My husband passed away in April, 2001 leaving me and our little JRT, Mac to carry on. I have 2 children and 2 grandchildren living in Oregon. My 3rd child, a son, was attending College in Arizona.
I had a physical in July with a Nurse Practioner (NP) at my primary care clinic. Several weeks later I received a call that my PAP was abnormal and to follow-up in October, 2001 for a repeat test. I did and it came back normal. I had been having some burning pain on my right side but didn't pay much attention to it. During the October exam, the NP mentioned that my uterus was pressing down and I should have that checked by my gynecologist. I didn't get the impression it was urgent and asked if it was something I should do soon. She answered that it didn't seem like a problem but when I had the time get it checked.
In December 2001, I began to have stomach pain, bloating, gas and difficulty with digestion. I went up two pant sizes within a week due to the bloated stomach. There was no relief from the stomach pain, discomfort and indigestion. The symptoms began while I was visiting family and friends in Oregon. I returned home and made an appointment with my primary physician. I was seen by a Physician Assistant who treated me for flu-like symptoms and gastritis and was sent home with a prescription and over the counter aids. If I was still symptomatic I was to call after the holiday and an ultrasound would be ordered. I was getting worse and so sick that I barely made it through the next six days. I immediately phoned the office once they had returned and he ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound was done and two days later I received a phone call from him personally. The first thing he said was "I am so sorry. The ultrasound shows a malignant tumor and I need you to come in for some blood work as soon as possible. These tests will confirm the diagnosis".
I was in shock, numb, yet in my mind and heart I just knew that it was ovarian cancer. He called me a couple days later with the results. He told me that the CA125 should be under 35 and my results were 4000! I nearly fainted! Fear and shock waves ran through me. I was given an appointment to see a gynecologic oncologist the next week. January 2002, I met with the oncologist who was very positive and explained the results of the ultrasound, blood work and treatment plans. He also took very detailed information from me and explained that with my family history I may have a genetic predisposition. He also told me that if my prior physicians had paid attention to my family history I may not be sitting in his office. He was very positive and compassionate. I was very symptomatic and anything that would make me feel better, even chemotherapy, I wanted to start right away. Everything was just a blur along with being so scared and sick. The oncologist gave me a big hug and told me that I was treatable. I left his office feeling that I had hope and could survive and beat this. I wasn't thinking WHY ME? That would come later. I just moved forward with the support of family and friends. I began to think of all the family members on both sides of my family that had battled cancer. My maternal grandmother with breast cancer; my uncle with breast cancer; my father with colon cancer; my 3 aunts (2 breast cancer, 1 ovarian cancer); and my younger sister with breast cancer. It was quite overwhelming.
I went on to have four months of chemotherapy, surgery, and then four more months of chemotherapy. I surprised most everyone including my oncologist. I had my good days and not so good days, yet I survived. I have had four reoccurrences since then yet it has been almost five years without chemotherapy. February 2008 a PET scan revealed an inoperable tumor. I had 33 Targeted Radiation Treatments and am currently in remission.
I was tested for the BRAC gene in 2003. The test was positive for BRAC1 Mutation. I knew that my daughter, granddaughter, and other family members needed to get tested. Meeting with a genetic counselor can be very confusing and overwhelming, yet it is very important. My daughter still has not been tested even after meeting with a counselor. Fear set in and she just wasn't ready. She felt overwhelmed.
I have learned that most women and some men are curious as to what my symptoms were and how I have had the strength to continue the fight. There is much fear and denial about ovarian cancer and not everyone is ready to hear. I decided to speak up for the first time in my life to let everyone know about ovarian cancer and prevention. Many people have thanked me for alerting them to the symptoms of ovarian cancer and have seen their physician. There must be more awareness so that women and their families do not have to experience what I and others have had to endure.
I would say to those who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer to talk with those who have or had it. These women have much to share. I learned so much from them and became stronger. Remain as positive as you can during treatment and beyond. Let your family and friends help you get through it all. I have a strong faith in God which has sustained me. Whatever is your source of strength lean on that strength.
My family, friends and people that I meet on a daily basis tell me they see me as positive, determined and are inspired. I do see the glass half full now. My children have seen me face the GIANT and it has changed their lives. There really has been more laughter than tears.
One more thing, I have remarried. I met my wonderful husband shortly before my diagnosis. This year we will celebrate seven glorious years together. He has been terrific and a source of strength. I am blessed and grateful!