Featured image via Shutterstock and does not show Hannah Catton. Photo for representational purposes only.
Hannah Catton, 24, had been dealing with painful symptoms since 2019: she had frequent urinary tract infections, bloating and “extremely painful,” irregular periods.
Doctors in her hometown of Kent, England, and in her current home of Melbourne, Australia, brushed off her health concerns, telling her it was ‘menstrual’ stress and that she ‘just needed to lose weight.’ But then one day, she collapsed due to the pain.
It would be a long, agonizing process before the cause of her pain was revealed to be stage one ovarian cancer.
The troubling signs started to ‘ramp up’ in September 2020, she told Today. Her menstrual periods left her with bloating, constipation, hot flashes, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
After being told her symptoms were due to stress, Catton went to another doctor for a second opinion.
“She told me to lose weight, which was hard to hear, and I definitely wasn’t overweight… I’m pretty physically fit,” she told BBC News.
After the pain continued to worsen, Catton went to a gynecologist, where an ultrasound revealed a 10-centimeter fibroid around her uterus.
She was put on the waiting list for surgery, but in October 2021, after a horseback riding session, her pain began to flare up.
“When I dismounted after the first-day riding, I collapsed in pain to the point of almost vomiting. It was excruciating,” she told Today. “I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time so I took as much pain relief as I could and tried to sleep it off.”
But when Catton tried to work out and again collapsed in pain, her boyfriend took her to the emergency room, where she was believed to be having an ectopic pregnancy. But after doctors performed a series of tests, she was diagnosed with stage one ovarian cancer and was told that her tumor had ruptured.
She had emergency surgery to remove the tumor and immediately began cancer treatment.
“My wonderful oncologist wanted to hit me hard and fast with chemo,” she said.
Catton is now doing well with her chemotherapy treatments, but is not afraid to speak about the heartache she’s experienced since her diagnosis.
“It was an extremely hard conversation to have with my parents over the phone, to tell them I didn’t know if I was going to die,” she told BBC News.
Catton hopes her story helps others who have had their pain and concerns dismissed.
“The number of messages I’ve had from ladies with stories so similar to mine — where they have been brushed off by doctors and told it’s weight, hormones, menopause, etc. — is shocking,” she said.
Catton’s friends created a GoFundMe to help raise money as she goes through treatment, and to help her spread awareness.