“It was like an alarm going off in my body,” Marta said.
“Everything felt off, everything felt wrong,” she told Mamamia.
And that’s when she went to the doctor.
Given she was unhappy with her job, the doctor thought she might have depression. But Marta knew it wasn’t depression.
Since she was 17, Marta had lived with Hashimoto’s disease (hypothyroidism, also called an under active thyroid). She would always know it was playing up because her hair would start falling out, or her hands would become painfully dry.
But this, she recalled, was different.
Her mother – who also lives with the disease – asked doctors to check her thyroid antibodies, a more complex test.
When her results came in, the doctor’s eyes widened. They were off the charts.
She was sent to an ultrasound, and then to an oncologist. It was thyroid cancer.
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After a horrid surgery, the tumour came out in one go. The pain was indescribable.
“I’ve never forgotten that feeling, that ‘alarm’. You know when something is wrong,” she said.
“You just know. So listen.”
Marta was one of four women who spoke to Mamamia about the signs that something was wrong, prior to their cancer diagnosis.
Jane*, 30, had pregnancy type symptoms.
There was more discharge than normal and a “bloated tummy”. She also said she felt really tired.
“When a pregnancy test was negative, I put the symptoms down to hormones and the tiredness down to running around after my two kids,” Jane said.
“Around five months later, I began to bleed heavily, more than a normal period. When it didn’t stop, I went to the emergency room where they carried out tests.
“The results showed that I had cervical cancer.”
Jane’s treatment is ongoing.
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Briony, more than anything, felt really, really tired. The kind of tired there simply is no word for.
She wanted to sleep all the time and rest every weekend. Her family was booking an upcoming trip to Japan, and she just could not bring herself to do it. The prospect of a holiday felt unspeakably overwhelming.
Over an 18 month period, it was as though Briony had no immunity. She would become sick easily, and as time went on, she started to develop frequent night sweats.
“When you’re feeling sick for such a long period of time, feeling crappy becomes the new normal,” she said. “You forget what it feels like to feel good.”
Then one day, her boyfriend who she had been dating for roughly the same period she’d been experiencing the symptoms, said to her, “Do you realise you’ve basically been sick the whole time we’ve dated?”