It's been a harrowing year for 23-year-old Rachael Sawka who had a massive tumour removed from the back of her head in July.

Her neck now is flat, red and raw.

Part of her skull was removed, and replaced with a titanium plate.

"Now that I look back on it, it's been a crazy experience, but it's been a good experience," said Sawka, with tears streaming down her cheek.

At its largest, the tumour was 17 centimetres wide.

How the growth got so big still mystifies Sawka.

Back in January, when she discovered the lump, Sawka said it was only the size of a toonie.

Over the following months, Sawka said she saw four doctors. She was told it was a cyst. It kept growing.

She saw a fifth doctor who did a biopsy, eventually diagnosing her with a rare form of cancer.

Months later, Sawka still does not understand why she was not taken seriously.

"I have no idea. I think putting my trust in people like that, and I think everyone does. How do you not trust a medical professional? How do you tell them they're wrong,” she said.

Sawka and her parents wish a biopsy had been done sooner to have avoided such an invasive surgery, including removing tissue from her back.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said it’s very sorry to hear about this patient’s diagnosis.

“We take all concerns and allegations made regarding care experienced within the WRHA seriously. We are in the process of reviewing this patient’s care and have been in contact with her to include her input and connect back with her about our findings. We offer our support to her during the continuation of her care,” the WRHA said in an email statement.

Sawka credits doctors at CancerCare Manitoba for saving her life.

CancerCare Manitoba said if patients are concerned about a lump, they should see their family doctor.

If still concerned after that, patients should get a second opinion.

CancerCare also said, while this is a very unusual case, people need to be their own advocates.

"I just want to make things better for other people. I don't want anyone else to go through this,” said Sawka.

Next week Sawka begins 25 weeks of chemotherapy.