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Mary’s Journey: It’s A Miracle

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

Prior to my diagnosis of Serous Ovarian Cancer, Stage III C, I recall having symptoms for about two years that things were not quite right: chief of which was an irregular, heavy menstrual cycle that I kept brushing aside as “nothing”. I convinced myself that I didn’t have time to go to the doctor for such a benign issue. I always had a history of irregular periods (so nothing alarming there) and life is so incredibly busy — I was 39, young, healthy, active lifestyle — what could possibly be wrong?

When I finally did see my gynecologist, they discovered a mass over ultrasound, but I was reassured not to worry because it could be a cyst or fibroids. My doctor suggested that if I was done having children, a partial hysterectomy may be a good idea and during the procedure, they would biopsy the mass, not because it looked suspicious, but because that was the protocol. I was considering the option, but truthfully not entirely persuaded it was necessary when one day I was quite literally brought to my knees in agonizing pain.

I scheduled the partial hysterectomy for February 16, 2018, and the entire procedure was to take no more than a few hours, start to finish. Over eight hours later, I woke up in a recovery room where I was informed that the surgeon was forced to do a full radical hysterectomy. The biopsy revealed that my mass was cancerous and the cancer cells had spread to other parts of my reproductive system. The words that will forever be engraved in me were those of the gynecological oncologist who explained how lucky I was and that had I waited any longer, I “likely wouldn’t have made it and this story would have a very different ending.”

The diagnosis and surgery were my first encounter with this new, unwelcome reality; I still had another frightening and uncertain road ahead with my chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Because my cancer spread to the lymph nodes, I had to undergo 6 weeks of daily radiation, simultaneous with 6 rounds of what they called “light chemo” followed by another 6 rounds of heavier chemo. “Standard,” my medical team said, but nothing about having cancer was standard or easy and nothing prepares you for the mental, emotional and physical warfare.

There were many tear-filled days when I wanted to give up; when I felt like the treatment was too harsh and far worse than the diagnosis itself, but then you look at your army of loved ones surrounding you, praying for you and cheering you on. For me, it was a village of friends, my husband and my two little girls, who were only 8 and 10, and you think: How can you give up? How can you leave this behind? Even though I am a woman of faith, it was difficult, at times, to remain faithful in my brokenness. I quickly realized, however, that I couldn’t underestimate my God-given strength and it was that divine strength and grace that made me whole again.

It’s called the silent killer, but I don’t think that’s quite true – ovarian cancer speaks to you in a quiet whisper over time; you just need to listen to the tell-tale signs of your body. Today, I have been in remission for over two years. I am completely healthy and I am grateful, beyond measure, for the extra time I’ve been gifted to be with my family, to watch my girls grow, and to savor every wonderful and incredible moment that this life has to offer.

Mary Maikhail

Mary Maikhail currently lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and two daughters; she manages a family practice of medicine and recently started an IG page: @marymaikhail, where she documents stunning life moments that make her feel happy, grateful, and blessed.

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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