Michele hickey

My name is michele i was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in Aug 2017, i first noticed my stomach was bloated and then my bowels were playing up i was constantly in the bathroom and stopped going out because i needed to be near the bathroom all the time and i was not eating much at all and lost weight, so i went to the GP and he thought it was irritable bowels so i went home and carried on but the symptoms got worse i went back and they refered my to a&e tests were done and they found a mass and fluid all around my lung and thats when the bomb hit me the cancer had spread i couldnt get my head around it i was admitted and had to have 2 drains put in my chest and stomach then had to start chemo i stayed in hospital for 10 days to drain fliud and start treatment which was every 21 days i would have to sit for 4 hrs while getting chemo i had 3 sessions and then in Dec they operated and i had a full hysterectomy and i now have a stoma for a while and had 3 more sessions of chemo and now im doing ok bloods and scans are all good it was a long and tough road with lots of ups and downs but i am here and just want to let other women know to stay strong and keep fighting.

Shirley Nicodem

WHISPERS OF WARNING
The whispers of a woman…even a whisper can hurt you!

By Fran Mercede

Whispers although quiet and sometimes unassuming could contain the most powerful messages you will ever hear and hope to listen to. A whisper is defined in Webster’s dictionary in the following way, “to speak so as to be heard only by one near at hand”. This is a story that begins with a whisper. It is the story of a woman whose mission could possibly “Save Your Life”. Let me describe her to you. She may sound familiar. She may be someone you know. She may be your mother or your wife or your aunt or your friend. She may be your daughter. She may even be you.

She is a young 49 year old very active woman in great shape. She exercised 3 times a week for over 2 years. She gets all her yearly female exams – Pap smears, mammograms and everything her gynecologist has suggested as preventative medicine to keep her healthy. Does anything about this sound familiar?

Slowly this woman began not quite feeling herself. She was more tired than usual and found herself napping during the day. The whispers of warning were beginning. She began to have dark circles under her eyes and had bouts of constipation and sometimes diarrhea. Her energy level became almost non-existent as the whispers of warning continued. But these symptoms could be caused by any number of things. She thought that maybe for awhile she should take a break from going to the gym. She thought all of these symptoms were just a part of menopause. However, she thought wrong. The whisper was about to turn into a shout.

March 2nd, 2006 is a day she will never forget. She was doubled over in pain, a pain she says was so debilitating that she could not even stand up. Even then she explained it away. She thought it was simply a bad case of gas. The pain was just below her naval extending horizontally across her abdomen. Finally by the following morning the pain remained on her right side and she was very nauseous. She thought it was her appendix and in her mind that was a likely possibility. She went to the emergency room where they did a battery of tests, blood work, CT scan and X-rays. The blood work came back normal but the CT scan came back with what the ER doctor called a cyst. When asked why an ultra-sound wasn’t being performed he responded that it wasn’t necessary because they did a CT scan. However, upon reading the report from the radiologist she discovered it said, “Follow Up By an Ultra-sound”.

The next day she faxed her gynecologist the CT results. A pelvic ultra-sound and a CA-125 blood test, which sometimes indicates cancer was scheduled. The ultra-sound showed a potentially suspicious mass and the CA-125 came back very high. She was told that a reading of 20 was normal for this test. However, her test came back reading 128! As a fury of fear swept over her, an appointment was immediately set with an oncologist.

During the months prior to this, rationalization for all the symptoms was common place for this woman. Always thinking these were all just little things. But they were little things all linked together trying to speak to her with the voice of a whisper. Now with the appointment set to visit the oncologist, fear struck in a very powerful way. Many thoughts ran through her head. What could this “suspicious” mass be? The CA-125 came back 128 instead of the normal 20. It really could be cancer. But this test has also been known to give false positive results. The rationalizing as a mechanism for hopefulness continued but this time when mixed with fear it became a perfect combination for an emotional roller coaster ride. The fear of the unknown can be truly agonizing.

The visit to the oncologist confirmed that she needed surgery to determine the type of mass she had and so she was admitted to the hospital. The surgery was scheduled and soon the unknown would be known. Upon awakening from the anesthesia, she heard what just a few months ago she would never have imagined.

The woman I just described has cancer – Stage III Ovarian Cancer. This woman’s name is Shirley Nicodem. She lives in Boca Raton, Florida. But she could be any woman, living anywhere. She never ever predicted this would happen to her!

The ever quiet whispers of the disease were speaking so softly and so deceptively. Shirley never knew that all the subtle whispers were trying to warn her of something so serious. Now we know that Ovarian Cancer is the cancer that whispers. It speaks to you in the subtle tones of whispers until you can no longer deny its beckoning for your attention. This is the way it entered Shirley’s life and it seems the lives of so many other women.

Shirley’s road thus far has been a difficult one. She underwent a total hysterectomy and the removal of lymph nodes followed by chemotherapy. She has been through the whole gamut of emotions and still at times re-visits them. She was not just afraid when confronted with this disease, she was petrified. Who wouldn’t be? She cries. She wonders why this happened. She feels depressed. These are all perfectly normal reactions to this disease. The easy thing to do is to let those negative emotions and thoughts take up residence in your body along with the cancer. Oh how happy the disease would be to have misery as its company. Although there are those moments of negativity, she finds the strength to push those thoughts aside and focus on how to help others recognize the power in taking seriously the warning of those whispers. Shirley is one woman who is determined to turn the whisper into a shout. Her mission is to take every opportunity to pass the word along. Even from the very start Shirley has been a survivor and determined to remain one she behaves like one. She didn’t wait for an all clear from her doctor to do what she could to get the message out. She knows firsthand the urgent need for the quietness of this cancer to be heard.

The statistics as reported by the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance are alarming. They state that “Ovarian cancer occurs in 1 out of 68 women. About 15,000 out of the 20,000 women diagnosed with the disease die each year. Ovarian cancer, the deadliest of the gynecologic cancers, is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women.”

Shirley has been fortunate to have the love and support of close loved ones and friends who have helped her along this unexpected turn in her life. Support, love and hope for those dealing with cancer are gifts of immeasurable value for survivors. At this time, Shirley has completed her chemotherapy. After her treatment was done, she had another CA-125 blood test done and her reading went down to 55 and currently it is down to 35. But she must continue to have it checked every month. A new CT scan and PET scan were done and 2 cystic lesions have been found on both the left and right pelvic walls. It was decided that next month another CT scan would be done to keep a close eye on the cysts and continue with the scan every 3 months thereafter. The surgeon explained to Shirley that the cancer could likely come back. During her many weeks having chemotherapy, she did meet other women with Stage III cancer that were there because their cancer returned. Some had to have additional surgery as well. Still, Shirley is ecstatic that for right now her tests show encouraging results from her treatment. Each day she remembers that she has today. Each day is a new day to cherish and use in the best way possible. According to her, she believes that “with a positive attitude, prayer, meditation, love and anything that makes her feel calm and centered with this journey in her life” she will beat this. Each day offers new opportunities for her to not only live her life, but help others become aware of the dangers of ignoring their “whispers”.

The similarities between the responses of women who have received the news that they have ovarian cancer are striking. For the most part they are in complete shock when hearing their diagnosis. They fear not knowing what to expect tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. They fear for themselves and the loved ones they may be forced to leave behind. They think of things they never dreamed they would have to face. Prior to discovering that they have the disease, many are a picture of health who faithfully get all their yearly gynecological exams. They thought those exams protected them from this too. This is a disease that strikes without warning – an intruder who sneaks up from behind.

