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My Scars

By May 18, 2021May 26th, 2021No Comments
A smiling middle-aged couple

I have an eleven-inch scar running vertically from my breastbone to my pubic bone and a 4-inch scar in my left armpit. I am a warrior- I wear these scars proudly and show them to anyone who cares to see them.

Before turning 62, I was diagnosed with stage 4 high-grade ovarian cancer, which was discovered in a very uncommon way in my routine mammogram. The radiologist biopsied what turned out to be an errant lymph node in my left armpit’s breast tissue. This diagnosis completely caught me off guard, and that it was found in such an unusual way. This type of metastasis is so infrequent that it takes an awful lot of Googling to find anything about it, and even then, the short articles state, “This is an extremely rare finding.”

Take note- I was the picture of health; ideal weight ate well, exercised regularly, and felt great. People often assumed I was 10-15 years younger than my age. So, like anyone with a new cancer diagnosis, I was completely blindsided, especially since I took such pride in my healthy lifestyle. 

I’m still in disbelief and daily ask myself, “how can I have metastatic ovarian cancer?”  

I had all the usual scans and tests, but my CA125 (tumor marker for ovarian cancer) was in the 2000s, which is quite high, and unfortunately confirmed what I still hoped was a pathology mix-up. I had an eight-hour surgery with a gyn-onc surgeon and breast surgeon at a big cancer hospital in NY. Two days in the ICU with four units of blood later, I was released to the Women’s Cancer Unit, where I started solid food and walked the halls carrying my catheter, drains, chest tube, and IV’s. I was hospitalized for six days, and it took months to regain strength, which unfortunately is all the more difficult once chemo starts.    

The cancer was in my uterus, ovaries, and tubes, of course- but also in my omentum (supportive lining which protects the stomach and other abdominal organs), peritoneal wall (the membrane lining the abdominal cavity), bladder, bowel, appendix, diaphragm. Additionally, a collection of fluid called ascites which is not a normal finding in healthy people- was filled with lymph nodes, groin nodes, and axillary (underarm) nodes. There were also lymph nodes up near my aorta.  

This much cancer metastasis and not one symptom, although in hindsight, I realize I did have several symptoms which I overlooked because I thought they were “normal” post-menopausal discomforts. Therein lies the biggest issue regarding ovarian cancer. There are no routine screenings, such as for colon cancer or breast cancer. Most women have vague symptoms or no symptoms until the cancer is already in a later stage. 

This is why I implore women to seek medical attention if they have the slightest indication of anything being slightly “off.” I now am 3 months NED (No Evidence of Disease). My CA125 has gone down steadily every month but waiting for the results is still unnerving.     

In addition to my surgical scars, cancer scarred my heart and has taken over my emotions. I will never be the same person I was. I take an oral chemotherapy agent for the foreseeable future, which has several annoying and dangerous side effects, though I fight through and exercise regularly again. In fact, I restarted practicing yoga while still undergoing chemo infusions. But as healthy and strong as I look, I am terribly fatigued (a side effect of the oral chemo), and cancer is always in the forefront of my consciousness- no matter what I’m doing, where I am, who I’m talking to. These are the scars you can’t see, and I don’t think anyone else would understand unless they, too, are a cancer survivor. 

Robin Grubbs

Robin is a 62-year-old wife of the most supportive man in the world, mother of two awesome young men and two adorable girlie dogs. She rides her Peloton every chance she gets, enjoys reading and Netflix watching, and has recently taken up watercolor painting.   

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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