As a five-time ovarian cancer survivor and active member of the San Antonio NOCC community, Maria Gonzales and her story of inspiration have resonated with so many. In August of 2020, she shared her experience as a long-time survivor and her passion for supporting survivors along the way. We caught up with Maria to see how she has been since writing her original post and her advice for those newly diagnosed.
National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC): You share in your original piece that you are a five-time ovarian cancer survivor! How has your health been since writing your blog post?
Maria Gonzales (MG): Since my last post on NOCC, I have been doing well. Since April 2019, I have been on maintenance treatment Avastin. I exceeded the number of treatments recommended, and I was experiencing severe headaches, so my GYN-oncologist suggested I stop the treatment. I stopped Avastin around August of 2021. I started Zejula, a PARP inhibitor, as maintenance in October. I have had side effects and a few concerns, but I will continue with taking it as of now. I am physically active, working out at least four times a week, working full time as a school counselor, and enjoying life.
NOCC: What piece of advice would you give to yourself when your blog was written? Is there anything you would share with her?
MG: I would tell her that she will have her ups and downs. The anxiety of cancer returning will never go away, but she will learn how to cope with it better. Continue planning for the future because she has a future. I am proud of HER for not giving up. People love her, and she is making a difference by sharing her story. I love every part of her, even with flaws and imperfections.
NOCC: What advice do you have for newly diagnosed individuals?
MG: For any newly diagnosed patient, this will be a crazy journey. Sometimes you will just go through the motions of doctor’s appointments, treatments, surgeries, and many unknowns. Sometimes you will just want to quit. It is ok to cry and vent, but don’t stay in the dark place for a long time. This is part of grieving yourself. If you feel you are mentally in a dark place, ask for help. Mental well-being is just as important as physical. Make sure you listen to your body; if you are unsure of pain, discomfort, or if something is “normal,” talk to your medical team. You have to be your biggest advocate and cheerleader. However, it is ok to ask for help.
If you need laundry taken care of or things around the house done, ask for help from your family or friends. Many times they feel helpless and would be more than willing to help. You are surrounded by many ovarian cancer survivors, so reach out to them. Remember, you are not a statistic; you are YOU. Take one day at a time; you got this.
Maria Gonzales is a 13-year ovarian cancer Survivor Stage 3C. She has been married for 15 years and has two chihuahuas. She has been in education for 24 years. She has transitioned from being a math teacher to a middle school counselor. Maria loves spending quality time with her family and friends. Nothing brings her more joy than being with her nieces and nephews. Faith and hope keep her positive. Maria was born and raised in El Paso, Texas but resides in San Antonio, Texas. You can read her original August 2020 blog post here.