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I have the Strength of My Ancestors in Me

By May 14, 2021June 14th, 2021No Comments

It felt like I had pulled a muscle in my stomach, well that’s what we thought it was. I couldn’t think of when I had pulled it through, someone suggested I sneezed hard, we went with that. All week the pain was there but I worked around it. It was a busy week so I just pressed on and figured I would rest later. Friday night the pain intensified, it felt like I was in labor. My sister thought it was appendicitis and told me to go to the emergency room. I protested, Friday night in the emergency room did not sound appealing. My husband grabbed his coat and said, “let’s go.” I agreed to go to urgent care. Once there, they too thought maybe appendicitis – the pain was getting stronger. Luckily, we were close to a hospital and they called an ambulance to come to get me.

I don’t remember much from the emergency room, there was a scan but I don’t remember having it done. I do remember them telling us that it wasn’t my appendix, in fact, they couldn’t see it because I had a mass. They gave me something for the pain and told me they were going to try to get a specialist in to see me the next day. I was admitted in the early hours of Saturday morning. Doctor Rosenshine came, he said it looks like I have a mass. Surgery, a debulking surgery, had to happen. Since I was in so much pain it was decided to keep me at the hospital, and he would add me to his Monday surgery schedule.

Monday came and it still didn’t hit me what a mass could mean. Wheeling into the surgery I got scared, I think Doctor Rosenshine noticed and he grabbed my hand and said they are going to do their best, he was going to be right there. I was comforted and fell asleep. Ten days after I was admitted into the hospital I got to go home, it was Super Bowl Sunday. About a week later we met with Doctor Rosenshine, he told us that the 13-centimeter mass was ovarian cancer, stage 3c. I was shocked – it was the first time I understood what that mass was. He had got most of it, read a long list of items removed, but there was a small cluster that was too dangerous to get. I was going to need chemo. He worked with a great oncologist and she would take over my treatment.

Doctor Warner was sharp, she came up with a plan, and as soon as I was strong enough in my recovery from the surgery we would start the chemo. I did Taxol and Carboplatin for six months. It was painful and I lost all of my hair but the results were good. Then 6 months later my CA-125 started to rise so I needed chemo again. This time it was Doxil for 9 months, and this time I would get sores. I got sores in my mouth and on my body, mainly my hands and feet, but the results were good so we pressed on. About a year later my CA-125 started to rise again.

Instead of trying a third traditional chemo, Doctor Warner suggested I look at some of the trials happening. After much research, I found one that I could do. It was at NIH and I would have to be in the hospital for a week with them giving me injections into my abdomen. It all went fine until about 24 hours after I left the hospital, I got really sick (not sure if it was the trial or I picked up something) so I had to stop. The good news was that the doctor helped me get connected with another branch at NIH that had a trial opening. I was a good fit for this trial and I have been with on it now for over 5 years with great results, my last CA-125 was 5. It is a monthly immunotherapy infusion and a daily pill (Olaparib) I take a couple of times a day. I still get tired, achy, and sores but not at the same level as I had with the first two chemos.

The walk was the first activity I participated in with NOCC, it was extremely powerful. It was just a few months after my initial chemo, and I was nervous about what I was getting myself into. I remember seeing a woman tying up her tennis shoes because she was going to run, she also had a ponytail (those things stood out to me while I was bald), and she had a Survivor shirt on. Wow, that moment hit me, there were Survivors and I was going to fight to be one. Then I was visiting the Survivor booth and adding my handprint when a woman came up and asked me how long since I was diagnosed. She told me it was about a year for her, she had the cutest, softest, curly hair. I know it is soft because she saw me looking at her head and she told me I could touch it, she told me a lot of hair comes back like that. It was so soft, it was such a beautiful feeling. That was my new goal, to get my hair back. My long-term goal is to run at the event (still working on that goal but it is going to happen). Having my family there to support me as I took another step in my journey, was such a strong moment for me and I know for them to see the other incredible women there helped them deal with a very scary time as well. Even though I haven’t participated in as many events as I would have liked, it is incredibly helpful to know there is a group of women that are going through or have gone through what I have and are there if I need them.

Build a support structure to support you and don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need, I had to let myself be okay asking for help. I was diagnosed around the same time my husband was going through the Wounded Warrior program at Walter Reed. I learned early on that I needed someone to come to my appointments with me, even if it was just a checkup because at every appointment I was scared and over-analyzing everything being shared. Having a family member or friend with you can make it easier. They would cry with me if needed and then help get me to the next step. I also saved all the cards, emails, and notes of well wishes and love sent. I stashed these in different places, some in my bedroom, some in my work bag, a special folder in my email, and hung them on my wall. When I needed a little pick me up, I would read them over again and knew I was not in this fight alone.

I can work, I saw my oldest graduate from high school, and my youngest will graduate this school year. I am so thankful. I am so thankful for all of those that stood by me and helped get me to where I am today. Doctors, nurses, friends, neighbors, support groups, and my family, I couldn’t have gotten here without them and their faith, strength, and love.

Jamie Gomez

Jamie Gomez is a member of the Tlingit & Haida Tribe of Alaska, now living in Cheverly, MD with her husband Rudy, boys Christian and Brandon, dog Tebo, and hamster Pablo. She works full time at a national Native non-profit and when not working she enjoys the outdoors, road trips, and spending time with her family and friends.

 

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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