There is a great need for more education and awareness so women will learn to listen to their bodies and know what to listen for. Women need to trust what their bodies may be trying ever so gently to whisper to them. If you feel like your body may be trying to tell you something, tell your doctor. Don’t wait for your doctor to tell you. Currently there is no definitive test to detect ovarian cancer. Many women are under the misconception that a Pap smear will alert them to this kind of cancer. This is not so. Along with a yearly Pap smear, a transvaginal sonography should also be included and a CA-125 blood test done if needed. Doctors do not routinely do a transvaginal sonography unless you have a specific complaint which they feel may warrant it and will meet the insurance company’s criteria. But remember ovarian cancer is the cancer that whispers and often there is nothing to complain to your doctor about until it is too late. Early detection offers the best chance for survival. There is no denying that our physicians are of great value to us but remember Webster’s definition of a whisper – “to speak softly as to be heard by one near at hand”. The whispers are speaking to YOU. You are the one “near at hand”. Learn to pay attention so you will hear your whispers. It is vital that women be an active part of their own healthcare.

Shirley Nicodem is turning her whispers into shouts. She hopes that more people will volunteer to spread the word so that together the volume of the shouts will be so loud it will not be ignored. She hopes that more funds can be raised to benefit this cause. And somehow she hopes that insurance companies can be made to partner this crusade for early detection by paying for transvaginal sonography along with a yearly pap smear. Maybe then many more lives can be saved from this deadly disease.

Although Shirley never expected to be in her current health situation, she hopes that her experience can open the eyes and ears of many women since any woman has the potential to be in her shoes.

Shirley Nicodem

WHISPERS OF WARNING
The whispers of a woman…even a whisper can hurt you!

By Fran Mercede

Whispers although quiet and sometimes unassuming could contain the most powerful messages you will ever hear and hope to listen to. A whisper is defined in Webster’s dictionary in the following way, “to speak so as to be heard only by one near at hand”. This is a story that begins with a whisper. It is the story of a woman whose mission could possibly “Save Your Life”. Let me describe her to you. She may sound familiar. She may be someone you know. She may be your mother or your wife or your aunt or your friend. She may be your daughter. She may even be you.

She is a young 49 year old very active woman in great shape. She exercised 3 times a week for over 2 years. She gets all her yearly female exams – Pap smears, mammograms and everything her gynecologist has suggested as preventative medicine to keep her healthy. Does anything about this sound familiar?

Slowly this woman began not quite feeling herself. She was more tired than usual and found herself napping during the day. The whispers of warning were beginning. She began to have dark circles under her eyes and had bouts of constipation and sometimes diarrhea. Her energy level became almost non-existent as the whispers of warning continued. But these symptoms could be caused by any number of things. She thought that maybe for awhile she should take a break from going to the gym. She thought all of these symptoms were just a part of menopause. However, she thought wrong. The whisper was about to turn into a shout.

March 2nd, 2006 is a day she will never forget. She was doubled over in pain, a pain she says was so debilitating that she could not even stand up. Even then she explained it away. She thought it was simply a bad case of gas. The pain was just below her naval extending horizontally across her abdomen. Finally by the following morning the pain remained on her right side and she was very nauseous. She thought it was her appendix and in her mind that was a likely possibility. She went to the emergency room where they did a battery of tests, blood work, CT scan and X-rays. The blood work came back normal but the CT scan came back with what the ER doctor called a cyst. When asked why an ultra-sound wasn’t being performed he responded that it wasn’t necessary because they did a CT scan. However, upon reading the report from the radiologist she discovered it said, “Follow Up By an Ultra-sound”.

The next day she faxed her gynecologist the CT results. A pelvic ultra-sound and a CA-125 blood test, which sometimes indicates cancer was scheduled. The ultra-sound showed a potentially suspicious mass and the CA-125 came back very high. She was told that a reading of 20 was normal for this test. However, her test came back reading 128! As a fury of fear swept over her, an appointment was immediately set with an oncologist.

During the months prior to this, rationalization for all the symptoms was common place for this woman. Always thinking these were all just little things. But they were little things all linked together trying to speak to her with the voice of a whisper. Now with the appointment set to visit the oncologist, fear struck in a very powerful way. Many thoughts ran through her head. What could this “suspicious” mass be? The CA-125 came back 128 instead of the normal 20. It really could be cancer. But this test has also been known to give false positive results. The rationalizing as a mechanism for hopefulness continued but this time when mixed with fear it became a perfect combination for an emotional roller coaster ride. The fear of the unknown can be truly agonizing.

The visit to the oncologist confirmed that she needed surgery to determine the type of mass she had and so she was admitted to the hospital. The surgery was scheduled and soon the unknown would be known. Upon awakening from the anesthesia, she heard what just a few months ago she would never have imagined.

The woman I just described has cancer – Stage III Ovarian Cancer. This woman’s name is Shirley Nicodem. She lives in Boca Raton, Florida. But she could be any woman, living anywhere. She never ever predicted this would happen to her!

The ever quiet whispers of the disease were speaking so softly and so deceptively. Shirley never knew that all the subtle whispers were trying to warn her of something so serious. Now we know that Ovarian Cancer is the cancer that whispers. It speaks to you in the subtle tones of whispers until you can no longer deny its beckoning for your attention. This is the way it entered Shirley’s life and it seems the lives of so many other women.

Shirley’s road thus far has been a difficult one. She underwent a total hysterectomy and the removal of lymph nodes followed by chemotherapy. She has been through the whole gamut of emotions and still at times re-visits them. She was not just afraid when confronted with this disease, she was petrified. Who wouldn’t be? She cries. She wonders why this happened. She feels depressed. These are all perfectly normal reactions to this disease. The easy thing to do is to let those negative emotions and thoughts take up residence in your body along with the cancer. Oh how happy the disease would be to have misery as its company. Although there are those moments of negativity, she finds the strength to push those thoughts aside and focus on how to help others recognize the power in taking seriously the warning of those whispers. Shirley is one woman who is determined to turn the whisper into a shout. Her mission is to take every opportunity to pass the word along. Even from the very start Shirley has been a survivor and determined to remain one she behaves like one. She didn’t wait for an all clear from her doctor to do what she could to get the message out. She knows firsthand the urgent need for the quietness of this cancer to be heard.

The statistics as reported by the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance are alarming. They state that “Ovarian cancer occurs in 1 out of 68 women. About 15,000 out of the 20,000 women diagnosed with the disease die each year. Ovarian cancer, the deadliest of the gynecologic cancers, is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women.”

Shirley has been fortunate to have the love and support of close loved ones and friends who have helped her along this unexpected turn in her life. Support, love and hope for those dealing with cancer are gifts of immeasurable value for survivors. At this time, Shirley has completed her chemotherapy. After her treatment was done, she had another CA-125 blood test done and her reading went down to 55 and currently it is down to 35. But she must continue to have it checked every month. A new CT scan and PET scan were done and 2 cystic lesions have been found on both the left and right pelvic walls. It was decided that next month another CT scan would be done to keep a close eye on the cysts and continue with the scan every 3 months thereafter. The surgeon explained to Shirley that the cancer could likely come back. During her many weeks having chemotherapy, she did meet other women with Stage III cancer that were there because their cancer returned. Some had to have additional surgery as well. Still, Shirley is ecstatic that for right now her tests show encouraging results from her treatment. Each day she remembers that she has today. Each day is a new day to cherish and use in the best way possible. According to her, she believes that “with a positive attitude, prayer, meditation, love and anything that makes her feel calm and centered with this journey in her life” she will beat this. Each day offers new opportunities for her to not only live her life, but help others become aware of the dangers of ignoring their “whispers”.

