A woman was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after she was repeatedly misdiagnosed with a UTI for months, she claims.
Heidi Crawford, 42, went to her GP on three occasions because she kept needing to urinate during the night – a classic symptom of the killer disease.
As time wore on, the riding instructor developed more warning signs such as pain in her stomach and back, and was struggling to eat food.
Eventually she was sent for an ultrasound when she found a lump in her abdomen, which is where her ‘nightmare’ began.
Mrs Crawford, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, never expected to be diagnosed with cancer after alleging her doctors told her she was too young to get it.
She endured a hysterectomy following her diagnosis in September 2016 and, despite going into remission once, her future remains uncertain.
Heidi Crawford, pictured on her wedding day in 2014, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer claiming she was repeatedly misdiagnosed with a UTI for months
She endured a hysterectomy following her diagnosis in September 2016 and, despite going into remission once, her future remains uncertain
Mrs Crawford, pictured before her diagnosis with her niece who has not been named, went to her GP on three occasions because she kept needing to urinate during the night – a classic symptom of the killer disease
Mrs Crawford said: ‘I fully believe if my cancer had been picked up it wouldn’t have spread to the extent that it has.
‘I think the doctor’s just assumed I was too young to get ovarian cancer. I think that’s why they never thought to screen me.
‘I have looked upon my cancer diagnosis as being the biggest challenge of my life.
‘I live in the moment but every so often the mask slips, each and every day can be a struggle. It is a part of me and I have to live with it so I have made peace with it.
SPOT THE SIGNS OF OVARIAN CANCER
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that if you have the following symptoms 12 or more times a month, your GP should arrange tests – especially if you’re are over 50:
- swollen tummy (abdomen)
- feeling full quickly or loss of appetite
- pain in your abdomen
- needing to wee more often or urgently
‘It’s affected me physically and mentally but I push myself through the dark moments.’
Mrs Crawford said she originally went to see her GP in March 2016 after she repeatedly had to get up in the night to go to the toilet.
She also had pain in her back which she attributed to an old injury.
Mrs Crawford said: ‘The doctor said I had a UTI and then irritable bladder syndrome.
‘Something didn’t feel right though. I went back a few times and wasn’t examined at all which was appalling.
‘By this time I was very bloated all the time I was having frequent indigestion and had trouble eating my meals even though I was hungry.
‘I also had lower back pain, abdominal pain and shooting pains.’
The last straw for Mrs Crawford was when she felt a lump in her abdomen which she insisted needed further investigation.
Mrs Crawford, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, never expected to be diagnosed with cancer after alleging her doctors told her she was too young to get it. Pictured in New York
Eventually the riding instructor was sent for an ultrasound when she found a lump in her abdomen, which is where her ‘nightmare’ began
Mrs Crawford, pictured in 2018 with a friend, had six round of chemotherapy and went into remission. But her cancer has since returned
Eventually, Mrs Crawford was given an ultrasound scan where doctors discovered she had stage three ovarian cancer.
At this stage, around 20 per cent of patients will survive their cancer for five years or more after they are diagnosed.
In 2016, 6,430 people were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in England and more than 4,000 women die from it every year in the UK.
The UK has the worst five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer in Europe, with six out of 10 cases in England diagnosed at an advanced stage.
The American Cancer Society estimates more than 22,500 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed and almost 14,000 women will die of ovarian cancer in the US this year.
Mrs Crawford, writing on a GoFundMe page, said: ‘I had an ultrasound scan and that’s when the nightmare began.
‘The day that I received my MRI results cancer was the furthest thing from my mind. I thought I probably had a cyst or polyps.’
Mrs Crawford had a hysterectomy in September 2016 at the Christie Hospital in Manchester.
She wrote: ‘I had never been ill or had surgery and I admit, I was terrified.’
After six rounds of chemotherapy, Mrs Crawford achieved remission for nearly two years before her cancer returned.
She is currently living with stage 3B cancer and faces an uncertain future.
She said: ‘At the moment my quality of life is okay. I’m choosing to hold off from having more treatment because it’s so gruelling.
Mrs Crawford, pictured in 2017 during chemotherapy, said: ‘The doctor said I had a UTI and then irritable bladder syndrome. Something didn’t feel right though’
Mrs Crawford, who lost her hair during chemotherapy, said she has currently held off having treatment because it is so gruelling
‘I take a lot of supplements, eat and live healthily and also receive complimentary medicine to maintain my quality of life.
‘Each and every decision is life and death, if you make a decision and it’s wrong then you die because of it.
‘I’ve developed a very thick skin over the last few years. It’s made me learn to appreciate absolutely every moment.’
Mrs Crawford is undertaking a ‘bucket list’ of activities starting with a trip to Pompeii in Southern Italy in September.
She said: ‘I have no intention of spending however much time I have left wallowing in self-pity and despair. That is just not me.
‘I have down days like everyone but I also have an awesome network of family and friends that have been there for me every step of the way.’
Alexandra Holden, director of communications at Target Ovarian Cancer, said: ‘If women are experiencing ovarian cancer symptoms like Heidi’s, it is vital that they are listened to and sent for the correct ovarian cancer diagnostic tests as soon as possible.
‘Early diagnosis is crucial in ovarian cancer, yet two thirds of women are diagnosed once the cancer has already spread. This must change in order for lives to be saved.’
Mrs Crawford’s family are currently raising money to support her on GoFundMe. You can donate here.
WHY OVARIAN CANCER IS CALLED A ‘SILENT KILLER’
About 80 percent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in the advanced stages of the disease.
At the time of diagnosis, 60 percent of ovarian cancers will have already spread to other parts of the body, bringing the five-year survival rate down to 30 percent from 90 percent in the earliest stage.
It’s diagnosed so late because its location in the pelvis, according to Dr Ronny Drapkin, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who’s been studying the disease for more than two decades.
‘The pelvis is like a bowl, so a tumor there can grow quite large before it actually becomes noticeable,’ Dr Drapkin told Daily Mail Online.
The first symptoms to arise with ovarian cancer are gastrointestinal because tumors can start to press upward.
When a patient complains of gastrointestinal discomfort, doctors are more likely to focus on diet change and other causes than suggest an ovarian cancer screening.
Dr Drapkin said it’s usually not until after a patient endures persistent gastrointestinal symptoms that they will receive a screening that reveals the cancer.
‘Ovarian cancer is often said to be a silent killer because it doesn’t have early symptoms, when in fact it does have symptoms, they’re just very general and could be caused by other things,’ he said.
‘One of the things I tell women is that nobody knows your body as well as you do. If you feel something isn’t right, something’s probably not right.’