For nine months, Michelle Cox fought to be taken seriously.
September is International Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month. Every day four women in Australia die from a gynaecological cancer and 16 more are diagnosed. There are currently more than 18,400 women living with these cancers.
There are seven gynaecological cancers – ovarian, uterine (endometrial), vulvar, vaginal, cervical and two rare pregnancy cancers. Ovarian cancer has the poorest outcomes, with only one third of women surviving five years following diagnosis.
Michelle, now aged 46, told Mamamia had a history of cancer in her family – her grandmother and mother both died of the disease – so she was always vigilant with checks.
At 29 she had an ‘abnormal pap’ and had a cone biopsy to remove abnormal cells from her cervix.
Not long after, at age 30, Michelle started noticing weird symptoms including watery discharge and a distended stomach. Having only recently moved to Sydney, Michelle went to a new doctor for treatment and was diagnosed with thrush.
She said the doctor put her on three different courses of antibiotics over the nine months, but Michelle felt it wasn't right.
"I kept saying 'This doesn't sound like thrush to me, are you sure it's not something else? I've had a history, should we not get a second opinion?' and she kept telling me 'No it's fine, it's just thrush'."
Michelle was using sanitary products 24/7 to deal with the discharge and showering up to four times a day to feel clean.
She demanded her doctor refer her to a gynaecologist, which she said said eventually happened reluctantly.
"Thank you in advance for seeing Michelle as I’ve diagnosed her with thrush but she is insistent on seeking further treatment which I believe to be a waste of time," the referral letter read.