The similarities between the responses of women who have received the news that they have ovarian cancer are striking. For the most part they are in complete shock when hearing their diagnosis. They fear not knowing what to expect tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. They fear for themselves and the loved ones they may be forced to leave behind. They think of things they never dreamed they would have to face. Prior to discovering that they have the disease, many are a picture of health who faithfully get all their yearly gynecological exams. They thought those exams protected them from this too. This is a disease that strikes without warning – an intruder who sneaks up from behind.

There is a great need for more education and awareness so women will learn to listen to their bodies and know what to listen for. Women need to trust what their bodies may be trying ever so gently to whisper to them. If you feel like your body may be trying to tell you something, tell your doctor. Don’t wait for your doctor to tell you. Currently there is no definitive test to detect ovarian cancer. Many women are under the misconception that a Pap smear will alert them to this kind of cancer. This is not so. Along with a yearly Pap smear, a transvaginal sonography should also be included and a CA-125 blood test done if needed. Doctors do not routinely do a transvaginal sonography unless you have a specific complaint which they feel may warrant it and will meet the insurance company’s criteria. But remember ovarian cancer is the cancer that whispers and often there is nothing to complain to your doctor about until it is too late. Early detection offers the best chance for survival. There is no denying that our physicians are of great value to us but remember Webster’s definition of a whisper – “to speak softly as to be heard by one near at hand”. The whispers are speaking to YOU. You are the one “near at hand”. Learn to pay attention so you will hear your whispers. It is vital that women be an active part of their own healthcare.

Shirley Nicodem is turning her whispers into shouts. She hopes that more people will volunteer to spread the word so that together the volume of the shouts will be so loud it will not be ignored. She hopes that more funds can be raised to benefit this cause. And somehow she hopes that insurance companies can be made to partner this crusade for early detection by paying for transvaginal sonography along with a yearly pap smear. Maybe then many more lives can be saved from this deadly disease.

Although Shirley never expected to be in her current health situation, she hopes that her experience can open the eyes and ears of many women since any woman has the potential to be in her shoes.

Gisella Toso

I found out I had ovarian cancer stage III-B due to a stomachache. As many of other patients it got me by surprise. I was glad Dr. Gino Venegas removed the tumor and performed a marvelous surgery and after all the chemotherapy now I am in remission. I used to go regularly to my medical checkups but never occurred to me before to make an appointment with an oncologist. It makes such a big difference, the exams of a gynecology oncologist include a lot of major aspects and that is what you always need to keep in mind. Always search for a gynecologic oncologist remember prevention is key to save your life and most of the times we find out about this silent disease too late.
Do not stop fighting, keep the faith, be strong. My family gives me strength. I feel grateful for every day I can live close to my family. I pray to see my son become an adult and to
Do not forget to continue with your medical checkups, I know they are stressful and you get really tired but they are the only way to make sure you can continue healthy.
Try to stay positive do not let any negative feelings get in your mind, if you need to cry do it, do not hold your feelings, let everything out and then continue fighting. Remember that you are warrior and nothing can defeat you!
Remember that everything will pass, time really flies so don’t worry it will be just a nightmare and you will wake up with the new opportunity to fulfill your dreams, to complete everything you want to and to live your life with your love ones!
I thank my husband, my son, my parents, my entire family for all their love. Love really makes us strong!

Gisella Toso

I found out I had ovarian cancer stage III-B due to a stomachache. As many of other patients it got me by surprise. I was glad Dr. Gino Venegas removed the tumor and performed a marvelous surgery and after all the chemotherapy now I am in remission. I used to go regularly to my medical checkups but never occurred to me before to make an appointment with an oncologist. It makes such a big difference, the exams of a gynecology oncologist include a lot of major aspects and that is what you always need to keep in mind. Always search for a gynecologic oncologist remember prevention is key to save your life and most of the times we find out about this silent disease too late.
Do not stop fighting, keep the faith, be strong. My family gives me strength. I feel grateful for every day I can live close to my family. I pray to see my son become an adult and to
Do not forget to continue with your medical checkups, I know they are stressful and you get really tired but they are the only way to make sure you can continue healthy.
Try to stay positive do not let any negative feelings get in your mind, if you need to cry do it, do not hold your feelings, let everything out and then continue fighting. Remember that you are warrior and nothing can defeat you!
Remember that everything will pass, time really flies so don’t worry it will be just a nightmare and you will wake up with the new opportunity to fulfill your dreams, to complete everything you want to and to live your life with your love ones!
I thank my husband, my son, my parents, my entire family for all their love. Love really makes us strong!

Emma Rutledge

Strong beautiful survivor since 6/02/17 malignant immature teratoma Stage 1C grade 2 * observation only! No chemo! Graduating college soon! 🙂

Emma Rutledge

Strong and beautiful Survivor since 6/02/17 malignant immature teratoma stage 1C grade 2 * observation only, no chemo. Graduating college soon! 🙂

Emma Rutledge

Strong and beautiful Survivor since 6/02/17 malignant immature teratoma stage 1C grade 2 * observation only, no chemo. Graduating college soon! 🙂

Emma Rutledge

Strong and beautiful Survivor since 6/02/17 malignant immature teratoma stage 1C grade 2 * observation only, no chemo. Graduating college soon! 🙂

Karen Flood

I’m an MRI Technologist. My job is by definition to side in the diagnosis of disease. Ovarian cancer is so sneaky, it caught me by surprise. Without my daughter, I could be telling a story with a very different outcome. One day I had right sides pain and volunteered to have a quick MRI scan to test some equipment for use on patients. My coworker said, you should get that cyst on your ovary checked. I looked at it and dismissed it as a follicular cyst and attributed the pain to ovulation. A couple months later, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Countless ultrasounds and a very tiring but otherwise uneventful pregnancy later, on April fools day no less, my daughter Bryleigh was born. Her delivery however, was eventful. I’m grateful everyday that it was. After being as almost fully dilated and gearing up to push, my Dr felt a little foot where a head should’ve been. My daughter had completely flipped sideways. After many doctors carefully weighed their options, they decided to try and flip her back. Her sideways position was not ideal for vaginal or a c-section birth. She budged a little but she eventually won and I needed a c-section. My ob discovered a mass and sent it for testing without telling me to let me enjoy my newest daughter. When she was 7 days old however, I received my cancer diagnosis. 3 years later I’m still NED. I had no symptoms, no signs, I even laid my trained eyes on it. My ob/gyn didn’t expect the malignant results, she also thought it was a cyst. I was able to conceive my miracle baby with it. I was 34 with a week old baby and a cancer diagnosis.

Karen Flood

I’m an MRI Technologist. My job is by definition to side in the diagnosis of disease. Ovarian cancer is so sneaky, it caught me by surprise. Without my daughter, I could be telling a story with a very different outcome. One day I had right sides pain and volunteered to have a quick MRI scan to test some equipment for use on patients. My coworker said, you should get that cyst on your ovary checked. I looked at it and dismissed it as a follicular cyst and attributed the pain to ovulation. A couple months later, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Countless ultrasounds and a very tiring but otherwise uneventful pregnancy later, on April fools day no less, my daughter Bryleigh was born. Her delivery however, was eventful. I’m grateful everyday that it was. After being as almost fully dilated and gearing up to push, my Dr felt a little foot where a head should’ve been. My daughter had completely flipped sideways. After many doctors carefully weighed their options, they decided to try and flip her back. Her sideways position was not ideal for vaginal or a c-section birth. She budged a little but she eventually won and I needed a c-section. My ob discovered a mass and sent it for testing without telling me to let me enjoy my newest daughter. When she was 7 days old however, I received my cancer diagnosis. 3 years later I’m still NED. I had no symptoms, no signs, I even laid my trained eyes on it. My ob/gyn didn’t expect the malignant results, she also thought it was a cyst. I was able to conceive my miracle baby with it. I was 34 with a week old baby and a cancer diagnosis.

