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A Daughters’ Love

By May 14, 2021June 14th, 2021No Comments

Finding out that my mom may have ovarian cancer, didn’t hit me as I thought it would. Explaining to my mom (a nurse) and my family what the next steps might be, has been my job for the last 4 years as a medical oncology nurse. It wasn’t until the night after the doctor reviewed my mom’s CT scan that it finally set in. The CT scan revealed metastasis to other organs in her abdomen, even though they couldn’t diagnose without surgery, they speculated it could be stage IV cancer.

My mom sweetly asked me as I got home from work “my oncology nurse what do you think are my chances of survival?”. I remember taking my phone out and reviewing the five-year survival rates for stage IV ovarian cancers. In her case, it was approximately 30-76% depending on if the tumors were regional or distant. I reassured her we’d take it one day at a time with a smile, but I felt my mouth go dry and the biggest lump growing in the back of my throat. I took the longest shower to let all my tears out and worried about what our journey would be like as I’ve seen a plethora of different cancer journeys.

A few things to know about my mom, she is a workaholic, generous, and a FIGHTER. I know it might sound cliché coming from a daughter but hear me out. In 1996, my mom left everything she knew in India with her two young daughters in hopes of a life full of opportunity in New York City. Like many immigrants, she had to start from scratch. She worked her way up; taking night classes to become a teacher but with the influence of our aunt (an amazing nurse practitioner) and working at a doctor’s office, she later changed her major to become a nurse. My mom will tell you that the hardest part of her journey has been chemotherapy, but there have been many different bumps along the road. She’s battled a total abdominal hysterectomy with reconstruction to her diaphragm, post-op complications, 6 rounds of chemo, chemo reactions, hair loss, recurrent UTIs and her first question during every doctor’s visit was “when can I work again”? In the middle of a pandemic, post-surgery and post-chemotherapy her mind was on getting better to take care of others.

During each trial and tribulation of my mom’s journey, I can’t say how proud of my family I am. My initial response was to immediately stop everything and I told my mom I’d put my last semester of graduate school on hold, my mom’s answer was “over my dead body”. Our family was lucky to have had my mom’s surgery scheduled for January 28th, months before the COVID-19 surge when visitation was allowed. My aunt and sister were pivotal as they made a schedule with shifts we would all take at the hospital. This was to keep her spirits up and stay keen on any changes she went through. My grandma was and is our prayer warrior, she’s committed to saying the rosary 2-3xs a day for my mom’s healing. My dad who’s not in the medical field struggled to find where his role would be, so he took the time to read books about cancer stories and caregiving. He would drive me to work to lessen my exposure to COVID. Right before I’d leave we’d bump elbows and he’d say “I’m so proud of you”. As we took turns to take care of each other and our mom, we all fell into our new family slogan “in this family no one fights alone”.

Looking back here’s my advice to anyone fighting cancer, using my mom’s experience and many of my patients; do not fight this alone; find your support system, be okay with listening to your body, understand that healing is never a linear trajectory and lastly find positivity wherever you can. Something we couldn’t give my mom was the complete understanding of battling cancer. NOCC gave her a community of women fighting cancer. These women deal with the loss of their jobs, normalcy, and the feelings of lack of control in their lives. When my mom found the NOCC, they welcomed her with a bag of goodies she could take to her chemotherapy sessions and a community of women sharing their stories of survival. Almost one year later, my mom’s last PET scan was cancer-free, and she’s back to working full time as a dialysis nurse! We are very blessed and grateful to be telling this story and count every day as a blessing because of our team of surgeons, oncologists, nurses, medical staff at Memorial Sloan but also all our friends who have helped us along this journey. My mom’s legacy work is to continue to share her story and to make sure no one fights alone in their own journey.

Wynette Almeida

Wynette Almeida is the daughter of a Survivor, patient advocate, and oncology nurse in New York City. She has become a member of NOCC in support of her mom’s journey and to continue her life’s purpose as an advocate for quality of life in oncology patients. This year she won the Top RN finisher in the Together in TEAL 5K run.

 

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Signs and Symptoms

Ovarian cancer signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Back pain
  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation or menstrual changes
  • Pain during sex

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition

30 Years of Courage

1991   

NOCC begins as a grassroots organization founded by advocates and survivors in Boca Raton, Florida

 1995   

NOCC incorporates as the country’s first national organization providing awareness and education about ovarian cancer.

1996   

The first national ovarian cancer information hotline is established (1-888-OVARIAN), now averaging 10,000 calls each year.

1998   

NOCC proclaims a week in September “National Ovarian Cancer Week,” with a declaration from President Clinton. “Walk for a Whisper” 5K Walk/Run is initiated.

2000   

NOCC and the ovarian community proclaim September as “National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.”

