends started to grow serious concerns. She went to see her doctor who ordered tests that ultimately revealed a two-kilogram tumour and stage four ovarian cancer.
This is her story.
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2019, right before my 28th birthday. I’d experienced some pretty vague symptoms and I was really bloated. But then I started to lose a lot of weight. I went back to my doctor who ordered scans, where they found a two-kilogram tumour on my left ovary. I went straight to an oncologist and had surgery about a week later. Within the month, I'd started chemotherapy to treat stage four ovarian cancer.
How did it feel to have your life thrown upside down?
The ovarian cancer variant I had is known as dysgerminoma and while it’s rare, it's more common in women under 30. It is a germ cell tumour and essentially, it starts with a bad egg cell. Germ cell tumours are also common in young men who experience testicular cancer. The tumour grows really quickly, but fortunately for me it just grows and manifests as one growth as opposed to a lot of smaller growths, which other ovarian cancers tend to do.
In hindsight, we should have realised something was wrong because that's a pretty large mass to have in your body. I look back at photos and how much weight I'd lost. If you factor in a weigh loss of 10 kilos on the scales, but still had two kilos of cancer plus it’s fluid, that is a significant amount of weight. I was bloated and just uncomfortable. I wasn't hungry but those symptoms were linked to a previous issue, so the doctors said it was unlikely to be anything else. The bigger problem was being masked.
Did you know much about ovarian cancer before this?
No, not really. A couple of friends have lost grandmothers and older female relatives to ovarian cancer, but I'd never really heard of it in young women. It wasn’t something that I've ever really considered as being a risk for me in my health and I think that's part of the problem. There’s really a lack of awareness around the disease. Because no one talks about it, you're less likely to consider it and you're less likely to watch out for symptoms or to get checked. By the time you are experiencing any symptoms and they’ve progressed enough for you to see a doctor, it's quite often too late to do much about it.
The vague sort of symptoms makes it harder too. Could be this? could be that? As women, they’re the kind of symptoms we kind of pass it off just part of a monthly cycle. For example, the main symptom of ovarian cancer is bloating, that's something that many women will experience every month.
What would you like to see happen in the next five years?
I'd really like to see progression with an early detection test and new treatment options. The Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation directly funds research into an early detection test, which is great. They’ve got their own researchers at the Hudson Institute who do a fantastic job and they're working really, really hard. But for those who have the disease, like me, we need better treatment options because they haven't really progressed very much since the 1990s. The kind of chemotherapy I had in 2020 was what I would have been given 30 years ago, which is crazy to me. There have been so many advancements for other cancers; there’s now a cervical cancer vaccine, you have a very high survival rate for breast cancer and that’s thanks to funding into research for early detection and better treatment options.
We'd like to have it so that at your normal check-up, there is an ovarian cancer test alongside your mammogram and Pap smear. At the moment, if the cancer is diagnosed, and you’re likely to be in an advanced stage and the survival rate plummets.
What advice would you give other women, about ovarian cancer?
If you don't feel right, don't disregard the symptoms. Don't disregard how you feel, listen to your body. You might have to push to get the tests done to get what you need - but do it for your peace of mind. Know the signs, watch out for any of them and if things aren’t right, get the tests and answers you need.
Jordan’s raised more than $40,000 for OCRF and continues to use her role as an ambassador to raise awareness of the disease.
To join Jordan’s new year of fundraising, click here.