Karen Flood

I’m an MRI Technologist. My job is by definition to side in the diagnosis of disease. Ovarian cancer is so sneaky, it caught me by surprise. Without my daughter, I could be telling a story with a very different outcome. One day I had right sides pain and volunteered to have a quick MRI scan to test some equipment for use on patients. My coworker said, you should get that cyst on your ovary checked. I looked at it and dismissed it as a follicular cyst and attributed the pain to ovulation. A couple months later, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Countless ultrasounds and a very tiring but otherwise uneventful pregnancy later, on April fools day no less, my daughter Bryleigh was born. Her delivery however, was eventful. I’m grateful everyday that it was. After being as almost fully dilated and gearing up to push, my Dr felt a little foot where a head should’ve been. My daughter had completely flipped sideways. After many doctors carefully weighed their options, they decided to try and flip her back. Her sideways position was not ideal for vaginal or a c-section birth. She budged a little but she eventually won and I needed a c-section. My ob discovered a mass and sent it for testing without telling me to let me enjoy my newest daughter. When she was 7 days old however, I received my cancer diagnosis. 3 years later I’m still NED. I had no symptoms, no signs, I even laid my trained eyes on it. My ob/gyn didn’t expect the malignant results, she also thought it was a cyst. I was able to conceive my miracle baby with it. I was 34 with a week old baby and a cancer diagnosis.

Karen Flood

I’m an MRI Technologist. My job is by definition to side in the diagnosis of disease. Ovarian cancer is so sneaky, it caught me by surprise. Without my daughter, I could be telling a story with a very different outcome. One day I had right sides pain and volunteered to have a quick MRI scan to test some equipment for use on patients. My coworker said, you should get that cyst on your ovary checked. I looked at it and dismissed it as a follicular cyst and attributed the pain to ovulation. A couple months later, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Countless ultrasounds and a very tiring but otherwise uneventful pregnancy later, on April fools day no less, my daughter Bryleigh was born. Her delivery however, was eventful. I’m grateful everyday that it was. After being as almost fully dilated and gearing up to push, my Dr felt a little foot where a head should’ve been. My daughter had completely flipped sideways. After many doctors carefully weighed their options, they decided to try and flip her back. Her sideways position was not ideal for vaginal or a c-section birth. She budged a little but she eventually won and I needed a c-section. My ob discovered a mass and sent it for testing without telling me to let me enjoy my newest daughter. When she was 7 days old however, I received my cancer diagnosis. 3 years later I’m still NED. I had no symptoms, no signs, I even laid my trained eyes on it. My ob/gyn didn’t expect the malignant results, she also thought it was a cyst. I was able to conceive my miracle baby with it. I was 34 with a week old baby and a cancer diagnosis.

Karen Flood

I’m an MRI Technologist. My job is by definition to side in the diagnosis of disease. Ovarian cancer is so sneaky, it caught me by surprise. Without my daughter, I could be telling a story with a very different outcome. One day I had right sides pain and volunteered to have a quick MRI scan to test some equipment for use on patients. My coworker said, you should get that cyst on your ovary checked. I looked at it and dismissed it as a follicular cyst and attributed the pain to ovulation. A couple months later, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Countless ultrasounds and a very tiring but otherwise uneventful pregnancy later, on April fools day no less, my daughter Bryleigh was born. Her delivery however, was eventful. I’m grateful everyday that it was. After being as almost fully dilated and gearing up to push, my Dr felt a little foot where a head should’ve been. My daughter had completely flipped sideways. After many doctors carefully weighed their options, they decided to try and flip her back. Her sideways position was not ideal for vaginal or a c-section birth. She budged a little but she eventually won and I needed a c-section. My ob discovered a mass and sent it for testing without telling me to let me enjoy my newest daughter. When she was 7 days old however, I received my cancer diagnosis. 3 years later I’m still NED. I had no symptoms, no signs, I even laid my trained eyes on it. My ob/gyn didn’t expect the malignant results, she also thought it was a cyst. I was able to conceive my miracle baby with it. I was 34 with a week old baby and a cancer diagnosis.

Karen Flood

I’m an MRI Technologist. My job is by definition to side in the diagnosis of disease. Ovarian cancer is so sneaky, it caught me by surprise. Without my daughter, I could be telling a story with a very different outcome. One day I had right sides pain and volunteered to have a quick MRI scan to test some equipment for use on patients. My coworker said, you should get that cyst on your ovary checked. I looked at it and dismissed it as a follicular cyst and attributed the pain to ovulation. A couple months later, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Countless ultrasounds and a very tiring but otherwise uneventful pregnancy later, on April fools day no less, my daughter Bryleigh was born. Her delivery however, was eventful. I’m grateful everyday that it was. After being as almost fully dilated and gearing up to push, my Dr felt a little foot where a head should’ve been. My daughter had completely flipped sideways. After many doctors carefully weighed their options, they decided to try and flip her back. Her sideways position was not ideal for vaginal or a c-section birth. She budged a little but she eventually won and I needed a c-section. My ob discovered a mass and sent it for testing without telling me to let me enjoy my newest daughter. When she was 7 days old however, I received my cancer diagnosis. 3 years later I’m still NED. I had no symptoms, no signs, I even laid my trained eyes on it. My ob/gyn didn’t expect the malignant results, she also thought it was a cyst. I was able to conceive my miracle baby with it. I was 34 with a week old baby and a cancer diagnosis.

Karen Flood

I’m an MRI Technologist. My job is by definition to side in the diagnosis of disease. Ovarian cancer is so sneaky, it caught me by surprise. Without my daughter, I could be telling a story with a very different outcome. One day I had right sides pain and volunteered to have a quick MRI scan to test some equipment for use on patients. My coworker said, you should get that cyst on your ovary checked. I looked at it and dismissed it as a follicular cyst and attributed the pain to ovulation. A couple months later, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Countless ultrasounds and a very tiring but otherwise uneventful pregnancy later, on April fools day no less, my daughter Bryleigh was born. Her delivery however, was eventful. I’m grateful everyday that it was. After being as almost fully dilated and gearing up to push, my Dr felt a little foot where a head should’ve been. My daughter had completely flipped sideways. After many doctors carefully weighed their options, they decided to try and flip her back. Her sideways position was not ideal for vaginal or a c-section birth. She budged a little but she eventually won and I needed a c-section. My ob discovered a mass and sent it for testing without telling me to let me enjoy my newest daughter. When she was 7 days old however, I received my cancer diagnosis. 3 years later I’m still NED. I had no symptoms, no signs, I even laid my trained eyes on it. My ob/gyn didn’t expect the malignant results, she also thought it was a cyst. I was able to conceive my miracle baby with it. I was 34 with a week old baby and a cancer diagnosis.

Janice Montgomery

I go for my yearly checks and in June of 2016, my Dr. felt a mass on my right ovary. I had surgery and the mass on the right ovary was a benign cyst, but my left ovary, which was enlarged ended up being a Granulosa cell tumor. I’m grateful that i went yearly for checkups. I had no symptoms, the tumor was four centimeters. I’d advise everyone to go for checks, I was 62 when diagnosed and I go every three months for blood tests.

Mary Flaum

well, i have large ovarian tumors. and im not sure whether i have cancer or not. i havent slept in 2 years. please assist. what medicine is there for me to reduce my tumors. thanks so much. please email.

Hope

I was 40 when I discovered there was a thing called ovarian cancer. I never heard of it. If I had it was in a way I didn’t remember. No one talked to me about it. No one had a presentation on it in school, at work, or at church. I was unaware to the signs and symptoms of the deadly disease.

But it was ovarian cancer that invaded my body back in 2011. The bloating, which ended up being eight liters of fluid in my abdome. The lack of appetite. The feeling full after eating so little. The diarrhea. The urgent need to urinate. All signs and symptoms that I simply knew nothing about.

