Victoria Grande, 29, had been suffering from abdominal pain for 10 years before doctors found what was really wrong with her.
Victoria, a bartender, from Charlotte, North Carolina, US, struggled with abdominal pain all her life, and was accustomed to enduring urinary tract infections at least once a month.
Doctors would put her pain down to constipation, but her symptoms were so bad in March 2022 that they left her ‘bent over in pain’.
The following month, a CT scan revealed the real reason for her pain – an 11cm cyst on her right ovary.
‘My stomach had got so huge I looked pregnant,’ says Victoria.
‘After my CT they told me it was an 11cm cyst.
‘They told me it had hair and skin. It was crazy to me.
‘It had been growing for 28 years but so slowly it was hard to detect.’
Victoria was told the cystic teratoma – a type of germ cell tumour – needed to be surgically removed to stop it from growing.
She said: ‘They told me it was likely wrapping around my ovary and cutting off my blood supply.
‘They said it would keep growing unless I had surgery to get it out.
‘The cyst was so big it was pushing my organs up, and it was like I was 20 weeks pregnant inside my body.’
Victoria underwent keyhole surgery to cut the cyst up and remove it a week later.
She said: ‘It was a really painful recovery as all my organs were going back into place.’
After the procedure, tests on the cyst revealed it was cancerous.
Victoria said: ‘I saw it on my health app and I said to my fiancé, Austin Cureton, 32, “I think I have cancer.”
‘It turns out the cyst had grown skin which had developed cancer and now it could be inside of me.’
When doctors operated on her again, they discovered 100 tumours growing inside her.
Victoria was diagnosed with growing teratoma syndrome – a rare complication of the tumour.
She said: ‘Growing teratoma syndrome is so rare the Facebook group I found had only six people in it.’
She had to have a 10-hour surgery in June 2022 to remove all the tumours, along with two pieces of her lung, her right fallopian tube, her right ovary, gallbladder and appendix – all of which showed signs of cancer.
Victoria said: ‘They closed me back up and told me what they had found.
‘They said they would have to take everything out that has a tumour.’
After the gruelling surgery, she started six rounds of chemotherapy, which caused her to lose her hair.
Victoria said: ‘I never told people I had cancer instead I said I was experiencing it.
‘Keeping positive saved my life.’
Warning: Graphic image ahead.
Thankfully, she has now been told there is no evidence of the disease left in her body.
She’s now on medication and has a CT scan every 13 months to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.
At the start of her chemotherapy, Victoria tried cold capping in an attempt to keep her hair but now loves her shaved head.
She said: ‘I always said I wanted to shave my head once in my life.
‘I don’t think I ever really would have done it. I thought this is my only opportunity.
‘I like being bald now.’
Victoria decided to dye her hair pink – her favourite colour – with the help of hair stylist Ethan Matthew.
She said: ‘Having this hairstyle really helped me keep my confidence and positive attitude toward all this.’
Now, Victoria tries to keep her life as normal as possible, and she wants to travel as much as she can in the next few years.
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