Ovarian cancer survivor Ranae Niven says she “feels like I’ve got the cancer no-one cares about”.
The Waikaia woman was diagnosed with the disease in November last year and is part way through a course of chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.
Mrs Niven said there were four gynaecological cancers, vulval, cervical, ovarian and uterine.
“They don’t get much airtime compared with breast cancer or prostate cancer,” Mrs Niven said.
“Yet one woman dies every 48 hours from ovarian alone.
“It’s the second highest killer of wahine Maori.”
Of Ngai Tahu and Rangitane o Wairau descent Mrs Niven wanted to make people aware of the disease.
“I personally feel like I need to get the information out to whanau to check all the signs because it is often misdiagnosed and not screened for.”
Some of the symptoms of the disease were often the same as less life-threatening conditions including irritable bowel syndrome or pre-menstrual syndrome and included bloating, constipation, back pain and tiredness.
This meant 80% of women were misdiagnosed when they first went to the doctor.
The 47-year-old had been very tired and knew something was not right.
“I had been going back and forward to my GP and there were other symptoms because of it that we were treating but not the actual illness.”
Last year in May she had a hysterectomy to deal with the symptoms but her health did not improve. During a work trip to Christchurch in November a colleague noticed she was in pain.
“I got to a point where I was tolerating the pain but I didn’t realise how much pain I was tolerating.”
Her colleague encouraged her to go the doctor and a 1.5kg growth was found.
In December the tumour was removed.
There were four stages of the disease and the fourth was the worst.
“Fifteen percent are caught at stage one.
“Eighty-five percent of women are diagnosed in the later stage of the disease.”
Her hair would start falling out shortly but 7-year-old daughter Amaia had that covered.
“My daughter has offered to give me a makeover so I feel much more beautiful with no hair.”