Cervical cancer survivor opens up to help Queensland women

“Cancer was the last thing on my mind, but then I started bleeding irregularly.”

Brisbane local Morgan Harris was young, fit and healthy when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Ms Harris said she first felt as though something wasn’t right in October 2013, and after visiting her GP she was referred to a gynaecologist.

After weeks of appointments and struggling to find answers, she was booked in for hysteroscopy and a dilation and curette.

“On March 17, 2014, my gynaecologist asked me to come in and see her immediately,” she said.

“My heart sank and even though I prepared for bad news, cancer never crossed my mind.”

Ms Harris had been diligent with her gynaecological health, undergoing regular pap smears and having the cervical cancer vaccine. Still, a 4cm low-grade tumour was found.

Weeks of tests followed and Ms Harris was given two surgical options to deal with the tumour – she chose a radical hysterectomy.

“It was one of the hardest decisions to make; at 27, the possibility of never having children was overwhelming,” Ms Harris said.

Removing the uterus, cervix and fallopian tubes through a radical hysterectomy would ensure all the tumour and possible affected cells were removed, and doctors were able to preserve Ms Harris’ ability to produce eggs by moving one of her ovaries to behind her ribcage, where it would be protected from radiation treatment if it was required.

“It turned out to be the right choice for my health because during surgery they found the cancer had spread,” she said.

After the surgery Ms Harris had to undergo radiation and chemotherapy.

“Over this six week period I literally had to take each day moment by moment,” she said.

“Thankfully, I can now say that I am in remission, and although I still have side effects from treatment, the journey helped define who I am today.”

Now healthy, Ms Harris has shared her story in support of Cancer Council Queensland’s Girls’ Night In campaign, to urge women to act on their symptoms straight away.

“I love using my experience as an opportunity to educate other women and to make sure we all know that what happened to me can happen to anyone,” she said.

“Listen to your body, make sure you have that pap test you’ve been putting off and remember that this life is worth fighting for.”

Sadly, Ms Harris is not alone in her experience. Around 4200 Queensland women will be diagnosed with a breast or gynaecological cancer this year, and about 830 women will die from these women’s cancers.

Women’s cancers include cancers of the breast, cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina and vulva.

Ms Harris, who will be hosting her own Girls’ Night In, said the fundraising campaign provided an opportunity to celebrate friendships that matter for a cause that matters.

“I could not have gotten through this without support from important women in my life – my mum and best friend,” she said.

“Friendships are so important at times like these, which is why Girls’ Night In is such an important cause.

“By hosting a Girls’ Night In and getting together with your besties, you not only support each other, but you help women affected by breast and gynaecological cancers.”

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said support for Girls’ Night In made a real difference in the fight against women’s cancers.

“Breast and gynaecological cancers unfortunately touch everyone’s life in one form or another – one in six Queensland women will be diagnosed with a breast or gynaecological cancer in their lifetime,” Ms McMillan said.

“We’re calling on Queenslanders to get the girls together this October to raise vital funds and awareness for all women’s cancers.

“Girls’ Night In events can be big or small – we’ve already had hundreds of people sign up to host a pamper party, clothes swap, cooking event or games night for the cause.

“This is also an opportunity for women to get together, talk about their health, and encourage each other to participate in regular check-ups and cancer screenings.”

Cancer Council Girls’ Night In aims to raise $500,000 through 1200 hosts in Queensland in 2017.

All funds raised will be invested in vital cancer research, patient support services and prevention programs for women affected by breast and gynaecological cancers.

For more information, visit girlsnightin.com.au or call 1300 65 65 85.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at cancerqld.org.au or Cancer Council’s 13 11 20.

For more information or interviews, please contact:
Lisa Maynard,
Senior Media Advisor,
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5171
Mobile: 0488 015 702