Once the surgery was completed I was staged at 3c. I completed intensive chemotherapy for around five months. Without a doubt, those months were hard. If not through the strength from God and all the support from friends, family, and even from strangers I’m not really sure if I’d be here today.

But today is where I am at. I’ve made it past five years. In fact, this month makes six years since my last chemo treatment.

Yes, I’m very grateful to be alive. But more than half that are diagnosed can’t say the same. Because they die. And that’s why I share my story.

That’s why I join on this day and every day to spread ovarian cancer awareness.

So no woman out there has to be caught by suprise about a cancer they’ve never heard about.

I am only one. But I’m joined by many.
Those that have lived through it, like me, and those that have lost someone to this horrible disease.

Let us never stop. Stop sharing our stories. For by sharing we are helping to save lives.

Hope

I was 40 when I discovered there was a thing called ovarian cancer. I never heard of it. If I had it was in a way I didn’t remember. No one talked to me about it. No one had a presentation on it in school, at work, or at church. I was unaware to the signs and symptoms of the deadly disease.

But it was ovarian cancer that invaded my body back in 2011. The bloating, which ended up being eight liters of fluid in my abdome. The lack of appetite. The feeling full after eating so little. The diarrhea. The urgent need to urinate. All signs and symptoms that I simply knew nothing about.

Once the surgery was completed I was staged at 3c. I completed intensive chemotherapy for around five months. Without a doubt, those months were hard. If not through the strength from God and all the support from friends, family, and even from strangers I’m not really sure if I’d be here today.

But today is where I am at. I’ve made it past five years. In fact, this month makes six years since my last chemo treatment.

Yes, I’m very grateful to be alive. But more than half that are diagnosed can’t say the same. Because they die. And that’s why I share my story.

That’s why I join on this day and every day to spread ovarian cancer awareness.

So no woman out there has to be caught by suprise about a cancer they’ve never heard about.

I am only one. But I’m joined by many.
Those that have lived through it, like me, and those that have lost someone to this horrible disease.

Let us never stop. Stop sharing our stories. For by sharing we are helping to save lives.

Hope

At age 40 I was told something thst

Alicia

My name is Elías Benveniste. In the early of 2000, at 44, my wife, Alicia started to feel back pain. The x-rays did not show any illness. One month Later, she started having severe
abdominal pain. The studies and blood tests gave “strange” results, inexplicable for doctors.

There was no reason to go to the gynecologist. The most exact diagnosis was “irritable colon with fatty liver”. I didn´t trust in it. Alicia was feeling so tired and had pain, I took her to the clinic, and demanded a clear and precise diagnosis.

After an hour, the doctor informed us that Alicia had ovarian cancer with liver metastases. Upon hearing the diagnosis, she promised herself to comply with the chemotherapy, fight
against the disease, and recover to help other women to cope with their cancer. She didn´t know that she had few months of live. After many chemotherapy sessions and hospital visits,
on August 5, 2000 she stopped suffering.

Alicia was a strong and wonderful woman, wife, good idishe mother and a very dear woman among her friends and family. I was told that “Alicia gave in her short life what others do not
give in many years”. I started to seek information about this disease, to create a new group to inform about ovarian cancer symptoms and risk factor.

Most of women still think the Papanicolau test (Pap test) can detect ovarian cancer. So, education is very, very important. In 2010, I published the first website in Spanish with
ovarian cancer information, receiving 50,000 visits from Spanish-speaking people from all the world, and 400 emails with testimonies.

With my sons, we founded ACILCO in 2013, the 1st civil association in Argentina to raise awareness about ovarian cancer, not only for women, but for men who love their wives,
mothers and daughters. The wound I have, due Alicia’s death, is visible, but it’s closed. The wound caused by her terrible and unjust suffering will continue to bleed forever.

Lynn MacArthur

At the very end of January 2015 I started vomiting and went to my local ER where they preformed a CAT scan on me.They found a 14 cm. mass on my right ovary.I Seeked out an OB/GYN oncologist and she told me if it turned out to be cancer I’d have to have a total hysterectomy.Well she went in and found a marble size cancer.I still needed to go thru chemo because it was in my lymph nodes.I am also a diabetic and didn’t heal well so I wound up getting suture retainer stitches after my debulking surgery so I was down for the count for quite a while.

Lynn MacArthur

At the very end of January 2015 I started vomiting and went to my local ER where they preformed a CAT scan on me.They found a 14 cm. mass on my right ovary.I Seeked out an OB/GYN oncologist and she told me if it turned out to be cancer I’d have to have a total hysterectomy.Well she went in and found a marble size cancer.I still needed to go thru chemo because it was in my lymph nodes.I am also a diabetic and didn’t heal well so I wound up getting suture retainer stitches after my debulking surgery so I was down for the count for quite a while. After having a visiting nurse daily for about 2 months and wearing a wound vac, I finally healed and was ready to start my chemo.
I went to get my port inserted and then began my 16 rounds of carbo/taxol chemo.I was very lucky as the chemo had hardly any side affects on me.No nausea or vomiting.I then went back to work in about the 10th round of chemo.suprizing I was able to maintain my job while doing the treatments as I do heavy work as a housekeeper.
Today it’s been about 4 years and I remain NED but thru the grace of God.I hope my story inspires others to have hope and faith in their journey.

Lynn MacArthur

At the very end of January 2015 I started vomiting and went to my local ER where they preformed a CAT scan on me.They found a 14 cm. mass on my right ovary.I Seeked out an OB/GYN oncologist and she told me if it turned out to be cancer I’d have to have a total hysterectomy.Well she went in and found a marble size cancer.I still needed to go thru chemo because it was in my lymph nodes.I am also a diabetic and didn’t heal well so I wound up getting suture retainer stitches after my debulking surgery so I was down for the count for quite a while. After having a visiting nurse daily for about 2 months and wearing a wound vac, I finally healed and was ready to start my chemo.
I went to get my port inserted and then began my 16 rounds of carbo/taxol chemo.I was very lucky as the chemo had hardly any side affects on me.No nausea or vomiting.I then went back to work in about the 10th round of chemo.suprizing I was able to maintain my job while doing the treatments as I do heavy work as a housekeeper.
Today it’s been about 4 years and I remain NED but thru the grace of God.I hope my story inspires others to have hope and faith in their journey.

Lynn MacArthur

At the very end of January 2015 I started vomiting and went to my local ER where they preformed a CAT scan on me.They found a 14 cm. mass on my right ovary.I Seeked out an OB/GYN oncologist and she told me if it turned out to be cancer I’d have to have a total hysterectomy.Well she went in and found a marble size cancer.I still needed to go thru chemo because it was in my lymph nodes.I am also a diabetic and didn’t heal well so I wound up getting suture retainer stitches after my debulking surgery so I was down for the count for quite a while. After having a visiting nurse daily for about 2 months and wearing a wound vac, I finally healed and was ready to start my chemo.
I went to get my port inserted and then began my 16 rounds of carbo/taxol chemo.I was very lucky as the chemo had hardly any side affects on me.No nausea or vomiting.I then went back to work in about the 10th round of chemo.suprizing I was able to maintain my job while doing the treatments as I do heavy work as a housekeeper.
Today it’s been about 4 years and I remain NED but thru the grace of God.I hope my story inspires others to have hope and faith in their journey.

