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Stories of Inspiration

Ovarian Cancer!!!?? Now what?

By July 2, 2021July 23rd, 2021No Comments

One morning in September 2020, I woke up, and while stretching, I noticed a bulge next to the left side of my belly button. My first thought was, “Am I constipated?” I decided to drink tea to help with my digestion. A couple of days passed, and the bulge was still there. I decided to have an appointment with my primary care physician. A few days later, after the checkup, my PCP confirmed that I had a mass in my abdominal area.  She ordered an intravaginal and an abdominal scan. To my surprise, I ended up having two masses, one in each ovary. I named them my “ugly twins,” and they were 10.5 and 11.5 cm, respectively.

Three days later, my doctor called me and told me that I would be referred to a gynecologic oncologist. Unfortunately, the referral was sent to the wrong place. Although this was distressful at the time, I am thankful because it led to me making an appointment with my current gynecologist oncologist, Dr. Dana Chase, MD, FACOG. I must add that finding the right doctor was crucial in helping me feel confident about the procedure, treatment, and decision-making process. It is important to find a doctor who is knowledgeable and trustworthy and cares for their patients. I knew since the beginning that I was in amazing hands.

I went into the surgery unsure if I would have my ovaries removed or if I was going to have a full hysterectomy. Trusting God and my doctor’s knowledge, I put my faith in them to do the best for me. I came out of surgery with a total hysterectomy. Naively, I thought that after my surgery, I would just recover and go back to my normal lifestyle of hiking, eating healthy, and working. When I had my follow-up appointment, I received the news that I was Stage 2A and that I needed chemotherapy. I was thankful that I was able to find it that soon. However, I was surprised that what I thought was going to be one phase of treatment turned into a two-phase process. Furthermore, my DNA exam showed that I had the homologous recombination deficiency (HRD) mutation.

Now, I am done with my six rounds of chemotherapy and very thankful that I did not have any severe side effects. From my personal experience, I felt that my healthy diet and lifestyle habits helped me enormously during my treatment.

What has helped me through this experience are what I called my core pillars: faith, thankfulness, positivity, laughter, and humor.

My faith helped me not to be afraid of whatever happened in the process. So, I do my part here, but I cannot change what has been planned for me.

I have practiced thankfulness for a long time. I found myself saying thanks for the simplest things, like my bed, my healthy legs that allow me to hike, or when I was given the ovarian cancer diagnosis. I was thankful for the opportunity to get treatment.

Positivity has helped me to find beautiful moments during my treatment. I heard many times that attitude helps with the process and recovery. I also believe seeing me with a positive attitude has helped my family and close friends through this process as well.

I often laugh at myself, like when I do or say something silly. I laugh when my oldest calls me Mr. Clean; or when my youngest son gently slaps the back of my bald head and calls me baldy.

I know today that these daily practices have been helpful in a period that can be very challenging.

I appreciate what this process has taught me, like learning that it is ok to let people help me. I have always been the independent type. I usually think, “I don’t need help. I can do it.” It was very important to learn the significance of advocating for myself. I also had the opportunity to meet many amazing ladies during my infusion days. I would listen to their stories and many times bring positivity to them in moments when they were feeling down.

It was very helpful being surrounded by my husband, my two sons, and my close friends. Everyone was very supportive, and I received many calls, texts, and visits.

I recently received a call from Dr. Chase informing me that my PET scan was good. She reminded me that I was lucky to have caught the cancer at such an early stage. I cannot describe the excitement that I felt. I am NED (no evidence of disease) since my last chemotherapy on April 13th, 2021.

From here, I intend to keep enjoying my family, friends, and the adventures and experiences that life brings. To live in the moment and appreciating that I am here today. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my story and to hopefully help other women through my writing. I hope sharing my story will help other women going through similar experiences.

Clara Gonzalez-Woods

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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