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I have ovarian cancer? Now what?

By May 14, 2021June 14th, 2021No Comments
A Black woman smiling with her hands on her hips

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 Hayes

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.

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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