Nelly has always been a career woman. She started her first job when she was 14 and “hasn’t stopped since”. Her career in chemical and environmental management has spanned decades and seen her go from graduating from multiple diplomas to managing multi-million-dollar projects for global corporations – she thought there was nothing that could slow her down.
On top of this, her passion has always been her family, looking after her 3 children, husband and parents.
That was until October 2021, when Nelly was at the height of her career, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“I’d been experiencing symptoms for over a year. I had a lot of trouble with my back; it felt like something was pushing against my back. The feeling then moved from my back to my stomach. I saw multiple different doctors and it wasn’t until my last doctor did an internal examination that I found out what was causing my symptoms. It was ovarian cancer,” Nelly said.
A week after her diagnosis, Nelly was sent into surgery and underwent a full hysterectomy, a grueling surgery involving the surgical removal of the ovaries.
“I’ve always loved working, so it was hard for me to take a break – you feel like you’re making a difference when you love your job and I was very lucky that I’ve loved every single job I’ve had. I also did not want to let my family down, I have never been sick, I have always been there for everyone. However, following my diagnosis, I had to take time off from everything,” said Nelly.
After recovery from surgery, Nelly underwent chemotherapy.
“Until I was hit with ovarian cancer, I was oblivious to it, I was always aware of breast cancer, but never in a million years did I think I would end up with ovarian cancer,” said Nelly.
“It’s a very lonely illness. Although my employer has been very supportive and I had the support of my husband, my three sons, and their partners – they have been my rock – I still felt isolated with my diagnosis,” said Nelly.
Unable to shake the feelings of loneliness, and desperate for information relating to her illness, Nelly turned to Google, where she came across Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA). She called the helpline and was put in touch with Bridget, one of OCA’s specialist ovarian cancer nurses.
“Bridget changed my life. It was like the sunshine had come into my house. You cannot underestimate her influence and her vitality. She understood exactly what I was going through and made me feel so much less alone,” said Nelly.
“I initially felt very embarrassed about my diagnosis. Now every woman I encounter I tell them about it. I urge them to be in tune with their bodies and if something feels wrong, go to the doctor. If the doctor you have seen does not make you happy, please seek a second opinion, I think that is why I’m still here,” Nelly said.
“There is very little information regarding this illness. It is so important for women to know and understand what a disease like this can do to your body. The changes are emotional, physical and sociological for yourself and for your loved ones,” said Nelly.
Funding from Dry July will enable OCA to continue to service the complex needs women like Nelly face, providing them with the specialist psychological, practical and emotional support they need and deserve.