Midwife's life saved by her pregnancy as ultrasound found cancer
Katie Irwin counts her blessings every single day.
She knows that if she hadn't fallen pregnant unexpectedly and had an early ultrasound she probably wouldn't be here.
Indeed - unlike the 4,100 women who die in the UK every year from ovarian cancer - the trainee midwife from Bangor believes early diagnosis spared her.
But it was far from plain sailing for the young nurse, who was told she had a tumour while carrying her third child, and then diagnosed with ovarian cancer two weeks after giving birth.
Prior to that Katie had a painful pregnancy involving several hospital admissions and consultant appointments, before the large cyst - measuring 12x17cm - and her right ovary were removed during her C-section.
To compound her "nightmare", the then 30-year-old mother of three boys - Toby (now 12), Charlie (5) and Ollie (2) - had to endure a full hysterectomy when her newly born son was just eight weeks old.
Now recovered and enjoying parenthood with husband Henry, Katie has appealed for vital funding so that others may escape from the ravages of an illness that claims one woman every two hours in the UK.
"I'm one of the lucky ones, but for many other women a diagnosis can come late, once the cancer has already spread," she said.
"Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer just 12 days after giving birth was a lot to take in, as if having a baby just out of neonatal care isn't overwhelming enough for someone.
"I didn't recognise any symptoms, as they are side-effects of working long shifts as a nurse, such as feeling bloated, so I'm grateful the cancer was caught at an early stage.
"If I hadn't been pregnant with our third baby and had that ultrasound, who knows how advanced my cancer would have been when it was found and what that would mean for me and my young family?
"We really need to fund research to find a screening tool so that this terrible disease can be stopped earlier to give all women the best fighting chance."
Figures released today to mark the start of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, show that, on average, each year ovarian cancer steals 2,727 years from women in Northern Ireland who die before their time.
Identifying symptoms - stomach pain, bloating, feeling full more quickly and needing to urinate more frequently - is the best way to diagnose the disease, but most symptoms present in later stages when the cancer has begun to spread around the body and the chance of a woman surviving beyond five years from her diagnosis drops to as low as 4%.
Ovarian Cancer Action has launched the 'Stolen Moments' campaign to highlight the devastating effects of ovarian cancer, raise awareness of its symptoms and launch its £1m fundraising campaign dedicated to early detection of the disease.
It hopes to develop a screening tool and replicate the success of cervical screening, which has almost halved the number of cervical cancer cases since the 1980s.
Help Ovarian Cancer Action raise £1m: visit www.ovarian.org.uk or Text OVCA12 plus the amount to donate to 70070