Nicola’s story: An unexpected diagnosis

Nicola Carroll patient image.jpg

In March 2023, Nicola, 63, took on a new exercise and diet regime with the aim of losing weight she’d gained during the COVID-19 lockdown. The weight was starting to come off and Nicola lost a stone and a half, but despite her best efforts, she couldn’t seem to shift the weight on her tummy.

When a friend expressed concern about the size of her abdomen and her health months later, Nicola decided it was time to investigate what was going on. After a health assessment with her employee benefit healthcare provider, followed by urgent tests, Nicola was diagnosed with a large cyst on one of her ovaries.

We caught up with Nicola post-treatment to discuss her journey from diagnosis to recovery and her experience receiving treatment under Professor Jay Chatterjee, consultant gynaecologist, at The Lister Hospital in Chelsea, part of HCA Healthcare UK.

Only the very best treatment

“I hadn’t thought much about the fact I couldn’t shift the weight on my stomach until a friend told me I looked seven months pregnant!” Nicola explained. “I couldn’t get an appointment with my GP so I attended a private work medical instead. I saw a doctor in Farnham who felt my stomach and straight away said “that’s not fat”. She was visibly frightened – her face said it all.”

On initial impression, it seemed Nicola had a mass in her bowel. It wasn’t until she saw a specialist a couple of days later, who arranged blood tests, a transvaginal ultrasound and a CT scan, that Nicola discovered the problem was not a bowel issue but a gynaecological one.

“My test results confirmed that I had a 28cm mass on one of my ovaries. I was in complete shock. The doctor reassured me that he would get me the very best treatment, which was when he referred me to Professor Chatterjee at The Lister Hospital in Chelsea.”

Fast, expert care

Thankfully, Nicola’s tumour marker test came back negative, which indicated that the mass was non-cancerous. Although her case was no longer an emergency, Professor Chatterjee was keen to see Nicola quickly and to operate as soon as possible to remove the mass, as she had stopped sleeping due to worry. 

“At my first appointment with Professor Chatterjee, he told me he’d need to operate to remove the mass. He was kind and gentle and explained everything to me so clearly,” Nicola said. “We had several conversations about whether I should have a total hysterectomy or not, and he made sure I had all the information I needed to make the right decision for me. The best option was to remove both of my ovaries and fallopian tubes along with the mass.

Although Professor Chatterjee said he was hopeful he’d be able to perform a laparoscopic (keyhole) robot-assisted surgery, he warned me that it may not be possible to do so. He explained that the mass was so large that he may need to make a large cut down the centre of my stomach to successfully remove it.”

Thankfully, Professor Chatterjee was able to perform the keyhole removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes (a robotic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy) on the Sunday of the August bank holiday, just four weeks after Nicola’s initial health assessment. Nicola was left with just five small scars on her stomach as a result.

“I was in theatre for two or three hours, and I woke up to the anaesthetist telling me that she had the best news - everything had been done via keyhole. I think robotic surgery is just phenomenal!” Nicola said. “I was later told that Professor Chatterjee had drained the mass of seven litres of fluid (weighing just over a stone) before he removed it.

After my procedure, I was admitted into intensive care and the team was absolutely wonderful. I’d like to say a huge thank you to the ICU nurses who looked after me - they were simply superb.

I feel so lucky that everything went to plan. I never once felt that anyone didn’t have my best interests at heart. I trusted him and his team completely to do the best thing for me, and they did.”

A speedy recovery

Arrangements had been made for Nicola to stay for two nights in intensive care and a week on the ward after her procedure. After her surgery, Nicola only required a single night’s stay in The Lister Hospital ICU and was well enough to go home the next day. She was off work for three weeks and has since made a fantastic recovery and gone back to living her normal everyday life.

“To be honest, I felt on top of the world after my procedure,” Nicola said joyfully, “and I’m very thankful to Professor Chatterjee and the incredible team at The Lister Hospital.”

Professor Jay Chatterjee is a consultant gynaecologist providing all aspects of surgical gynaecological and gynaecological-oncological care. He is internationally renowned for his surgical expertise in advanced open abdominal and laparoscopic/robotic operative skills and is experienced in advanced robotic surgery and fertility-preserving surgery in gynaecological cancers.

Professor Chatterjee is holds a gynaecology clinic at the new HCA UK outpatient centre in the Battersea and Nine Elms area, in the Embassy Gardens development, home to the US Embassy, near Battersea Power Station. He also sees patients at London Bridge Hospital and The Lister Hospital in Chelsea.

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