Mellissa Paulin didn’t know much about ovarian cancer but the hardest thing was telling her children she had it.
“You’re meant to be the strong person for them, the fighter, the role model,” Mellissa said.
“Now you’re this vulnerable person that they’re not used to.
“I want to get the knowledge out there so other women don’t have to go through this horrible journey.”
Mellissa Paulin: “Our moto was: I’ve got this. This chapter of my life is about me. Only I can get through it.”
September is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month.One woman in New Zealand dies of ovarian cancer every 48 hours, according to the NZ Gynaecological Cancer Foundation.
In 2019, Hutt Valley DHB Health Care Assistant Mellissa Paulin had lost a lot of weight and was suffering persistent stomach cramps among other symptoms which she initially put down to menopause.
It took several visits before her GP decided she needed to be referred for scans and blood tests at Hutt Hospital.
“You have to be your own advocate.
“If it lasts more than two weeks, do something about. Go see your doctor.”
A lengthy process of elimination, supported by Mellissa’s own sense that something was wrong, lead to a CA125 blood test and ultrasound finding an abnormality.
On 21 September, 2020, the then-54-year-old was told she had cancer.
“It’s surreal because on the outside you look fine. It’s hard to believe this is happening. You just go numb with disbelief.
“I have been blessed with so much aroha and support from family and friends.
“Everyone deals with it in their own way. It is hard but it can also bring you all together.”
About six weeks later, she underwent surgery to remove cancer in her fallopian tubes.
“The staff at Wellington’s gynaecology and oncology departments were fantastic.
“Despite the surgeon being confident they had taken it all out, it had spread.”
In Feburary, Mellissa started the first of six rounds of chemotherapy.
“As my daughter would say: ‘In with the good; out with the bad’.
“This was a very stressful time, especially with COVID around.”
But in June, the news came that she was in remission.
“If every woman had an ultrasound and a blood test each year, then they would pick it up before it was too late.
“Persist, persist, persist.”
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer to look-out for:
- Persistent bloating
- Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Feeling full after eating a small amount
- Needing to urinate often or regularly
- Unexplained fatigue
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- See your GP if you have questions.
See the Cure Our Ovarian Cancer NZ website for further Information