Claire Thompson is a 38-year-old mother in the UK who struggled with postpartum depression for 3 years, or at least that’s what the doctors told her. Thanks to her persistence, she eventually learned her true diagnosis; ovarian cancer.
In 2013, Claire began to have strange symptoms after the birth of her daughter. They included mood swings, bloating, and fatigue. When she told the doctor, he said it was postnatal depression and it seemed like a reasonable diagnosis.
After that diagnosis, however, the symptoms persisted and additional symptoms began to surface. This included missed periods at first and then excessive bleeding during her periods later. It seemed like heavy menstruation at first but it ended up getting so bad that she would soak multiple pads in an hour.
Claire dealt with the symptoms and heavy bleeding for a year, assuming it was a part of having her periods resume after giving birth. Surgeries to help with the bleeding were put on the schedule and later canceled because of their ‘elective’ nature.
A gynecologist was consulted in 2016 and they found a mass on her ovary. It was thought to be a cyst at first but as additional tests were performed, it was found to be ovarian cancer.
Doctors found three tumors when a hysterectomy was performed in June 2016. She was happy to have a true diagnosis but was still shaken with the thought that it could have spread during the years it was being called ‘postnatal depression’.
The surgery and treatment stopped the cancer although she started having menopause symptoms just after having the surgery.
“When I got told I was in remission, we threw a Christmas party to celebrate – in September. I decorated the entire house and left it up for the rest of the year. I want my daughter to look back and remember that as the year her mum was crazy enough to celebrate Christmas for four months, rather than the year mummy was ill.’
Cancer can be hard to diagnose and ovarian cancer is among the hardest. The symptoms can be similar to gastrointestinal problems and other conditions and there is not a formal screening process. Unfortunately, the difficulty in diagnosing often means that it is diagnosed late and has a lower rate of survival.
In addition, as was the case with Thompson, not all health care providers tend to take women seriously when they complain about symptoms. In fact, many studies have shown that misdiagnosis often occurs due to health professionals not listening or because women may present the symptoms differently than men.
In the end, Claire is thankful that she survived the ordeal and is now cancer-free for 3 years. You can hear more about her journey in the video below: