A 24-year-old mother, Ashlee Williams-Barnes, has expressed her shock after her General Practioner told her to “have a few wines and relax” for symptoms that turned out to be cancer. The mom had been experiencing several indicative symptoms such as heavy bleeding, UTIs, and pelvic pain when she sought for medical advice. Despite her persistent discomfort and consulting with several doctors for two years, she was repeatedly sent home saying her symptoms were psychosomatic.
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The closest she got to treatment was reportedly antibiotics, which she took went on to take for six months after doctors said she likely had an infection. Although she had suspected she had cancer, she was told she was ‘too young’, even though her vaginal bleeding was too out of hand that she ‘lived in black clothes’.
“Maybe you need to have a few wines and relax, it’s all in your head,” the GP said. Thankfully, the mom persisted and eventually found another doctor who took her symptoms seriously, finally receiving her cancer diagnosis at the age of 26.
“I felt scared, unheard, and alone even though I had my family and friends to lean on,” she stated.
“By the end of 2014, I didn’t even have the energy for a 50m walk. I was in constant pain, distressed, and held guilt that I could not be the partner, mother, daughter, friend or work colleague that I wanted to be and had always been. We had to knock on doors until somebody listened.”
The courageous mother went on to express that she had been turned away so frequently that she felt as though she had exhausted all her options. But, her persistence ultimately led to her referral to a specialist, who provided her with a glimmer of hope.
“She was our miracle,” Williams-Barnes said of the GP. “From the moment we met, she believed me and made me a priority, she showed empathy and understanding and I felt safe and understood.”
“On the drive home several things were going through my mind, ‘this is bad, how can this have taken two years for someone to really listen’, on a positive note, ‘I feel now I am not far from getting answers’ – and ‘oh no, what’s next?’,” she noted.
Following her persistent efforts, the next phase of her medical journey is a uterine biopsy to identify the underlying issue. However, just three days after undergoing the biopsy, she collapsed at home. While recovering at the hospital, she was then tragically told that she had cervical cancer.
“My thoughts immediately went to [husband] Luke, my parents, and my family. I could not imagine how they must have felt to hear this,” she stated. Williams-Barnes was told that her cancer had metastasized and wasn’t amenable to surgical intervention. She was told she might not live long enough to celebrate Christmas in 2015, saying she would be unable to conceive any more children.
“I didn’t have time to save my eggs which knocked the wind out of me as all I wanted was for [my husband] Luke and me to have a child together and for him to experience all the firsts’ of being a new parent, as he didn’t have biological children of his own,” she stated.
“I thought about life for my children, Zahli and Kyden, without a mum and what the future would look like for them. I was angry that it took so long for a diagnosis and I wanted the system to be better. I was scared that I wasn’t going to be strong enough to survive and let down those closest to me.”
Fortunately, the mom received treatment by participating in a groundbreaking medical trial. The trial involved a combination of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and brachytherapy which is an internal form of radiotherapy.
“I took it five minutes at a time, a day at a time, a week at a time, a treatment at a time,” she noted. “I kept my positivity that I could beat the odds and I never gave up hope.”
Ashlee’s positive outlook and determination paid off as she lived to see Christmas after doctors had warned her she might not make it. She decided story to inspire others, particularly women, to persist in seeking medical attention if they sense that something is wrong.