Proserpine businesswoman Janine Muller, who beat ovarian cancer in 1990, on holiday in Tasmania recently.
Proserpine businesswoman Janine Muller, who beat ovarian cancer in 1990, on holiday in Tasmania recently.

Survivor shares story to help others

EACH year in Queensland, approximately 280 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

February marks Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and Cancer Council Queensland is calling on Queensland women to familiarise themselves with the symptoms and risk factors of the disease.

Proserpine businesswoman Janine Muller beat ovarian cancer, in 1990 - at a time when only one in every 10 women diagnosed survived - and wants to share her story to help other women.

Janine moved to Airlie Beach in 1989 to join her husband Steve on Hayman Island. They had met in Brisbane, where Janine was working in a high pressured job for Elder's Pastoral.

On top of that, she was doing reserve naval work, having already spent 13 years in the navy as a leading wren in radio communications, and the couple came to the Whitsundays for a much needed lifestyle change.

"It was about that time that I said to Steve I'd noticed a few changes with my body, and he said, you should go to the doctor," Janine said.

"I didn't want to, but he said you should, so I did on my next day off. The doctor said I had an ovarian cyst and it was very large - as big as a coconut - and I said, with or without the husk? He said with the husk.

"So I knew what I was carrying around in my body was quite significant. The doctor sent me for an ultrasound at Proserpine Hospital and, within one week, I was in Mackay Hospital.

"They had to do a significant amount of tests for a week before they operated. The doctor was very good and now I look back, anyone going in for surgery like that has to have faith in their doctor.

"He listened and I asked him a lot of questions because I wanted to know what I was going to be dealing with, and if it's that big, how long had it been there?

"He said it was hard to tell because they are very slow growing to start with but accelerate over time.

"If I hadn't made that move from my high pressure job in Brisbane, to work on Hayman Island with a different lifestyle, I probably wouldn't have found out. I would have put it down to my work."

Janine said women, in general, are so busy looking after everyone else, they never think to look after themselves.

"It's really important to take that time to step back and understand if there are any changes happening to your body," she said.

"If I hadn't had a career change and opted for a slower way of life, I would never have picked it up and I would never have been the one in 10 that survived ovarian cancer back then."

Mrs Muller said the predominant symptom was fatigue.

"I can remember quite clearly when I finished work on Hayman Island, I would walk down to the beach and fall asleep, I was so tired - I was completely exhausted.

"I didn't feel unwell - everything seemed fine. That's why I initially dismissed it, as I felt completely well."

Janine said when she was diagnosed, ovarian cancer wasn't talked about.

"It always got me that ovarian cancer was never talked about - they used to talk about cervical cancer a lot more. I never understood about the risk - it had never been in my family."

Janine has changed her life since surviving ovarian cancer, from the food she eats, to the clothes she wears, which are all natural fibre garments, from her shop, Climate Classics Clothing, in Proserpine.

"Women need to start to really value themselves, so that health wise they really understand their own body and notice any small changes that might come about and not dismiss it - go and talk to your GP."

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