Right. Let’s not make a fuss.

I hope that if you are reading this you were not as stupid as me when you found your tumor. Continuing under the impression that the mound was another uncomfortable step towards womanhood, I kept quiet about it for a couple of weeks. Stupid.

When I finally mentioned it to my mum, and we paid a fun visit to the local GP, I felt like a complete idiot. There was surely no need for this kind of fuss, which is an attitude I haven’t lost post-cancer. There is a sincere relief I experience when my headache and fever means malaria instead of a virus (this has happened…poor Mum). Excuse the generalization, but this to me is quintessentially British phenomenon, which whilst not entirely negative, can amount to calling mountains molehills.

If I give any advice, it is the same that was told to me the second I met my oncologist…”Don’t be a martyr”. If you have a headache or ball-ache (sorry), then tell your doctor about it. I’m not advocating developing hypochondria; this is more specifically a position to adopt if you are already experiencing a chronic illness. This attitude has lent itself to spotting a host of other fun diseases that have cropped up over the years.

I should state at this point that I had experienced no ‘noticeable’ symptoms. Edna was a sneaky old turd. This remains common in many patients with ovarian cancer but recently the discourse has shifted from that of the “Silent Killer” to that which “whispers”. There are many signs to look out for and some helpful websites for these are below:

Macmillan (an organization I love – that was of great use to me during treatment)


Ovarian Cancer Action


The GP’s theory at this point was that I had an ovarian cyst. They are relatively common in girls of that age and, arguably, simpler to deal with. As a precaution, I was given an ultrasound the next day as the mound was quite large by this point. I thank Dr. Jones profusely for this. Any pregnant woman will know the hilarity and strange discomfort of a technician spreading a clear jam on your belly with your pants around your ankles. I get very chatty in these situations, and see them as a prime opportunity to try out some classic comedy. The woman doing the ultrasound, who happened to be a family friend, spent a fair bit of time chatting about the previous boozy weekend with my mum. However, quickly into the ultrasound the chatter stopped (not dramatically, to be clear, the woman was concentrating on her job).

Hindsight has enabled me to realize this break in conversation was not the best sign. This is the beauty of hindsight, in that it sews events together seamlessly. Every vague symptom, every stone-faced technician contributes to the inevitable conclusion. In truth, I had no instinctual sense that anything was wrong. I suspected zero. Nothing felt awry and there was no impending sense of doom. I went home and I watched the OC (I mean the News).

I used to look back at this with occasional frustration. Why and how didn’t I see this coming? The idea of cancer never even floated in my imagination (which has a habit of wandering). Were time travel possible I would have gone back to that dopey idiot on the couch and tell her to brace herself. I would tell her stop ‘counting her chickens’, also because that’s weird and if people see her doing it she will not make friends. I would tell her not to call her friends and family, telling them that ‘the mound is just some cyst, and it’s actually hilarious because they can get so big you fall over’. I would shout this because next week she will spend the car ride home from Mr. Townsend’s office, mouth fully agape, and call them all up again and explain that she has no effing clue what is going to happen because it’s cancer. That now is perhaps the time to make a fuss.  

*to clarify I do not now and nor have I ever owned chickens.

Susannah TemkoComment