18-year-old Ruby McKinnon was just 17 when she woke up to discover her belly had swollen the size of a rockmelon.
Panicking, the Canadian teenager rushed to her mum and wondered if she could be pregnant.
“I remember just staring at my belly,” Ruby told news.com.au.
“It had gone from being flat the night before to this huge, solid bump a few hours later.
“It was so big, I looked 5 months pregnant. I started freaking out before calling out to my mum, who also thought I was pregnant.”
When she rushed to a clinic to take a pregnancy test, it came back negative, leaving her and her mother puzzled.
After a few days, the bump continued to grow, and she rushed to the hospital. She was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer.
Ruby recently shared her story as a Reddit 'Ask Me Anything' and got questions as diverse as asking how her boyfriend dealt with her in the situation, and how her perspective of life changed since having cancer.
One of the scariest parts of her story was that she didn't experience any symptoms until her stomach 'popped' out with the tumour. She went to the hospital within four days of noticing it and had already developed stage 3 ovarian cancer.
It took a month until doctors could perform surgery on the tumour, by which time it had grown exponentially. They had to cut up her stomach a lot further than she expected, leaving a scar which she shared in a photo on Reddit.
She struggled through chemo during her senior year of high school, and on Reddit she described getting treatment as feeling like she was 'dying'.
"I would just lay in bed, motionless, feeling like I was absolutely going to die. In those times, I really wanted to."
But Ruby's story has a happy ending. Recalling the moment that she was cancer-free, she wrote that it was all very emotional.
"I found out when I was in a cafe with my Creative Writing class. It was almost Christmas break, so our teacher took us for a walk to get hot chocolate. My mom texted me saying they had just called her with the results and I was cancer free. I remember running up to my boyfriend, who was talking with my teacher, and hugging him and crying. Then we went back to school and I think my teacher told our principal (an amazing man) because he ran into the classroom and hugged me. He was crying as well. And then the whole class clapped and cheered for me. It was so emotional!"
Ruby told news.com.au that the experience of sharing her story on Reddit had mostly been positive. She said that she decided to share it because some people going through cancer feel that no one understands what they are going through.
“My friends and family were great,” she said.
“But they didn’t know what to say or how to react, which was OK because at the time I didn’t know what to say or how to react either.
“I didn’t feel like I had anyone who understood, and so I wanted to be able to offer that to people. But I didn’t expect the response I got.”
Here are the ovarian cancer symptoms to be aware of:
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss.
- Bleeding in-between periods or after menopause.
- Back pain.
- Indigestion or nausea.
- Excessive fatigue.
- Pain during intercourse.
- Changes in your bowel habits.
For more info visit Ovarian Cancer, Cancer Australia