A Queensland mum who was left with just one ovary after beating an aggressive form of ovarian cancer was distraught to find another lump a year on.
Stay at home mum, Makita Allen, 21, thought her cancer had returned – but she was in for a shock.
She was, in fact, pregnant.
Aged just 19, Makita found an irregular lump in her abdomen, which was incredibly painful and grew to eight inches.
After moving to Brisbane to see specialist doctors, they diagnosed the lump as a benign tumour containing brain tissue which was releasing hormones causing the pain..
On the day of the surgery, Makita’s doctor informed her that the results from her blood tests didn’t in fact show a benign tumour, but a cancerous tumour.
Three months after finding the lump, Makita was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer which was progressing rapidly, and she was to undergo chemotherapy immediately if she stood any chance of survival.
‘I first noticed a firmness in my abdomen, which was a little tender when I applied pressure,’ Makita says. ‘I thought maybe I had pulled a muscle while working out.
‘A couple of days later I noticed a tennis ball sized lump protruding from my abdomen which I could cup in my hands. When I went to the toilet it was gone, it was only visible when my bladder was full.
‘My GP didn’t know what to make of it. My gynaecologist sent me for MRIs which didn’t find anything. In all, I had four biopsies which each required me to be under general anaesthetic which came back inconclusive.
‘I moved to Brisbane to see better doctors who ran blood tests and tumour markers which came back inconclusive.
‘Another gynaecologist said I had a special type of benign tumour which released hormones causing side effects. He scheduled me for a keyhole surgery to drain and remove the cyst.
‘By this time, I looked seven months pregnant with a huge mass that caused me so much pain every day.
‘In the morning, the surgeon told me that after looking at my chart and blood tests, it seemed I had a type of ovarian tumour that was malignant and doesn’t show up on usual tumour markers.’
During the surgery, Makita was diagnosed with stage three cancer and surgeons also found tumours on her fallopian tubes, cancer cells in her lymph nodes and appendix, and a tumour on her omentum, which connects the stomach to abdominal organs.
‘My cancer was progressing so quickly, so I wanted to have my surgery as soon as possible,’ said Makita. ‘All I could think about was my daughter and I started to cry. I didn’t want to be sick, I didn’t want her to have a sick mum.
‘I felt like my youth had been taken away, but at the same time I knew chemotherapy was the next step, so I thought ‘let’s do it’. I became very focused on the technicalities instead of seeing the picture as a whole.
‘It wasn’t until I was cancer free that I finally admitted I had cancer.
‘I sent my daughter to a cousin in the Gold Coast, and for the first month I couldn’t see her because she was sick, and my immune system was almost non-existent.
‘I will never forget when I finally got to see her because the nurses had prepped us in separate rooms and gave us both a face mask and hair net. I was sat on the edge of my hospital bed waiting for them to bring her in.
‘We saw each other and ran to one another, I held her so close because I’d missed her so much. I just wanted to kiss every inch of her but unfortunately I couldn’t.’
Makita did three cycles of chemotherapy, having to live in the hospital for two months, before being able to move back home to complete the final rounds of chemotherapy. Makita was able to live with her daughter again, but they had to limit contact and wear masks.
‘I was in the hospital for eight weeks and my daughter visited twice in that time,’ adds Makita.
‘When I was finally home I wanted to be her mum, but I felt too sick to move. I felt like I was letting her down, she deserved so much time.
‘I finished my chemotherapy four months after starting it and decided I wanted to start a new life with my partner and our daughter.
‘Five months after the move I noticed a swelling in my lower stomach again and I was absolutely terrified.’
Makita was convinced her cancer was back.
‘I took a pregnancy test to rule it out since I hadn’t even had a period since my surgery, and it came back positive. I looked in the mirror and cried – I felt so proud,’ she says.
‘My partner and I had always wanted another baby, but we thought after my cancer that it would never happen.
‘My second pregnancy wasn’t problem-free. I started bleeding heavily at five weeks and was told I had a haematoma which was reoccurring, and the bleeding continued for five weeks.
‘After a hectic pregnancy where we had to see a specialist every two weeks to make sure he wasn’t affected by the chemotherapy, my baby boy was born in April and we couldn’t be happier.’