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Stories of Inspiration

Giving Life Twice: How My Mom Helped Me Uncover My Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis

By October 1, 2021No Comments

My cancer story begins with my mom’s. In the fall of 2012, after an MRI for hip pain, doctors suspected lymphoma in her pelvic lymph nodes. To confirm the diagnosis, they performed a biopsy. We were surprised when the results indicated the tumors were adenocarcinomas,. She was diagnosed with CUP (cancer of Unknown Primary). To best treat her, the doctors needed to try and determine where her tumors started. This meant additional testing. 

Among those tests were genetic counseling and testing. This made a lot of sense given our family history. My maternal grandmother died at 47 of colon cancer, my maternal grandfather died of prostate cancer at 70, my mother’s brother had prostate and skin cancer, my maternal great grandmother died of “women’s cancer” at 53, and so on, and so on……

Given the lousy family history, it was no surprise to learn that my mom carried a BRCA1 mutation. Having attended the genetic counseling appointments with her, I knew I had a 50% risk of inheriting the genetic mutation as well. I made the decision to get tested just a few months later. I was saddened but not shocked to learn that I have the same BRCA1 mutation. 

Knowing I wasn’t planning to have more children, I scheduled surgery to remove my ovaries and fallopian tubes (prophylactic salpingo oophorectomy) with a gynecologic oncologist. I did this knowing this procedure would reduce my risk for both ovarian AND breast cancers. 

As with any surgery, there were a number of pre-op procedures I was required to have, including a CA125 and a transvaginal ultrasound. Both came back normal. That’s why it was astonishing to wake from surgery and learn I had stage 2 fallopian tube cancer! I was told a tumor had burst through my right fallopian tube. Lab results later confirmed there were also microscopic ovarian cancer cells growing in my left ovary. None of this was known prior to surgery. 

Although my doctor was confident she removed all visible tumors, she acknowledged that she may not have seen everything and because of that I would need chemotherapy. She offered me two options: 1) dose-dense chemotherapy meaning that I would have chemo through a chest port (IV) every week rather than every three or in addition to chemotherapy given through my chest port, I would also be given chemotherapy with a second port placed directly into my abdominal cavity (called IV/IP chemotherapy, or Intraperitoneal chemotherapy).  This allows the chemotherapy to essentially bathe my organs in chemo. 

Seeking a second opinion, I asked my mom’s doctor about these options and she replied, “If you were my sister, I’d suggest IP. It has the best outcomes and because you’re otherwise young and healthy, you can tolerate it.” 


She also suggested I consider a clinical trial taking place at Hopkins testing a new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors. Although I qualified, I chose not to participate because it would require me to make the hour-and-a-half drive from Northern Virginia to Baltimore several times a week. With three school-aged kids at the time, I just didn’t feel it was realistic. 


I completed six rounds of IV/IP treatment locally instead. I received chemo in my chest port one day, went back to the hospital for chemo in my abdominal port the second, and returned the third day for hydration through my chest port because the drug I was receiving (cisplatin) was known for damaging the kidneys. This went on for four months. 


I am pleased to say that I have remained NED (no evidence of disease) since I finished treatment in April 2014. My mom likes to tell people that she gave me life twice, and she’s right. If not for her genetic testing, there would have been no reason for me to test, and I likely would have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer at a more advanced stage. 


I urge women with a family history of cancer to get tested. Understand your risk. Yes, it may not give you the news you desire, but knowledge is power, and you can take action as I did. 


As for my mom, she is still alive today and remains a 9-year stage 4 ovarian cancer survivor. I am certain this wouldn’t have been possible if not for that drug — a PARP inhibitor — that was in clinical trials when I was in treatment. I am immensely grateful for all the women who participated and helped us discover a new therapy, especially one so effective in those with a BRCA mutation. If not for the braveness of these women, it is reasonable to think that my mom — and so many others — would have drastically different outcomes.

Ilana Feuchter

Ilana is a survivor and passionate advocate for the ovarian cancer community. Ilana has worked alongside the NOCC for several years, supporting the D.C. Metro area as a Market Manager, and currently serves as the Patient Insights & Advocacy Advisor.

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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

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

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition

30 Years of Courage


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


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


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


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.


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


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

2003 received the 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.


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


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


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

NOCC helps launch the first consensus on ovarian cancer symptoms.


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.


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


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®.”


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.


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


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


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.


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®.


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. 


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


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.


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.  

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