A young mum has shared her horror after she was told to have a 'few wines and relax' by her GP for symptoms that turned out to be cancer.
But despite being in so much discomfort and visiting multiple doctors over a two-year period, the mum, from Jervis Bay, New South Wales, was repeatedly told that it was all in her head.
The closest she got to treatment was antibiotics, which she took for six months, when it was concluded that she likely had an infection.
While the mum suspected she had cancer, she was told she was 'too young', even though her vaginal bleeding was so bad that she 'lived in black clothes'.
Her GP suggested: "Maybe you need to have a few wines and relax, it's all in your head."
Thankfully, Ashlee persisted and she eventually found another doctor who took her symptoms seriously, which is when she finally received a cancer diagnosis at the age of 26.
"I felt scared, unheard, and alone even though I had my family and friends to lean on," Ashlee said.
"By the end of 2014, I didn't even have the energy for a 50m walk. I was in constant pain, distressed, and held guilt that I could not be the partner, mother, daughter, friend or work colleague that I wanted to be and had always been.
"We had to knock on doors until somebody listened."
The brave mum said she was dismissed so much that she felt like she was 'running out' of options.
But thankfully, her persistence eventually saw her referred to a specialist.
"She was our miracle," Ashlee said of the GP, who was based an hour and a half from her home.
"From the moment we met, she believed me and made me a priority, she showed empathy and understanding and I felt safe and understood," she said.
"On the drive home several things were going through my mind, 'this is bad, how can this have taken two years for someone to really listen', on a positive note, 'I feel now I am not far from getting answers' - and 'oh no, what's next?'"
The next step in Ashlee's journey was a biopsy of her uterus to get to the bottom of what was wrong - but horrifyingly, this saw her collapse at home just three days later.
When she was in the hospital recovering, she was told that she had cervical cancer.
"My thoughts immediately went to [husband] Luke, my parents, and my family. I could not imagine how they must have felt to hear this," she said of the revelation that she had an aggressive 5.8 cm tumour on her cervical wall.
Ashlee was also informed that her cancer had spread and was ultimately inoperable, with doctors telling her that she probably wouldn't live to see Christmas 2015.
They also informed her that she wouldn't be able to have any more children.
"I didn't have time to save my eggs which knocked the wind out of me as all I wanted was for [my husband] Luke and me to have a child together and for him to experience all the firsts' of being a new parent, as he didn't have biological children of his own," she said.
"I thought about life for my children, Zahli and Kyden, without a mum and what the future would look like for them.
"I was angry that it took so long for a diagnosis and I wanted the system to be better. I was scared that I wasn't going to be strong enough to survive and let down those closest to me."
But unexpected help once again came for Ashlee in the form of a pioneering medical trial, which saw her have chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy, which is a form of internalised radiotherapy.
"I took it five minutes at a time, a day at a time, a week at a time, a treatment at a time," she said. "I kept my positivity that I could beat the odds and I never gave up hope."
Ashelee's positivity wasn't in vain and she ended up living to see the Christmas doctors told her she likely wouldn't get to enjoy.
She is now sharing her story to encourage other people, particularly women, not to take no for an answer when they suspect something is wrong.
As reported by the NHS, cervical cancer symptoms include unusual bleeding, pain during sex and changes in vaginal discharge.
You can find out more here.Featured Image Credit: Ash Williams-Barnes/Instagram