The good fight

Stephanie Pizanis (pictured), aged 23, is curled up on the sofa of her family’s home in Kingsford, counting down the days until she finishes chemotherapy at the Royal Hospital for Women.

The co-ordinator for the online fashion store, The Iconic, is being treated for Dysgerminoma, a rare form of ovarian cancer.

“Chemotherapy has been the worst thing that’s ever happened, but also the very best,” she says. “It makes me feel awful, but the long term results are going to be so good, and I feel like I’m in the best possible place in the world to be going through the treatment.”

It was only in last October that Stephanie’s world was turned upside down. After visiting her doctor several times suffering from constipation and bloating, Stephanie’s GP booked her in for an ultrasound. After the technician was unable to find her right ovary, she was immediately whisked in have full body scan.

Stephanie and her mother Katina were told the shocking news shortly afterwards. She had a tumorous mass the size of an AFL football in her abdomen.

The tumour was removed within days with an excellent prognosis but there was further sobering news. A full body scan after surgery revealed that the cancer had spread to Stephanie’s lymph nodes. She needed chemotherapy. And fast.

“This is when I was introduced to the extraordinary Professor Michael Friedlander at The Royal,” she recalls. “I soon felt I was in the very best of hands. He checks in with me every week. I’m aware he’s got a book full of other patients, but he always treats me as though I’m the most important person in the world,” she says.

“All the nurses in the chemotherapy ward were so friendly and welcoming too,” she said.

Within days, her cells were being treated with a heavy duty form of chemotherapy administered by The Royal’s “Queen of Chemo”, clinical nurse consultant Jennie Duggan.

“Jennie is amazing,” says Stephanie. “At one stage I was admitted to hospital with a fever – separate to chemotherapy – and Jennie came and found me just to check up on me. You don’t forget things like that. ”

Stephanie considers herself one of the lucky ones. “My treatment is going to come to an end, but some of the other ladies are here for a long time, or for ongoing treatment," she says.

Once Stephanie’s treatment is finished next month her Mum plans to savour the moment with a party at home. Stephanie and her boyfriend, Jeremy, are also planning a trip to Hawaii to celebrate.

“I’ve got so much to look forward to,” she says.

Stephanie and a nurse in the chemotherapy room at the Royal Hospital for Women