After reportedly suffering UTIs, Sarah Nally is now preparing for major surgery to remove a head-sized mass from her ovary.

The 26-year-old, who is originally from Monaghan but lives in Portstewart, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October, a conversation that sent shockwaves through the world of her and her family.

But despite the trauma and turmoil of the devastating diagnosis, Sarah is fighting to raise awareness about ovarian cancer in the hope that other women can feel empowered when they see a doctor.

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Speaking to The Postedia, Sarah explained that she had symptoms similar to those of a UTI, but they gradually got worse and had a huge impact on her daily life.

Prior to her diagnosis, Sarah undertook a PhD funded by Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke – she was also a lecturer at the University of Limerick.

“For the past year, I’ve had persistent infections that I thought were urinary tract infections,” she said.

“It can be caused by many different things. When I got a urinary tract infection it got worse and worse and my back hurt and my kidneys were affected. In addition to the urinary tract infection, I would have and have had headaches and other things.” be treated with the usual antibiotics.

“From January 2022 I had about three UTIs and then a fourth in May while on holiday in Portugal. I had to get emergency antibiotics there. They were always bad, but they kept getting worse. I booked a pap smear for June and told the doctor that something was wrong with my body.

“I had terrible pain during my period, especially with PMS. Unfortunately, I feel totally let down. Although this was the third or fourth time I had my period, my GP insisted there was nothing to be done except to get me back on birth control pills or over the counter painkillers.

“I turned down the pill because I had been on it for years and I didn’t agree. I was really frustrated and that my voice was not being heard. There was nothing that could be done for me. I was told I would come back in a few months and that was it.

“In September I had a lot of pressure on me with my work and my doctorate. There were many different stressors. For the first three weeks, a suspected urinary tract infection bothered me as much as last week.” I went to a doctor in Limerick.

“I had terrible back pain and fatigue. I couldn’t lift my head or work as well as I could. I was also very nauseous, like I should be sick, but I couldn’t. I went to the doctor on duty on Sunday and described my symptoms and the doctor wrote me a referral letter to the emergency room.

“I went to the ER and had tests done, which were all clear. They did an ultrasound and of course at that time they noticed that I had pain in the pelvic area. It was passed and over a three day period every scan I could get I was told on Wednesday that they found a mass the size of a baby’s head in me.

“I started screaming. I knew it wasn’t good news. I just knew.”

Sarah says that when she was admitted to hospital, the care she received was “amazing”. Within five days she knew she had stage three ovarian cancer.

“Going into the hospital with a UTI and coming out with cancer turned my whole world upside down.

Some symptoms of ovarian cancer
Some symptoms of ovarian cancer

“It was very hard to accept, but I would say the most traumatic thing was not finding out I had cancer, but seeing my mum and dad find out I had cancer.

“I was diagnosed on October 7 and have since had surgery to remove excess fluid from my abdomen and look at the tumors. Every day is different now – I feel so blessed to have this, but extremely “I’m not scared of the surgery, but I’m terrified of coming out.

“Every morning when I wake up, I’m so grateful. At first I thought I was fighting for my life but now I know I will get through this because there are so many people who have no idea what ovarian cancer is and so many GPs who turn women away from their symptoms and when they hear about problems related to the menstrual cycle, they immediately turn to birth control pills.”

Sarah continued: “There is a lack of education. If you were to ask any of my friends, none would know the symptoms of ovarian cancer. I want every woman to not take no for an answer. Women know their own bodies. I had no idea before I was diagnosed. It is a big and silent killer.

“I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else. If I can help at least one other woman by speaking out, then my job is done. Awareness must be created.

“When I went public, there was so much kindness, but at the same time I got a lot of messages from people worried about their own symptoms and giving their own GP – it was confusing. I would say people are grateful that I have spoken up and am not afraid to speak out on the subject and it has also empowered them because I am helping others.

“My DMs are always open, but I would advise anyone who is nervous about symptoms to see their GP and if they don’t get any answers, ask for a referral. Don’t take no for an answer. Answer It has the way what I think about life changes.

“If you experience any of these symptoms for two weeks or longer, you should see a doctor – persistent abdominal pain, persistent gas, difficulty eating/feeling full more quickly, or urinating more often.

“Other symptoms such as back pain, fatigue, weight fluctuations and pain during sex may also be present. In my case my symptoms were nausea, extreme fatigue, back and pelvic pain. You know your body – so when in doubt, get checked.”

Learn more about ovarian cancer symptoms and support here.

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