Living with Ovarian Cancer

For World Ovarian Cancer Day on 8 May 2021, Jessica Gutch — aka @Jessi_gooooch on Instagram — shares her experience of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer aged 26 and living with the condition.

I was what’s called an A&E diagnosis, which means that your cancer is discovered through an emergency admittance to A&E, rather than through other pathways.

This was due to severe pain from the tumour wrapping itself around my fallopian tube and cutting off the blood supply to my right ovary.

Until then I didnt have any standout symptoms, though in hindsight I had definitely had a change in bowel habits with more frequent diarrhoea. I’d recently started trying a vegan diet and put it down to getting used to that.

I went from suspected appendicitis, to suspected cyst, to suspected benign tumour, to a final diagnosis of an extremely rare ovarian cancer called Sertoli-Leydig, aged 26. I think the rarity of it is why it took a while for the pathology to be confirmed.

It’s now been two years and three months since I was diagnosed. That first year was really tough. I had two surgeries, was staged 1C (which means the cancer is only on the ovaries), but there had actually been some very small cells still lurking around in my abdomen, which showed up on my scan six months later in the form of tumours attached to the surface of my liver.

I then had a third surgery to remove them, and an extremely intensive chemo which involved being an inpatient for half of the cycle and seven days of chemo per three weeks. The chemo nurses at Charing Cross Hospital were my guiding light through this time.

“The chemo nurses at Charing Cross Hospital were my guiding light through this time.”

Devastatingly, this chemo didn’t work for me and the metastatic tumours were back in the same place on the liver just four months after finishing. My oncologist and I decided to try a somewhat experimental combination of leuprorelin injections, letrozole, and metformin (hormone suppressants and a repurposed drug for diabetics).

I also asked to be referred to UCLH’s Integrative Cancer Clinic, also part of NHS London, and was prescribed some supporting homeopathic drugs through that service.

This combination has done so much better than I thought it would. It reduced the tumours in size and has kept me stable for a year now. They offer me an incredible quality of life which also allows me to do things like cooking homemade healthy meals and exercising regularly, which I really believe is also making a difference.

I have three monthly scans and I just hope that my period of stability continues for as long as possible. I have been so unbelievably lucky to have this superior level of cancer care and innovative treatment options on the NHS and I think about that every day.

Finding cancer early can save lives. Get to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer at nhs.uk/ovarian-cancer and speak to your GP if you have any concerns.

High quality care for all, now and for future generations.