My Health Experience: ‘They found an ovarian cyst the size of a melon’
Ovarian cancer can often go unnoticed until it’s too late – luckily for Patricia Egan, her illness was treated early
Trish Egan from Cree, Fortall, Birr, Co Offaly. Photograph: James Flynn/APX
Just over two decades ago, actor Pierce Brosnan lost his 43-year-old wife, Cassandra to ovarian cancer. Earlier this month, his 42-year-old daughter, Charlotte died from the same disease. Often going unnoticed until it is too late for treatment, this cancer affects 350 women each year in Ireland.
“I had just gone to Pope John Paul’s funeral in Rome and then did the Mini Marathon with a friend of mine and all was fine until a few days later when I had a pain in my lower abdomen. Firstly I put it down to muscle strain from the marathon and ignored it – but later that day, I got concerned and decided to see an out-of-hours doctor who told me I had a kidney infection.
I was given antibiotics but this had a knock-on effect on my bowel so after the antibiotic course was finished, I returned to the doctor because I had pains when going to the toilet. I was put on different tablets and although these helped a bit, the pain still lingered. So much so that when I was at a friend’s wedding, I couldn’t dance because I was in pain.
By this point, I was fed-up and got my GP to refer me to Ballinasloe hospital. I was admitted straight away because numerous tests and scans had to be done. The following day, I was told I had a bladder stone. I was delighted as I knew it would only involve a small procedure. But two days later, my gynaecologist told me it wasn’t to do with my bladder after all: they had discovered an ovarian cyst the size of a melon.
He told me I could either have treatment to reduce the cyst and then remove it or have a hysterectomy. I was horrified. Particularly as he said one of the tests (CA125 – a tumour marker blood test) registered very high and they were concerned.
I had to undergo a biopsy, which wasn’t a pretty procedure and I screamed the place down when I realised it had to be done twice. A week after I was first admitted, I was sent to Holles Street and, with the support of my brother Kieran, decided to have a full hysterectomy the following day as I was so frightened by the CA125 result.
About a month after my operation, I was told I had ovarian cancer. My sister Anne-Marie and best friend Elaine were with me at that time and asked a lot of questions. Devastation hit me from all angles; it took a good while for the news to finally sink in as all I could think of was how I would tell my mum. And I asked myself why I got something like this as I was a very fit person – I have climbed Kilimanjaro and love horse-riding, walking, swimming and dancing.