Being told that I have ovarian cancer was the last thing that I expected to hear on May 13, 2020. In December of 2019 I was living it up in Las Vegas for my 30th Birthday and the following February I started to notice bloating in my abdomen. After the bloating went away for a short period of time, I started to have abdominal pain in my lower abdomen. I began getting asked almost daily if I was expecting, it started to become overwhelming. I had just started to get serious about losing weight. I had lost over 30lbs but my belly kept getting bigger.
Luckily, I work as a hospital social worker and there are nurses all around. I started asking questions like, “what can cause bloating?” And “why am I having pain in my lower abdomen?” One nurse said we should rule out pregnancy. Well, I did that twice. No baby. But the bloating and abdominal pain was still there. I made an appointment with my Primary Care Physician because I had concerns that maybe it was my blood pressure causing the bloating and I needed another diuretic. I also mentioned abdominal pain during that appointment. My doctor was amazing! I truly believe she saved my life; she moved swiftly by ordering an Ultrasound of my abdomen. It was during this test when the “large mass” was found. I was so scared—even more, scared when I was told a CT of the pelvis and abdomen was needed.
I have no family history of any form of cancer, so the news came as a shocker for me. After the initial shock, came the anger, and then the feeling that I could not “do this”. But I could and I still am doing this. I underwent a total hysterectomy one week after my diagnosis. I had never had any major surgery other than dental work. Unfortunately, after the surgery, I’d have a second opinion done with another physician. I have a rare form of ovarian cancer called Mucinous Ovarian Carcinoma. The treatment for this form of cancer is a little different, as the regimen used is typically for patients with Colon Cancer. I completed three cycles of chemotherapy and had new CT scans and lab work done. My CEA and CA125 tumor markers have decreased significantly but there’s still fluid in my abdomen and pelvis. I will complete three more cycles of chemotherapy and then will have another set of scans and labs done. We are planning for another procedure that will hopefully rid me of the fluid and smaller tumors.
The one thing that having ovarian cancer has taught me is that I am strong and more resilient than I ever thought I could be. I was in denial for a long time before I finally accepted this as a part of me but, I’m still the same ShaRhonda! I worried about the wrong things: Would I lose my hair? Am I going to lose weight? Will others look at me differently? The answer is no! Every journey is different for everyone. For newly diagnosed patients I would say educate yourself. Everyone will have an opinion but the expert is the doctor and any choices that will be made are strictly up to you- the patient. Also, take the time to process this news because it is a traumatic experience and emotionally it will hit you when you least expect it to. Lastly, crying is perfectly fine; don’t deprive yourself of any emotions that you may have.
ShaRhonda is a 30-year-old wife of one year and a dog mom to a Yorkie. She works as a Medical Social Worker. Lover of sports, books, and fitness. She can be followed on Instagram @readnliftwithshar.