My ovarian cancer story starts with my little sister, Karlissa Foster. In October 2008, when Karlissa was 33 years old, she felt a knot in her stomach followed by constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, and vomiting. I took Karlissa to the ER, and the doctor told Karlissa that she had masses on her liver, kidneys, and ovaries, and it looks to be ovarian cancer.
Karlissa told the doctor that she recently had a pap smear, and the doctor told her that pap smears do not detect ovarian cancer. We had no idea! We made a doctor’s appointment, and they did more tests, and then Karlissa was diagnosed with stage 4 papillary serous carcinoma of the ovaries. Karlissa soon had a full hysterectomy, a colonoscopy, and a colostomy. Karlissa was a true fighter and always positive no matter what! Karlissa lost her battle with ovarian cancer on 11/11/11.
Karlissa’s husband passed away in 2007 from an asthma attack, a year before Karlissa was diagnosed with cancer. Hunter, my nephew, lived with my mom, and then in 2016, when she legally adopted Hunter, she passed away that same year. Hunter is now 21 years old and is in the Marines in Okinawa, Japan. Hunter’s parents and my mom would be very proud of him, as I am!
We did not know about the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations until after Karlissa had passed away. In 2012, I had genetic testing and I tested positive for a BRCA 2 mutation. My mom, maternal grandmother, and two aunts had cervical cancer, and my dad had prostate cancer, but ovarian cancer was new for us. I highly encourage all men and women that have cancer in their family to get genetic testing (BRCA1 and BRCA2). Yes, men as well because men also have the ability to pass on a genetic mutation to family members. Having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation is also linked to a high risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
I also highly encourage any woman with any abnormal abdominal symptoms to be seen by her doctor immediately. Karlissa really enjoyed connecting with others living with ovarian cancer by attending the ovarian cancer Wellness Retreat. This was a great way to get answers and meet new friends! We also enjoyed meeting up with other ladies who had ovarian cancer at a local restaurant each month. Another fun way to meet other ladies is by going to Christmas parties each year. Our favorite was going to the yearly walk to raise money for ovarian cancer.
I am Karlissa Foster’s big sister. I was also Karlissa’s caregiver.