Alisi Wasn't Concerned By Her Fatigue Or Irregular Periods Until She Saw A Doctor
Alisi Jack Kaufusi presented to her GP with irregular vaginal bleeding and periods as well as ongoing fatigue when she was 24 years old.
Although not overly concerned, Alisi decided she should still have it checked out when she saw her doctor three years ago.
After referrals to different specialists and a barrage of tests and procedures to determine the cause, on December 5, 2017, Alisi heard the words no one ever wants to hear and the words she never expected: “You have ovarian cancer.”
“I shut down and then I balled my eyes out. It was like a scene from the movies when you can see someone is talking because their mouth is moving but everything is silent. I didn’t know how to feel. I just kept thinking they have the wrong person,” Alisi explained to 10 daily.
By the time Alisi’s cancer was diagnosed, it was already at Stage 3. It had spread from her ovaries, into her large intestine, stomach, diaphragm and liver.
She was booked in for surgery three weeks later to have as many of the cancerous growths removed as possible. This ultimately involved a full hysterectomy and the removal of half of her large bowel.
“The four-hour operation took eight hours because more cancer was discovered while they were in there,” Alisi said.
“The recovery wasn’t the greatest. It was really tough. I was in hospital for over a month. I had to learn how to walk again, eat and breathe. It was quite tough on my body. Even after that, when I went home I ended up back in hospital because the removal of my large bowel caused ongoing digestion issues."
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Alisi lost over 15kg in only one month as a result. Until doctors were in control of the issue, they were unable to begin her chemotherapy.
“Finally, in February I began chemo. But I was in and out of hospital because I still struggled to retain anything that I ate or drank. I ended up on a KE diet, basically a liquid diet through a tube in my nose. From January through to July I was in and out of hospital regularly," Alisi said.
Although the physical rehabilitation was tough, it was her emotional state that Alisi struggled the most.
“I was quite depressed. I began seeing a psychologist. I wasn’t doing well. At 25-years-old everyone else is moving on with their lives, having fun, getting their careers started. I just felt like I was at a standstill. Everyone is moving but me," she said.
One of the greatest mental setbacks for flight attendant, Alisi, was being told that she may never fly again.
“Believing that I may not be able to do what I really love doing, flying, really got me down," Alisi said.
As well as this, the devastating consequence of Alisi’s cancer spreading, meant that fertility doctors were unable to save any of her eggs, making it impossible for Alisi to ever conceive, carry or give birth to children of her own.
“It didn’t really affect me too much at the time but in 2018 my sister had her third child and while I was holding her, it hit me. I am never going to experience being pregnant, carrying a child, giving birth, or having my own child," she said.
That is when I went into deep depression and anxiety. Every time I would see a lady who was pregnant or little kids that was my trigger point. I felt less like a woman.
Although Alisi struggled with this for a quite a while, when another one of her sisters also had a baby it all changed.
“I was in the birth room while she gave birth to a baby girl. My sister and her husband asked if they could name the baby after me. So now there is a baby Alisi," she explained.
For Alisi, this meant so much and helped her overcome the feeling of loss and inadequacy. Despite her siblings offering to assist her with having a baby if she ever wanted to, Alisi said: “Baby Alisi is enough for me, she has filled that void.”
Last year, Alisi underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and is now considered to be in remission; which means although she still has cancer but it is under control.
“It’s still scary, especially knowing the statistics but I try not to think about that. I try to live my life," she said.
And looking to the future, Alisi says that she has now found her purpose in life.
“Before this I had no idea what ovarian cancer even was. When I was diagnosed, the doctors told me that there isn’t much support groups for younger people suffering cancer, so my purpose is to help raise awareness for ovarian cancer and to help support young people who are suffering from it.”
Jane Hill, CEO of Ovarian Cancer Australia, told 10 daily that ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of any women’s cancer, yet receives minimal funding.
“In 2020 more than 1,500 Australian women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and more than 1,000 will die -- that’s four women diagnosed and three women dying of ovarian cancer every day,” Ms Hill said.
Expenditure data published by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) reveals that, between 2014 and 2018, ovarian cancer received four times less funding for research than breast cancer and around half that of prostate cancer.
Ms Hill and Alisi desperately want that statistic to change.
“I have this disease in my body. I can sit around and mope about it or I can do this, share my journey, for everyone who is affected or has been affected by this disease and for the women who can no longer share their story. I can still do that, I can share mine," Alisi said.
“Together, we can change the story of ovarian cancer for future generations,” Ms Hill added.
February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, you can find out more here.
4 February is World Cancer Day, you can find out more here.
Featured image: Supplied