Warrior of Teal with Alisi

Story by: Alisi Jack-Kaufusi
Photos provided by: Alisi Jack-Kaufusi

Ovarian cancer is the most deadliest female cancer, it has a survival rate of 46%. 

Sometimes life works out in ways you can never imagine. It can be unpredictable and fragile. When I was 24 on December 5th 2017 I was diagnosed with stage 3 high grade ovarian cancer.

The cancer had spread out of my ovaries, into my large intestine and around my stomach, diaphragm and liver.

I’ve had five operations, including a full hysterectomy and half of my large bowel removed. In 2018 I underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and I’m now considered to be in remission.

I was born in Auckland, New Zealand, as the third of seven siblings and I was adopted when I was about six months old by my great uncle and his partner [Tevita and Lois, ] because they couldn’t have children of their own.

My family is Tongan and this type of arrangement is not uncommon. So I was raised by my aunt and uncle, who I call my mum and dad.

My biological parents (Melefolau and Niki) In 1999, Melefolau and Niki moved with my sisters and brother to Brisbane Australia and, in 2001, when I was eight, Mum and Dad followed with me because they wanted me to be close to my biological family too. I had a happy childhood and was quite spoiled.

Doctors were not able to save any of my eggs so I’ll never be able to give birth to children of my own. I did find it difficult to accept it till August 2019 my sister has named her newborn after me which has given me peace. 

Some of my siblings have already offered, when I’m ready, that they will have a child for me. It’s bittersweet. But from my own experience I know the unconditional love I have from Mum and Dad [Lois and David], regardless of the biology.

While undergoing chemo, I lost all my hair and eyebrows. I had previously been bald because Mum had had breast cancer six years ago, so I shaved my hair in support of her.

So she shaved her hair in support of me last year, as did some of my sisters, my brother, my aunt and my best friend.

I’ve had lots of support from family and friends and, as I’m quite open on my social media, also from strangers.

It might sound strange to say but I feel really empowered by my experience. It’s given me a different outlook on life.

Having cancer has given me a purpose to help other people and to do my best to promote awareness of ovarian cancer. In my case, as far as I knew I was fit and healthy and I was too young to have cancer.

When the surgeon was telling me my diagnosis, I don’t remember anything she said except the word “cancer”. I could see her mouth moving but I couldn’t hear the words. I said, “You’ve got the wrong person, I can’t have cancer, I’m only 24”.

But I’ve learnt no matter how old you are, cancer doesn’t discriminate.

You are never too young and we all need to be vigilant and get checked if something doesn’t feel right.

Looking back, I wish I had seen a doctor earlier. I left it four years between Pap smears and even though this test doesn’t diagnose ovarian cancer, maybe my cancer would have been picked up earlier.

My symptoms included irregular bleeding, being a bit bloated in my lower abdomen area, and I felt very tired even after waking up after a good night’s rest. The symptoms can often be quite vague.

Now that I have this disease inside of me, I think its so important to be able to talk about it especially within our Polynesian community. My goal is to reach out to the public but to my Polynesian sisters to know that health is wealth.

I am 26 years old and I am now in my first year of remission and I am hoping that 2020 I become CANCER FREE 🙂 

The Symptoms of Ovarian cancer are 

  • -Abdominal or pelvic pain, pressure or discomfort.
  • -Increased abdominal size.
  • -Persistent abdominal bloating.
  • -Excessive fatigue or lethargy.
  • -Needing to urinate often or urgently.
  • -Changed bowel habits.
  • -Feeling full after only eating a small amount.
  • -Appetite loss.

    Please visit: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer.html for more information and if you are experiencing any one or more of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately.

    Note: A Teal Ribbon brings awareness to Ovarian Cancer. Support a friend or loved one with Teal Wristbands, Bracelets, Necklaces, shirts, Hats, Sunglasses, Car Magnets and many more awareness products.