A mum planned her dream wedding from her hospital bed after her mildly ‘swollen’ stomach turned out to be ovarian cancer.
Angela Beckhouse was looking forward to marrying the love of her life but her upcoming ceremony was thrown into chaos when she received the devastating diagnosis in May 2022.
The 42-year-old, from Warwick, Queensland, had a 16cm tumour growing on her ovary – but only knew something was wrong after noticing the swelling. There were no other symptoms and she experienced no pain.
‘One morning I woke up, had a shower, looked down and my belly was enlarged, which I thought was very odd,’ Angela told FEMAIL.
At the time she and her now-husband Paul Butler, 50, were on a six-week holiday and were eating more than usual so she thought her stomach was bloated.
After arriving back home she visited her doctor who thought she was pregnant and sent her to have further testing.
‘It was Easter at the time and there were so many public holidays so it was hard to get appointments. It was a slow process,’ she said.
Over three weeks she was concerned about her stomach and why it was so swollen all of a sudden. Unbeknownst to her fluid was also gradually building up, making it worse.
‘Every minute that passed by I thought it was getting worse,’ she said.
Little did she know it was the only warning sign pointing to something far more sinister.
An ultrasound and CT scan then confirmed her worst fears – it was cancer.
‘The appointment was such a blur after he told me what it was. I completely zoned out then let go of all my emotions and broke down crying in the car,’ she said.
‘I was in complete shock. There’s a million different types of cancer, but I have never known anyone with ovarian cancer.’
The cancer was found to be stage two as it ‘started to spread’ but not to other organs.
She described her lifestyle prior as ‘nothing out of the ordinary’ as she was hardly ever sick and ate healthy.
While she does have traces of cancer in her family history, she’s the first one to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
What is ovarian cancer and what are the symptoms?
Ovarian cancer is a malignant tumour in one or both ovaries.
The ovaries are made up of three main kinds of cells – epithelial cells, stromal cells and germ cells. Each of these cells can develop into a different type of tumour.
The average age of women when they are diagnosed with ovarian cancer is age 64. It is mainly diagnosed in women over the age of 50; however, there are cases diagnosed in younger women.
There are often no obvious signs of ovarian cancer, but symptoms can include:
- abdominal bloating
- difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- frequent or urgent urination
- back, abdominal or pelvic pain
- constipation or diarrhoea
- menstrual irregularities
- pain during intercourse
- unexplained weight loss or weight gain
Pap smears do not detect ovarian cancer and there is no routine test
Following the diagnosis doctors jumpstarted Angela’s treatment plan which began with surgery on May 20 to remove the tumour. She also had a full hysterectomy in the hope of removing any traces of cancer.
‘I’m glad I had already had children, but it feels like I’m missing part of my womanhood now,’ she said.
For the next four weeks while recovering from surgery she ‘threw plans together to get married’ alongside her then-fiance.
The wedding had already been postponed once due to Covid and the couple didn’t want to delay the celebration any further.
‘We had to find a celebrant and photographer but also needed a flexible date because we didn’t know how long I would take to recovery from surgery. It was quite a stressful time,’ she said.
While in hospital Angela and Paul discussed wedding songs, confirmed the venue and told their 15 guests their plans.
Unfortunately she wasn’t able to go wedding dress shopping with her daughter and instead picked the desired gown up on the day despite not having tried it on beforehand.
The two wed on June 15 in Noosa – five days before Angela started chemotherapy.
‘It was a day filled with mixed emotions. The lead up to my wedding day wasn’t how I ever imagined it to be, but it was joyous and memorable,’ Angela said.
‘There were lots of tears when planning the wedding, I had thoughts about how long Paul and I would have left together, or if I was going to die.’
Angela then started chemotherapy on June 20 for 12 weeks and she soon lost her hair.
‘I was so emotional because losing your hair is like losing your identity – you don’t recognise yourself in the mirror anymore and it’s like a reminder that you have cancer,’ she said.
Thankfully, the treatment was successful and she is now in remission.
The couple recently celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary by spending a night in Brisbane, attending a musical and enjoying quality time at home.
‘We bought a van in January and we’re looking forward to travelling and starting some new adventures,’ Angela said.
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