Mother told she has weeks to live urges others to get simple blood test

Mother told she has weeks to live urges others to get simple blood test
Anne Herlihy, picture from Facebook used with permission.

By David Raleigh

A woman in her 50s who was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer has urged women from their 20s upwards to get a simple blood test, which can diagnose the potential killer disease.

Mother of two Anne Herlihy described the disease as a "sneaky killer", as she has never been in physical pain and never believed her symptoms, which masqueraded as minor ailments, were anything else.

"If I had only understood that bloating and fatigue, indigestion, nausea, bladder urgency, change in bowel habits, and the feeling of fullness, was something to do with ovarian cancer, I would definitely have pushed it with my GP," explained Anne, from Charleville, Co Cork.

"I was diagnosed last December with stage four terminal ovarian cancer. I was told I had had it for at least one and a half years before the symptoms really made me go to a doctor."

Despite living in the shadow of her declining health, Anne spoke out publicly to raise awareness among other women.

"Women lead such busy lives between rearing a family, working (and) working within the home, that they tend to put the symptoms down to minor things and don't go to the GP."

"When they do go to the GP it is sometimes wrongly diagnosed, or the proper tests are not taken. At the moment there is no screening to help prevent ovarian cancer but there is a blood test that can be done in your GP called a CA125," she told the Limerick Today talk show on alive 95FM today.

Anne initially underwent a colonoscopy, but because the cancer was hidden, the results came back all clear. After becoming more and more bloated she was admitted to hospital where doctors told her she had ovarian cancer, and that it had spread to her lungs and her chest cavity.

"It was like being hit by a truck both for my husband and for myself, and it was the thoughts of having to come home and tell my family was the most difficult part," Anne said as she fought back tears. Anne has two adult children.

"I'm 52. Ovarian cancer doesn't discriminate (between ages). It's usually for women in the over 60/70 age group but I'm on an online forum where women (aged in their 20s) have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. That seems to be the problem - there isn't awareness of the symptoms.

Anne, who was given around 12 weeks to live last December, said she is unsure how long she has left to live. She has recently finished a bout of chemotherapy and is receiving a cancer maintenance drug.

"Women have to push for these tests, and hopefully (my story) will save somebody's life...That's basically what I have to say today; If women push for tests, I might be lucky, it might save a life."


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