Lynn MacArthur

At the very end of January 2015 I started vomiting and went to my local ER where they preformed a CAT scan on me.They found a 14 cm. mass on my right ovary.I Seeked out an OB/GYN oncologist and she told me if it turned out to be cancer I’d have to have a total hysterectomy.Well she went in and found a marble size cancer.I still needed to go thru chemo because it was in my lymph nodes.I am also a diabetic and didn’t heal well so I wound up getting suture retainer stitches after my debulking surgery so I was down for the count for quite a while. After having a visiting nurse daily for about 2 months and wearing a wound vac, I finally healed and was ready to start my chemo.
I went to get my port inserted and then began my 16 rounds of carbo/taxol chemo.I was very lucky as the chemo had hardly any side affects on me.No nausea or vomiting.I then went back to work in about the 10th round of chemo.suprizing I was able to maintain my job while doing the treatments as I do heavy work as a housekeeper.
Today it’s been about 4 years and I remain NED but thru the grace of God.I hope my story inspires others to have hope and faith in their journey.

Norma Dowell

“There’s something wrong.”
In January of 2015, Kathy, my partner and spouse of 12 years uttered those words to me. She said it felt as though she was pregnant again, but at age 59, should have been going through menopause. She called a reputable OBGYN in the town we live in, but could not get in until June. We waited, thinking there was not anything to worry about.
Blood tests showed elevated levels of estrogen. An ultrasound revealed an ovary the size of a softball. Just after her 60th birthday, she had a hysterectomy. Within five months, the cancer had returned and invaded her lymph system. The beginning of 2016 was chemo and radiation. In July that year, we hoped it was finally conquered. It came back with a vengeance in October, had spread to her lungs and essentially suffocated her. Kathleen Ann Kriegler died on December 3, 2016 of Stage 1c3 Granulosa Cell Carcinoma of the ovary, one of the rarest ovarian cancers known.
As a caregiver, the trauma of watching a person you love gasp for air and die in front of you while you know darned well her mind was still sharp was one of the hardest things I have ever witnessed. My advice is to be insistent. When something doesn’t feel right, get tested. If you decide to take hormones to have that baby, consider a hysterectomy when you are done having children sooner rather than later. Watch the signs and listen to your body. Be a hypochondriac when it comes to your health and change doctors if they poo-poo anything as gas or something that can wait.
The person I love who said she would live to 100 lost 39 years to this disease.

Tara Coyle

Hi my name is Tara im 47 yrs old ,i live in Ireland with my husband (my rock) my 2 daughters.Well last April 2017 i start having pain back i,rregular bleeding, constipation also my left side of stomach had become swollen.Im regular member of gym eat healthy , ended up in hospital for check up to see what all the pain was about, called in usual bliod tests done doc said inflammation quite high, ask had i lost weight lost of appeitte which i laughed at order a ultrasound.Name was called went for ultrasound i just knew something was wrong, asked lady was everything ok of course she said yes fine, so eventually when i came out my husband asked myself are u ok you were long in there , to which i reply theres something wrong.So we went back down to get results i hear word mass looked at my husband’s face grey at this stage i panic let me out of this room .So transfer to Mater hospital in Dublin full hysterecomy including appendix removed 17th of may 2017 .Week later went home had to wait on results anyway got results stage 1 ovarian cancer byt as cyst had burst my team were afraid that cells could had escaped so best option was 6mths of chemo.Got through it ok with my fantastic network of family friends,neighbours finished 29th dec 2017 so scan in jan bk to the oncologist scan was clear i cried my eyes out looked at my husband smile on his face said it all cant thank the staff of Mater hospital enough.Just a note my gut knew there was something wrong early dection is key .Im doing great now thank god ❤❤

Tara Coyle

Hi my name is Tara im 47 yrs old ,i live in Ireland with my husband (my rock) my 2 daughters.Well last April 2017 i start having pain back i,rregular bleeding, constipation also my left side of stomach had become swollen.Im regular member of gym eat healthy , ended up in hospital for check up to see what all the pain was about, called in usual bliod tests done doc said inflammation quite high, ask had i lost weight lost of appeitte which i laughed at order a ultrasound.Name was called went for ultrasound i just knew something was wrong, asked lady was everything ok of course she said yes fine, so eventually when i came out my husband asked myself are u ok you were long in there , to which i reply theres something wrong.So we went back down to get results i hear word mass looked at my husband’s face grey at this stage i panic let me out of this room .So transfer to Mater hospital in Dublin full hysterecomy including appendix removed 17th of may 2017 .Week later went home had to wait on results anyway got results stage 1 ovarian cancer byt as cyst had burst my team were afraid that cells could had escaped so best option was 6mths of chemo.Got through it ok with my fantastic network of family friends,neighbours finished 29th dec 2017 so scan in jan bk to the oncologist scan was clear i cried my eyes out looked at my husband smile on his face said it all cant thank the staff of Mater hospital enough.Just a note my gut knew there was something wrong early dection is key .Im doing great now thank god ❤❤

Cassandra Lembo-Sheridan

My husband and I were excited for me to start coming off of my daily migraine medication because we really wanted to start a family. I just turned 29. I noticed that although I had been actively trying to lose weight my stomach was expanding, getting harder, and I didn’t feel well most of the time. Eating made me nauseous, laying on my stomach made me nauseous, I couldn’t hold anything in. I had complained about a hard bump in my stomach months and months ago. I went and visited a new gynecologist and received a clean bill of health. Time goes by and I get this nagging, aching pain in my side that travels into my back. I start not being able to sleep on it. I was diagnosed with IBS, gastritis, PMS, migraines. They scheduled me for an ultrasound and I found out while I was driving home that they found a 28cm mucinous cyst on my right ovary.

On August 18th I had a laparotomy to remove the mass, ovary, fallopian tube, appendix, and omentum. My surgeon, the nurses, my doctor, and all the staff were amazing. I recovered with the support of my husband, family, and friends. I had my results in two weeks and was Stage 1A. I needed no further treatment but check-ups. I was overcome with relief, confusion, happiness, and still fear.I still struggle before every check-up. My husband has borne the brunt of this anxiety and fear with a lot of grace. He’s my caregiver in the best and worst times, he did not move from my side for 3 nights in the hospital. I am beyond blessed to be typing this today and advocating for early detection.

Cassandra Lembo-Sheridan

My husband and I were excited for me to start coming off of my daily migraine medication because we really wanted to start a family. I just turned 29. I noticed that although I had been actively trying to lose weight my stomach was expanding, getting harder, and I didn’t feel well most of the time. Eating made me nauseous, laying on my stomach made me nauseous, I couldn’t hold anything in. I had complained about a hard bump in my stomach months and months ago. I went and visited a new gynecologist and received a clean bill of health. Time goes by and I get this nagging, aching pain in my side that travels into my back. I start not being able to sleep on it. I was diagnosed with IBS, gastritis, PMS, migraines. They scheduled me for an ultrasound and I found out while I was driving home that they found a 28cm mucinous cyst on my right ovary.

On August 18th I had a laparotomy to remove the mass, ovary, fallopian tube, appendix, and omentum. My surgeon, the nurses, my doctor, and all the staff were amazing. I recovered with the support of my husband, family, and friends. I had my results in two weeks and was Stage 1A. I needed no further treatment but check-ups. I was overcome with relief, confusion, happiness, and still fear.I still struggle before every check-up. My husband has borne the brunt of this anxiety and fear with a lot of grace. He’s my caregiver in the best and worst times, he did not move from my side for 3 nights in the hospital. I am beyond blessed to be typing this today and advocating for early detection.

Cassandra Lembo-Sheridan

My husband and I were excited for me to start coming off of my daily migraine medication because we really wanted to start a family. I just turned 29. I noticed that although I had been actively trying to lose weight my stomach was expanding, getting harder, and I didn’t feel well most of the time. Eating made me nauseous, laying on my stomach made me nauseous, I couldn’t hold anything in. I had complained about a hard bump in my stomach months and months ago. I went and visited a new gynecologist and received a clean bill of health. Time goes by and I get this nagging, aching pain in my side that travels into my back. I start not being able to sleep on it. I was diagnosed with IBS, gastritis, PMS, migraines. They scheduled me for an ultrasound and I found out while I was driving home that they found a 28cm mucinous cyst on my right ovary.

