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Radiating Hope

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

Though I was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer in August of 2018, I believe my journey with ovarian cancer began when I tested positive for the BRCA 1 genetic mutation in 2015. Learning then that I was high risk for certain cancers, ovarian being one, shook my world upside down and inside out.

When a genetic counselor sat down with me to tell me I should consider having a preventative partial hysterectomy (oophorectomy which is the removal of ovaries) in order to reduce my risk of ovarian cancer, I remember leaving her office not able to breathe. A partial hysterectomy is scary for any woman but for someone who has always wanted children but was as single as they come, the news was crushing. Instead, I agreed to begin 6-month screenings and bloodwork as ovarian cancer surveillance. I had made the decision to commit to this type of screening with the intention of going through with the partial hysterectomy when I turned 40 or shortly after, with the hope of one day being able to conceive and experience pregnancy before needing to do so. I was able to freeze some eggs at the age of 36 in case my plans of waiting until 40 didn’t go my way.

In August of 2018, just 4 months after my routine surveillance, I began noticing that there were sharp pains in my pelvic area but didn’t think much of it. I had just topped taking birth control pills so I figured that my body was just readjusting itself. From one day to the next, I noticed that the sharp pains had moved to my abdomen as well and I knew something wasn’t right. I called my oncologist during a family vacation and asked to be seen. By the time I went in for an ultrasound and bloodwork, my body had begun bloating and it was painful to urinate. The routine ultrasound didn’t pick anything up, but gratefully a CT scan was ordered which eventually confirmed that I had an ovarian cancer tumor on my uterus that had metastasized to my abdomen in various areas.

To say that the cancer diagnosis was hell is an understatement. It wasn’t just cancer. I was, by then 38 years old, still childless. I hadn’t been blessed with a family of my own yet. It was like facing two different tidal waves at the same time. A life-threatening disease coupled with the news that I would need a full hysterectomy in order to save my life. There was a saving grace to know that I have some eggs frozen but for someone who’s dream has always been to be a mother, that didn’t help much. Yes, I know that adoption was a choice, surrogacy as well, but those are band-aids to wounds that cut deep into a woman’s entire being. These body parts that were meant to create and carry life had instead turned on me and were creating and spreading death instead!

But what I’ve learned throughout my journey with cancer is that no matter how scary this thing is, I will choose to not let it win! Where it has tried to destroy my physical body, my body proved that its resiliency is far stronger than I had ever imagined. Where it tried to steal my hope, God actually used it to destroy hopelessness and fuel the strongest hope I have ever had! Where it has tried to make me feel alone, it brought a support system that I will be forever grateful for!

I underwent 3 months of chemotherapy, 1 debunking, and partial hysterectomy, followed by 3 more months of chemotherapy. My oncologist knew of my desire to have a family and I told him on the day of surgery that if he opened me up and saw that my uterus was clean, I wanted to keep it and if there was any remnant of the tumor on it to remove it. He suggested a full hysterectomy but allowed me to make my own decisions. It was months of praying and following my gut in making such a decision but one that I am happy with. I know others don’t understand my decision but it is one that I believe to be an answered prayer. And one that has brought me peace of mind and soul.

I was declared N.E.D for approximately 6 months, and hate to say that the cancer returned in March of this year. So, yeah, I’m back in the fight as I type this. I have my moments of fear and doubt which is normal, but overall I have a foundation of faith and hope that this isn’t the end. There’s a lot of life left to live and I plan on living it out to the fullest extent possible!

Rae Ann Reyna

Rae Ann Reyna lives in San Antonio, TX, and is a lover of all things green and sunshine! She has created the social media platforms, Rae of Hope, on IG (@rae.of.hope1), and FB (@raeofhope1) as a way to spread HOPE to anyone who is searching for it!

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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