Surviving Ovarian Cancer At 24: BreAnne Middleton And Her Journey
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. While many of us can tell you why we paint the town pink in October, there’s a general lack of awareness when it comes to the teal ribbon. This month, in order to bring more awareness to the subject of ovarian cancer, MadameNoire is speaking to several ovarian cancer survivors about their journeys.
First, is BreAnne Middleton, a 26 year old who learned of her cancer diagnosis when she was pregnant with her son Riley and raising her three year old daughter Leila.
What were your symptoms?
I was diagnosed when I was 34 weeks pregnant. And I had to get a vaginal ultrasound because Riley was breech and backwards and they were just trying to see the position of the baby. And when they gave me the ultrasound, we could see the tumor right next to the baby. That happened October 2. Then when I was in the office, they gave me all these kind of vague hints but they told me that they wanted me to go see this oncologist. They were referring me to a doctor who specializes in pelvic cancers. And I was like, ‘Ok, so I have cancer.’ And they were like, ‘Well, we can’t tell you that but we do want you to see the oncologist.’
So two days later I had an appointment with an oncologist and I found out that it was in fact ovarian cancer. And all of the symptoms pretty much line up with being pregnant. So I didn’t know that there was anything wrong because I was bloated but I was pregnant so I was big and I couldn’t tell. And I had to use the bathroom all the time but I just chalked that up to having a baby sitting on my bladder. I was full after two or three bites of eating but that also happens when you’re pregnant. So all of the symptoms pretty much line up with that.
I always call Riley my life saver baby because I’m not one to go to the doctor. When something’s wrong I just take a nap or pop ibuprofen, just go on and keep it moving. I just happened to be going to the doctor for one of my prenatal appointments.
So you don’t think you would have caught it otherwise?
I definitely would not have caught it at stage two. A lot of people call ovarian cancer the silent killer because it’s really not easy to detect. If you talk about breast cancer, you can kind of do that at home. You can do the test where you feel around for lumps. There’s absolutely no kind of test that you can do for ovarian cancer like that. You either have to get a blood test or you have to get a vaginal ultrasound. A lot of women think you can detect it with a pap smear but they can’t. It’s those two specific ways.They don’t really detect it until it’s too late. You end up having these symptoms for a long time and then these women will finally go to the doctor.
How did you feel when you learned you really were dealing cancer?
I shut down. I was in my room for the next two days. My blood pressure actually rose so high that it sent me into premature labor. So I got diagnosed on October 4 and then on the 6th, I went into labor with Riley. And I got to the hospital and my blood pressure was just out of control. And I know for a fact it was because I was stressing out. I internalized everything because I hadn’t shared anything with my family yet.
I couldn’t believe it because at 24 you think you’re invincible. And you don’t think that things like that happen to you. And also no one in my family had ever battled cancer except for my grandfather who went through a few radiation treatments for prostrate cancer about seven years ago.
I don’t know that there’s a way that you could prep yourself for being 24 and hearing the doctor telling you that you have cancer. And then it just made it that much more stressful because I was like, ‘Well, I’m supposed to have a baby in six weeks.’ And I didn’t even know what was going on with him. It was a really, really stressful time. I went home, I cried, I couldn’t eat I couldn’t sleep.