On August 18th I had a laparotomy to remove the mass, ovary, fallopian tube, appendix, and omentum. My surgeon, the nurses, my doctor, and all the staff were amazing. I recovered with the support of my husband, family, and friends. I had my results in two weeks and was Stage 1A. I needed no further treatment but check-ups. I was overcome with relief, confusion, happiness, and still fear.I still struggle before every check-up. My husband has borne the brunt of this anxiety and fear with a lot of grace. He’s my caregiver in the best and worst times, he did not move from my side for 3 nights in the hospital. I am beyond blessed to be typing this today and advocating for early detection.

Karen Sullivan

I was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer in 2014, at the age of 49. My daughter, Sara was 27. I had a radical hysterectomy followed with chemo therapy. We have a strong faith in God! Lots of prayers & love outpoured from family & friends. I’m now battling my 3rd reoccurrence…I’m fighting fiercely & on my knees praying.
There are days when I’m overwhelmed & that’s ok…but I don’t let myself stay there. I get up & face the challenges of each & everyday.
My daughter Sara is simply amazing! She is my best friend & biggest supporter. She brings me a joy like none other ❤️
So I carry on…rocking that TEAL & fighting strong 💪.

For I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me
Philippians 4 : 13

Virginia

I am now a stage III Ovarian Cancer Survivor since April 8, 2011. The most important advice that I give to women: tell your gynecologist that you request both trans-abdominal and trans-vaginal ultrasounds to look at the whole pelvic area. Ask for a copy of the radiologist report. I didn’t have this copy until 4 years later when my doctor was closing her practice. I had never missed my yearly female exam. I complained to my doctor about a painful knot in my pelvic area and pain down my leg. My gynecologist never told me the results from this test. A nurse told me over the phone; “Oh, it’s fine. Results show fibroids. See you for your next yearly exam”. I should have had a follow-up pelvic CT scan without delay. In fact, this pelvic ultrasound done 5/6/2010 showed a pelvic mass 9 cm diameter. I was in so much pain. My niece convinced me to go back to my doctor. On 3/7/2011, I returned to my doctor. This ultrasound showed the mass 13.4 cm. MY STORY At age 51, I was a divorced, single mother of two adult married sons. I arranged for short-term 6-week leave from work. My plans were to recover at my mother’s house and return to driving, to my apartment, job, church, dog, and generally resume my lifestyle. I would have a complete hysterectomy. On 4/8/2011 I was taken back for a 3 hour surgery. During my 6+ hour surgery, my family were taken into a small room where my doctor told them, I would most likely not survive surgery. I woke up in ICU, my two sons stood over me while my doctor explained that I had cancer. There were two other surgeons that had also operated on me. The tumor stuck to my colon, pushed one of my kidneys closed. Nine inches of my colon was removed, stint placed into my kidney, & a bladder catheter. Sometime after midnight, I woke up and began trying to make sense of what had happened to me. The nurse allowed my sister to come talk to me. As I looked at the outline of my sister beside me, I told her: “We have to pray.” I began to pray aloud. The Holy Spirit circled the room; it was a beautiful feeling. As I prayed, I praised God for saving my life, for keeping me alive. I was in and out of the hospital, had chemo and lost my hair. I never worked again and was placed on disability. I ended up having 6 more surgeries. I was able to move into an apartment in March 2012. I have been in remission since June 2014. I still have IV Chest Port. I go to the Cancer Center every 6 weeks and have yearly scans.

Vanda Serrano

Há 8 anos atrás, com 42 anos fui diagnosticada com adenocarcinoma bilateral de ovário com alto grau de malignidade, evasivo e com metástases, grau III C. Fui operada, fiz 6 ciclos de quimioterapia, tive uma recidiva e fiz mais 4 ciclos. Sempre fui muito saudável sem doenças graves e receber um diagnóstico de um cancro ao qual estatisticamente não iremos sobreviver faz a nossa vida dar uma volta de 360 graus, de repente o nosso mundo desaba, pomos tudo e nada em causa…e depois é ir à luta…uma luta que eu sempre disse que ia conseguir vencer..,..o segredo é viver um dia de cada vez, com muita serenidade, sem stresses, aprender a conhecer o nosso corpo…o mais complicado são os tratamentos de quimioterapia, muto agressivos…nessa altura eu tive a plena consciência de que seria fácil morrer…era só desistir…mas issa consciência deu me mais garra, um maior conhecimento dos meus limites…aprendi a conhecer o meu corpo e os sinais que ele nos dá. Atualmente sou voluntária do grupo de apoio de Faro da Liga Portuguesa Contra o Cancro, ajudo outras mulheres com cancro de ovário tento fazer lhes ver que há a vida pós cancro e a viver a vida com intensidade e acima de tudo a ser feliz

Renae Ferguson Bufford

I was married for only one year; and only 32 years old when I began to gain weight in my tummy. I never had a tummy and many thought I was expecting since I was a newly wed. But I knew I was not pregnant; so I began jogging and working out harder trying to get rid of the extra tummy and not realizing it was a cyst growing rapidly. My mother encoraged me to go and see a doctor. Once I visited the gynecologist and had a pelvic ultrasound performed….I was told I needed to quickly remove the ovarian cyst that was rapidly growing. Further CA 125 blood work was also performed and the test was negative; I thought this was good news. I was also told my chance of having cancer was very slim given my young age. But once I sat before the doctor, he informed me that in order for him to.operate I still had to sign papers to indicate that if he found cancer while operating he would be allowed to perform a complete hysterectomy. This of course was one of the most difficult decisions for me to make having been a newly wed and desiring kids.
Nonetheless I signed the documents with much trepidation and tears; the operation was performed, and cancer was discovered on the left ovary where the huge cyst was.
Prior to operation on the table, my strong faith and belief in God, allowed me to express to my doctor that I really desired to keep my right ovary no matter what he discovered while operating. When I awoke I realized that indeed I did have ovarian cancer stage 1B. I was also informed that once they discovered that I had cancer…..an oncologist was called in to further assess my internal condition by performing an additional operation removing some tissues, nkn life threatening organs and small pieces of other major organs in proximity to my ovary to determine the severity.

I was fortunate to research and also listen to the symptoms within my body that I caught this in the early stages. Because I can say today that the doctors determined that they would not remove my right ovary based on my STRONG FAITH and request… Today I have two little boys (9 and 7 years old).
It has been 16 years and counting. And I am still walking around rejoicing of God’s goodness and his favor. I give Him all the praise and encourage women everywhere to get tested early. Please listen to their bodies and trust that small inner voice in your head thats telling you something could be wrong. It usually doesn’t lead you wrong. Early diagnosis does save lives. I am a living witness of this and my strong faith in God. I still get periodic pelvic ultrasounds but my doctors have declared me ovarian cancer free 10 years ago.

