In 2012 I was diagnosed with stage 3C clear cell ovarian cancer. My life had been going smoothly and I was 1 year from retirement, ready to travel, and do more of the things I loved when bam! my life changed so quickly. My doctors weren’t very positive about my prognosis and the news wasn’t encouraging. One doctor even told me I’d be in treatment forever, to live my life but basically get my affairs in order. To say I was scared would be an understatement. I knew I was in for the biggest fight of my life. My family and friends rallied behind me to provide support and all 73 of Cathie’s Warriors attended our 1st NOCC Run/walk-in Annapolis in 2012. My doctors always called my cancer “unusual” and treatment was not easy but I was fortunate and while there were a few bumps in the road, I only needed one round of standard treatment and I was considered NED. The word “cured” was never said.
After attending the NOCC Run/Walk in Annapolis I knew we needed more resources locally so I started the Frederick Chapter in 2014. At that time there were no support groups and quite honestly the community didn’t seem aware of ovarian cancer, at least not compared to the services that were provided to those with breast cancer. We needed to build a teal community! We were quite ambitious and started with hosting a Frederick Walk. It was a huge success! Over the past 6 years, our Frederick Walks have raised over $600,000! We also have a Teal Hearts support group that meets at various times and locations and most recently via Zoom.
The NOCC is living proof that women do not need to travel this journey alone. While involved with the NOCC I have met a sisterhood of dedicated women (and some special men too) who are working hard to improve the quality of life for survivors and one day find a cure for this disease. We are not giving up hope and together we are working tirelessly to prevent and cure ovarian cancer.
So here I am 8 years later. Do I worry about a recurrence- absolutely! That thought is there with every ache or pain I experience. Despite my concerns, I have such tremendous hope for the future and that we’ll soon have a screening test and one day a cure for this insidious disease.
While at times I may feel as if I want to walk away and get on with my life, but there is still too much work to be done. This is my mission now. I’m retired and I refer to this as my “next act” and it is probably the most rewarding activity I’ve ever done. I’m staying in the fight for the all too many women we have lost and for the courageous, inspiring women continuing to fight this disease each and every day. We are in this together.
Cathie Duncan is an 8-year survivor from Frederick, MD. She is the Lead Volunteer of the Frederick Chapter and believes all women need to be strong advocates for their health care