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Celebrating Survivorship – Suzzana’s Story

By June 10, 2022No Comments

In March of 2015, I began to feel bloated all of the time, and my abdomen seemed to be experiencing constant pressure. I knew something wasn’t right. But as a single mom of three very busy and active young ones, I didn’t have time to take care of myself.

Two months later, I couldn’t take it any longer. I went in and immediately regretted it. No one wants to hear those three words, “you have cancer” I am sure this is an element in every survivor’s story. In that room, hearing those words, I promised I would fight this with all that I had for my children. Only, at the time, I was diagnosed with Stage IC ovarian cancer and was expected to go through my first round of chemotherapy. Only as difficult as it is to determine ovarian cancer, it is even easier to misdiagnose.

After that first round, with absolutely no results. My specialists went in again and identified that in addition to having the “privilege” of having this rare cancer, it was even rarer than that. I was correctly diagnosed with Sertoli-Leydig ovarian cancer stage IIC, and a different course of treatment was set to follow.

A year and a half after my initial diagnosis, I was finally released from treatment. I will never be free of my cell tumor; it will always be in wait. So I am monitored and ever vigilant. I have chosen to live every day to its fullest, love with all I have, and never waste a moment.

My family and friends were a constant for me. They were there when I let them in, which was the hardest part as I am fiercely independent. I truly thought I had everything under control; I knew I had this and didn’t need help from anyone. I met my now-husband in 2017, and crazily enough, his mother had also been fighting this ugly disease. What were the odds?!?! And it wasn’t until I met this amazing woman that I realized how wrong I had been all along.

She introduced me to the NOCC, shared her tribe with me, took me to my first Teal Tea in Tucson, AZ, and I knew then that this is how we thrive, together! Now, with my tribe, my now-grown children, family, friends, and my amazing husband, keep me whole, focused, and I will continue to make the absolute best of this life.

To those newly diagnosed, you cannot do this alone. Lean on those who support you. Let them lift you, allow them to fill you when you don’t have the energy, when you’re at your worst, and it seems hopeless, and have the grace to ask for help. Being vulnerable isn’t weakness. The one regret I have from my experience is that I tried to hide it all from my children.

They were in high school, in activities and performances, ball games, and dances. I continued to be there for them, in pain and exhausted; I wanted to keep life normal for them, but I never let them see the struggle. It wasn’t fair to them; it wasn’t fair to me. Yes, this happened to me, but I didn’t think how it would affect them. Share your journey, and let them in. Ask for help, and give yourself grace.

My advice to others is to reach out!! Do not be embarrassed, do not feel overwhelmed, and do not feel like a burden. There are those who love you, ones you know, and ones you have yet to meet!! Find your tribe, women, just like you, those who will know the struggle and understand why you’re awake at 2 am because the steroids won’t let you rest. Those ladies and gentlemen will be your lifeline!

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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