Nurse who thought stomach pain was due to her love for spicy food actually had cancer

Nikki was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year (Picture: Nikki Gray/Ovacome/Liverpool Echo)

When Nikki Gray started to experience stomach pain, acid reflux, nausea and feeling full, she put it down to the spicy food she had been enjoying.

The intensive care nurse had been through ovarian cancer in 2016, which was discovered during a precautionary hysterectomy to remove a cyst found during investigations into her heavy periods.

Nikki, from Wavertree, Liverpool, had chemotherapy and was told she was cancer-free two-and-a-half years ago.

She recovered and was doing well until she started experiencing the digestive symptoms last Autumn.

The 52-year-old said: ‘I had gone back to work part-time and was getting on with my life.

‘I’d changed to a vegan diet and felt really well, but I started to get acid reflux, nausea, intermittent abdominal pain and feeling full.

‘I thought maybe it was because I was eating a spicy diet, but after four weeks of changing what I ate it made no difference.’

Now concerned, she spoke to her oncologist who had discharged her two and a
half years before.

A blood test and CT scan revealed that her ovarian cancer had returned and she re-started chemotherapy in January which she is responding well to.

She will go through another three cycles of chemotherapy, followed by a clinical trial – but has been told the cancer cannot be cured.

She said: ‘I’ve found it really hard this time, suffering the cumulative effects of treatment.

‘I’ve been told that I’m treatable but not curable, and so I plan to move into my mum’s extension so that she can look after me when I feel unwell or have no energy.’

Nikki wants to raise awareness of all the symptoms of ovarian cancer as she knows they can easily be put down to other minor things, delaying diagnosis.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer

Charity Ovacome uses the acronym BEAT to help people recognise the symptoms of ovarian cancer

B is for bloating that does not come and go;

E is for eating difficulty and feeling full more quickly;

A is for abdominal and pelvic pain felt most days;

T is for toilet changes in urination or bowel habits.

The Alder Hey nurse said: ‘A lot of ladies think that the cervical smear test will pick up ovarian cancer, which it won’t.

‘Others confuse symptoms with irritable bowel syndrome or the menopause.

‘Being forewarned is forearmed so women can be their own advocate in getting help.’

Nikki hopes that women will take on the message to get themselves checked out.

She said: ‘I used to be very active, a gym-goer, an advanced scuba diver who enjoyed rambling and travelling to far-flung places.

‘This has changed now that I don’t have much energy, but I am so pleased that my treatment is working and that I can help to raise awareness of this disease which affects women of all ages.’

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