2002

The organization produces television PSA about early detection and distributes to 30 states.

2003

Ovarian.org received the Oncolink.com Award from OncoLink, the first online cancer resource founded by University of Pennsylvania cancer specialists.

NOCC receives the National Points of Light award in celebration of the success and impact volunteers have made in their communities.

2004

NOCC launches “Body Image/Body Essence” art exhibit by sculptor John Magnan as a tribute to his wife’s journey with ovarian cancer.

2006

NOCC launches the “Break the Silence” national education campaign.

2007

The “Break the Silence” campaign reaches 100M impressions.

NOCC helps launch the first consensus on ovarian cancer symptoms.

2008

NOCC moves its principal place of operation and state of incorporation/registration from Boca Raton, Florida to Dallas, Texas.

NOCC advocates help to double Department of Defense funding for ovarian cancer research to $20M per year.

2009

“Newly Diagnosed Patient Kit” is launched. DVD resource is made available in Spanish and Mandarin; 450,000+ pieces of literature are distributed nationwide.

2010

The Faces of Hope® program and term “Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer” are initiated. 

Annual fundraising events are branded “Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer®.”

2011

NOCC partners with The Dr. Oz Show to create his Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer® campaign.

Over 1200 newly diagnosed women receive NOCC’s TEAL PACKET®

The “Ann Schreiber Ovarian Cancer Research Training Program of Excellence: A study by Dr. Ruth Perets” is supported by NOCC with a $50,000 contribution.

2012

NOCC supports quality of life research with the GOG 0225, LIvES Study, which is ongoing and conducted by the University of Arizona Cancer Center.

2013

More than 4,000 Faces of Hope TEAL totes are distributed.

2014

More than 575,000 pieces of education and awareness literature are distributed nationally.

NOCC affirms its commitment to research with the newest  initiative, collaborating with Stand Up to Cancer, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, and Ovarian Cancer Research Fund to support the “Ovarian Cancer Dream Team.”

NOCC is featured in the highly coveted showcase window at 10 Rockefeller Plaza in midtown Manhattan.

2016

NOCC reaches its milestone 25th anniversary.

NOCC becomes an official charity partner for the New York Marathon and launches its first platform for endurance enthusiasts across the U.S - Team Teal®.

2017

Rejuvenate, the first event of its kind, is introduced by NOCC for survivors as a retreat experience centered around the mind, body and spirit; it later expands to a national series.

Not Knowing is Killing Us is launched as a hard-hitting national awareness campaign. 

2018  

NOCC's signature Run/Walk Series is rebranded and Together in Teal® Ending Ovarian Cancer is brought to life in communities across the nation.  

2019

Team Teal®, NOCC's endurance platform, expands internationally with participants in Greece and Canada.  

Together in Teal® Ending Ovarian Cancer is hosted at New York City's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, a national historic landmark.

2020

In response to the pandemic, NOCC introduces programming offering relief to women and their caregivers including home meal delivery, Comfort for the Soul, and online professional counseling through Comfort the Mind.  

Teal Hearts Network, a series of regional survivor support groups, commences in a virtual setting.

Together in Teal(R) hosts its first virtual experience, No Boundaries, and unites participants in 50 states and 9 countries.  

Stages of Ovarian Cancer

Stage 1

The cancer is confined to the ovary or fallopian tube

1A - The cancer is confined to one ovary only

1B - The cancer is found on both ovaries

1C - One or both ovaries are found with cancer cells spilling out from the ovaries

1C1 - Accidental rupture of the capsule by the surgeon during surgery

1C2 - Rupture of the capsule occurred before surgery

1C3 - Cancer cells are found in the fluid of the pelvis/abdomen

Stage 2

Growth of the cancer involves one or both ovaries with pelvic extension

2A - Extension of cancer to fallopian tubes or uterus

2B - Extension of cancer to other pelvic organs

Stage 3

Growth of the cancer involves one or both ovaries, and the cancer has spread beyond the pelvis

3A - Microscopic cancer cells found in upper abdomen or lymph nodes

3B - Visible tumor found in upper abdomen less than 2cm in size

3C - Visible tumor found in upper abdomen greater than 2cm in size, including disease on the surface of liver or spleen

Stage 4

The cancer growth is widely spread throughout the body

4A - Cancer is found in the fluid around lung

4B - Cancer is found inside the lungs, liver or spleen

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition

Stages of Ovarian Cancer

Before ovarian cancer - healthy ovaries

Stage 1 - Cancer is confined to one or both ovaries

Stage 2 - Cancer spreads within the pelvic region

Stage 3 - Average stage of diagnoses is stage 3C; cancer spreads to other body parts within the abdomen

Stage 4 - Cancer spreads beyond the abdomen to other body parts

 

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition