Hannah Catton was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2021, after years of telling her doctors that something wasn’t right. The 24-year-old lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she moved from Kent in 2019. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
GLAMOUR spoke to Hannah about her attempts to access the healthcare she so desperately needed, how she was dismissed by medical professionals on the way, and how she’s fighting for women’s healthcare to be taken seriously. This is her story…
I used to get UTI symptoms a few days before my periods started but, because this was pretty regular and the symptoms passed on their own, I just let my body rebalance itself every month – even though I was in excruciating pain.
I’d been to see a doctor about the pain before but, other than being given antibiotics, they usually sent me on my way telling me I had nothing to worry about. And so, this regular pain that preceded my period became a part of my life.
But then my period became irregular, fast. Worried that something was wrong, I went to see a doctor and told them all about it, but, just like before, I was sent on my way and told I was probably just stressed. I wasn’t too happy with this response so I got a second opinion from another doctor, but they told me the same thing.
My periods remained painful and irregular and so I went back to see my doctor after three months where they told me “You’re young and you’re healthy, it’s probably nothing but just keep tracking your period for now.” And that’s what I did.
At this point, my symptoms now included: extreme pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, as well as the UTI symptoms I was experiencing beforehand. Many of these are symptoms of ovarian cancer.
It was exhausting to have all these doors closed on me. I waited yet another three months and armed with all my tracking info, went to see a different doctor. This was when I was told that my BMI was in the overweight range and that maybe I should focus on losing some weight to reduce some of the symptoms.
I stopped listening after the weight comment due to the sheer anger that was brewing inside me. To have the pain I was feeling be reduced to a weight problem meant I didn’t trust anything else this doctor had to say. Yes, I had a bloated stomach but that was one of the very symptoms I was trying to get medical treatment for.
After a year of being turned away from countless doctors, I ended up getting a UTI that was so bad I needed emergency treatment. I managed to get an appointment with a different doctor, the only doctor in my area that could fit me in on such short notice. She saw my pain differently from the other doctors – which I’ll always be grateful for – and referred me to a gynaecologist and a urologist.
In August 2021, an ultrasound by the gynaecologist found what they thought to be a uterine fibroid, and so I was put on a waiting list for surgery. I felt a sense of relief wash over me that this pain that I had been experiencing for so long was finally being treated.