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A 27-year-old woman has revealed how doctors dismissed a three-centimetre growth on her left ovary as unimportant just eight months before she was diagnosed with stage-four cancer.
Looking back Sophie Pugh realises ‘all the signs were there’: she had crippling period pain, a sore lower back, a sore upper leg and later severe abdominal pain, bloating and then difficulties going to the toilet.
The once passionate weightlifter is now fighting to keep up her positivity after having to stop working, abandon her passion for fitness and face the reality that if she survives the cancer she may never realise her lifelong dream of becoming a mum.
Speaking to FEMAIL the disability carer said the initial growth was picked up when she went to the doctor over extremely painful periods.
Sophie Pugh, 27, found out she has stage-four ovarian cancer last month
Thhe young woman is determined to fight the cancer which has spread to her lungs
‘They were so bad that I would drop to the ground, and super heavy, I went to get them checked twice and was told I had polycystic ovaries.
‘The second time when they found the growth instead of scarring I was told they didn’t act on them until they were over four centimetres,’ she said.
‘They didn’t think it was important.’
Before this diagnosis she had been sent home from the ER with ‘food poisoning’ when she experienced excruciating abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
Two months later when her lower back started to hurt, six months before she was diagnosed, she assumed she had ‘pulled something’ after completing a 100kg dead lift at the gym.
‘It would start aching when I was in the car for any longer than 20 minutes,’ she explained.
But she still assumed it was nothing, as there was no history of cancer in her family and doctors had previously pointed polycystic ovaries as the cause of her pain.
Three months before her diagnosis she went back to the doctor when she experienced pain in her left quad, the same side as the growth on her ovary.
‘He told me I wasn’t stretching after the gym properly, which I knew I was because I stretch for 20 minutes before and after each session, we now know it was a symptom of the cancer,’ she said.
She put it to the back of her mind and decided not to head to the doctors when the pain escalated.
The young woman went from going to the gym every da for about three hours to being breathless walking around the block
WHAT SYMPTOMS DID SOPHIE EXPERIENCE?
1 – Excruciating period pain
2 – Lower back pain when sitting
3 – Pain in her upper legs
4 – Extreme bloating
5- Pain in her lower abdomen
6- Discomfort using the toilet
7- ‘Stop-go’ urination
8- Heavy periods
‘I was trying to do some incline crunches at the gym and it felt like hot knives were being pushed into my lower abs,’ she said.
‘Then I was lying in bed and my cat jumped on my stomach and I just cried in pain and my partner told me I had to go to the doctor.’
That same day she noticed she had pain when she used the bathroom and ‘stop-go’ patterns when she tried to pee.
She was rushed from her GP’s to the hospital’s ER with ‘suspected appendicitis’ and left four days later with her cancer diagnosis.
The cancer has grown rapidly, from the time she was diagnosed to the time doctors cut it out it had gone from ten to 15 centimetres and spread to her lungs.
This means the cancer is ‘stage-four’ which is typically terminal, but this is where Sophie says she is ‘one of the lucky ones’ because her cancer reacts well to chemo.
‘It is very unlikely for me to have this cancer because it is typically found in children,’ she said.
‘But it also has a much higher cure rate, if I had been diagnosed with normal ovarian cancer I would be a complete mess because it would likely mean I would be terminal,’ she said.
Although the diagnosis and need for speedy treatment does mean Sophie’s lifelong dreams of becoming a mum are at risk.
‘I have always dreamed of becoming a mum, since I was like 14, but wanted to do it right. Wanted to have a career and my own house, which I have now,’ she said.
She said she always wanted to be a mum but thought she should ‘do it right’ so built her business and got her first home – but now she may never be a mum
‘I just hope that my chances for that life aren’t ruined.’
Sophie will take a special treatment designed to ‘put the right ovary to sleep’ before she starts chemo.
‘Some doctors question whether it will work but if I don’t try and then I can’t have kids later I will kick myself,’ she said.
She starts five rounds of chemo next week and says it could take six months of the gruelling treatment to kill the cancer.
She won’t be able to work much in that time so her friends have started a Go Fund Me to help with costs.
THE OFFICIAL SYMPTOMS OF OVARIAN CANCER:
Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
Frequent or urgent urination
Back, abdominal or pelvic pain
Constipation or diarrhoea
Pain during intercourse
Unexplained weight loss or gain
Source: Cancer Council
‘At the moment my boyfriend is paying for all my bills but his own house will be finished soon and I don’t want him to be paying his mortgage on top of mine,’ she said.
The couple have been together for seven months but Sophie is convinced ‘he is her person’.
This is the second time the young woman has faced having to rebuild her life in the face of tragedy.
Six years ago she was the passenger in a car accident which killed her best friend and left her with physical injuries and depression.
She decided to start her own business as a disability carer after her recovery which involved skin grafts and countless surgeries.
Working for herself means she has no sick pay to fall back on now she has lost her ability to work.
‘I keep kicking myself because I looked at insurance through my super and thought I would get onto it later, then a month later I was told I had cancer.’
Despite all of the obstacles in her way the young woman remains hopeful.
She revealed her scar after the operation to remove the 15centimetre tumour from her left ovary and says the disease caused bloating and pain
‘I am trying to keep busy, even though I am starting to feel tired,’ she said.
Just weeks ago she was running 5kms per day with her dog and spending another three hours at the gym.
‘I am starting to feel it in my lungs now and get puffed going around the block.’
She hopes to recover from chemo quickly so she can ‘get back to life’ including her clients at work who she has been caring for for over two years.
‘I have looked after some of them for five years, they are family,’ she said.