A mother-of-one, Laura Everley, 36, realised she had an aggressive form of ovarian cancer when she stumbled across a post on her timeline detailing the symptoms.
She’d experienced symptoms including bloating, lower back pain, constipation and frequently needing to urinate, but had put them down to either irritable bowel syndrome or endometriosis, which she had previously suffered with.
“The symptoms are the same, so I thought it could have been irritable bowel syndrome,” she said.
“The idea of cancer hadn’t even entered my head.”
By early 2014, Laura, of Crawley, West Sussex, had been suffering with her symptoms for three months.
Idly scrolling Facebook one evening, she noticed a post raising awareness of ovarian cancer.
“A friend had shared a post from a friend of theirs about her experiences of cancer and what she’d been through,” said Mrs Everley.
“There was a list of symptoms and I realised I had them all.
“I called my doctor straight away and told her that I thought I might have cancer.”
Medics confirmed Laura had a cyst, which was removed and sent away for a biopsy.
She was also referred for an internal examination, which revealed a dark patch.
In October 2014, Laura was called into East Surrey hospital.
“I thought I was just going in for check up so I didn’t think to take anyone with me,” she said.
“I was told I had clear cell carcinoma.
“I was on my own finding this out. It was awful. I spent ages with the MacMillan nurse afterwards, sobbing in shock.
“Having to tell my son Harry was horrible. He knows I have ovarian cancer, but he’s only five so he doesn’t quite understand what cancer means.”
Two weeks later, Laura met with surgeons, who gave her a heartbreaking choice – whether to have one ovary removed, or a complete hysterectomy, which would leave her unable to have more children.
“I already had Harry, but I would have liked to have had more children,” she said.
“It was difficult but I decided on the full hysterectomy – I didn’t want my cancer coming back.
“Afterwards doctors told me I’d made the right choice. I had stage 1c cancer, meaning the cancer cells weren’t contained in my ovary.
“I’d have needed the hysterectomy eventually anyway.”
Now, Laura is nearing the end of her course of chemotherapy and doctors are confident she can be cured.
Her treatment has been gruelling, with each round leaving her feeling constantly sick for a week afterwards.
She has also lost her hair.
“My hair started coming out in clumps, so I decided to just get a friend to shave it,” she said. “I didn’t want to just watch it fall out.
“It was a really emotional experience. My mum and dad came round and everybody cried – even my friend that was shaving my head.”
Laura has also been busy promoting Target Ovarian Cancer, hosting a coffee morning to raise money for the charity.
She is also keen for women to be more aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
“I don’t think people are sure of symptoms. There’s not a definite list, they’re all a bit vague and lots of them could mean other things,” she said.
“There’s no screening for ovarian cancer like there is with the smear test for cervical.
“Women need to know the signs because early diagnosis is the best chance of survival.”