Renae Ferguson Bufford

I was married for only one year; and only 32 years old when I began to gain weight in my tummy. I never had a tummy and many thought I was expecting since I was a newly wed. But I knew I was not pregnant; so I began jogging and working out harder trying to get rid of the extra tummy and not realizing it was a cyst growing rapidly. My mother encoraged me to go and see a doctor. Once I visited the gynecologist and had a pelvic ultrasound performed….I was told I needed to quickly remove the ovarian cyst that was rapidly growing. Further CA 125 blood work was also performed and the test was negative; I thought this was good news. I was also told my chance of having cancer was very slim given my young age. But once I sat before the doctor, he informed me that in order for him to.operate I still had to sign papers to indicate that if he found cancer while operating he would be allowed to perform a complete hysterectomy. This of course was one of the most difficult decisions for me to make having been a newly wed and desiring kids.
Nonetheless I signed the documents with much trepidation and tears; the operation was performed, and cancer was discovered on the left ovary where the huge cyst was.
Prior to operation on the table, my strong faith and belief in God, allowed me to express to my doctor that I really desired to keep my right ovary no matter what he discovered while operating. When I awoke I realized that indeed I did have ovarian cancer stage 1B. I was also informed that once they discovered that I had cancer…..an oncologist was called in to further assess my internal condition by performing an additional operation removing some tissues, nkn life threatening organs and small pieces of other major organs in proximity to my ovary to determine the severity.

I was fortunate to research and also listen to the symptoms within my body that I caught this in the early stages. Because I can say today that the doctors determined that they would not remove my right ovary based on my STRONG FAITH and request… Today I have two little boys (9 and 7 years old).
It has been 16 years and counting. And I am still walking around rejoicing of God’s goodness and his favor. I give Him all the praise and encourage women everywhere to get tested early. Please listen to their bodies and trust that small inner voice in your head thats telling you something could be wrong. It usually doesn’t lead you wrong. Early diagnosis does save lives. I am a living witness of this and my strong faith in God. I still get periodic pelvic ultrasounds but my doctors have declared me ovarian cancer free 10 years ago.

Renae Ferguson Bufford

I was married for only one year; and only 32 years old when I began to gain weight in my tummy. I never had a tummy and many thought I was expecting since I was a newly wed. But I knew I was not pregnant; so I began jogging and working out harder trying to get rid of the extra tummy and not realizing it was a cyst growing rapidly. My mother encoraged me to go and see a doctor. Once I visited the gynecologist and had a pelvic ultrasound performed….I was told I needed to quickly remove the ovarian cyst that was rapidly growing. Further CA 125 blood work was also performed and the test was negative; I thought this was good news. I was also told my chance of having cancer was very slim given my young age. But once I sat before the doctor, he informed me that in order for him to.operate I still had to sign papers to indicate that if he found cancer while operating he would be allowed to perform a complete hysterectomy. This of course was one of the most difficult decisions for me to make having been a newly wed and desiring kids.
Nonetheless I signed the documents with much trepidation and tears; the operation was performed, and cancer was discovered on the left ovary where the huge cyst was.
Prior to operation on the table, my strong faith and belief in God, allowed me to express to my doctor that I really desired to keep my right ovary no matter what he discovered while operating. When I awoke I realized that indeed I did have ovarian cancer stage 1B. I was also informed that once they discovered that I had cancer…..an oncologist was called in to further assess my internal condition by performing an additional operation removing some tissues, nkn life threatening organs and small pieces of other major organs in proximity to my ovary to determine the severity.

I was fortunate to research and also listen to the symptoms within my body that I caught this in the early stages. Because I can say today that the doctors determined that they would not remove my right ovary based on my STRONG FAITH and request… Today I have two little boys (9 and 7 years old).
It has been 16 years and counting. And I am still walking around rejoicing of God’s goodness and his favor. I give Him all the praise and encourage women everywhere to get tested early. Please listen to their bodies and trust that small inner voice in your head thats telling you something could be wrong. It usually doesn’t lead you wrong. Early diagnosis does save lives. I am a living witness of this and my strong faith in God. I still get periodic pelvic ultrasounds but my doctors have declared me ovarian cancer free 10 years ago.

Renae Ferguson Bufford

I was married for only one year; and only 32 years old when I began to gain weight in my tummy. I never had a tummy and many thought I was expecting since I was a newly wed. But I knew I was not pregnant; so I began jogging and working out harder trying to get rid of the extra tummy and not realizing it was a cyst growing rapidly. My mother encoraged me to go and see a doctor. Once I visited the gynecologist and had a pelvic ultrasound performed….I was told I needed to quickly remove the ovarian cyst that was rapidly growing. Further CA 125 blood work was also performed and the test was negative; I thought this was good news. I was also told my chance of having cancer was very slim given my young age. But once I sat before the doctor, he informed me that in order for him to.operate I still had to sign papers to indicate that if he found cancer while operating he would be allowed to perform a complete hysterectomy. This of course was one of the most difficult decisions for me to make having been a newly wed and desiring kids.
Nonetheless I signed the documents with much trepidation and tears; the operation was performed, and cancer was discovered on the left ovary where the huge cyst was.
Prior to operation on the table, my strong faith and belief in God, allowed me to express to my doctor that I really desired to keep my right ovary no matter what he discovered while operating. When I awoke I realized that indeed I did have ovarian cancer stage 1B. I was also informed that once they discovered that I had cancer…..an oncologist was called in to further assess my internal condition by performing an additional operation removing some tissues, nkn life threatening organs and small pieces of other major organs in proximity to my ovary to determine the severity.

I was fortunate to research and also listen to the symptoms within my body that I caught this in the early stages. Because I can say today that the doctors determined that they would not remove my right ovary based on my STRONG FAITH and request… Today I have two little boys (9 and 7 years old).
It has been 16 years and counting. And I am still walking around rejoicing of God’s goodness and his favor. I give Him all the praise and encourage women everywhere to get tested early. Please listen to their bodies and trust that small inner voice in your head thats telling you something could be wrong. It usually doesn’t lead you wrong. Early diagnosis does save lives. I am a living witness of this and my strong faith in God. I still get periodic pelvic ultrasounds but my doctors have declared me ovarian cancer free 10 years ago.

Renae Ferguson Bufford

I was married for only one year; and only 32 years old when I began to gain weight in my tummy. I never had a tummy and many thought I was expecting since I was a newly wed. But I knew I was not pregnant; so I began jogging and working out harder trying to get rid of the extra tummy and not realizing it was a cyst growing rapidly. My mother encoraged me to go and see a doctor. Once I visited the gynecologist and had a pelvic ultrasound performed….I was told I needed to quickly remove the ovarian cyst that was rapidly growing. Further CA 125 blood work was also performed and the test was negative; I thought this was good news. I was also told my chance of having cancer was very slim given my young age. But once I sat before the doctor, he informed me that in order for him to.operate I still had to sign papers to indicate that if he found cancer while operating he would be allowed to perform a complete hysterectomy. This of course was one of the most difficult decisions for me to make having been a newly wed and desiring kids.
Nonetheless I signed the documents with much trepidation and tears; the operation was performed, and cancer was discovered on the left ovary where the huge cyst was.
Prior to operation on the table, my strong faith and belief in God, allowed me to express to my doctor that I really desired to keep my right ovary no matter what he discovered while operating. When I awoke I realized that indeed I did have ovarian cancer stage 1B. I was also informed that once they discovered that I had cancer…..an oncologist was called in to further assess my internal condition by performing an additional operation removing some tissues, nkn life threatening organs and small pieces of other major organs in proximity to my ovary to determine the severity.

I was fortunate to research and also listen to the symptoms within my body that I caught this in the early stages. Because I can say today that the doctors determined that they would not remove my right ovary based on my STRONG FAITH and request… Today I have two little boys (9 and 7 years old).
It has been 16 years and counting. And I am still walking around rejoicing of God’s goodness and his favor. I give Him all the praise and encourage women everywhere to get tested early. Please listen to their bodies and trust that small inner voice in your head thats telling you something could be wrong. It usually doesn’t lead you wrong. Early diagnosis does save lives. I am a living witness of this and my strong faith in God. I still get periodic pelvic ultrasounds but my doctors have declared me ovarian cancer free 10 years ago.

Renae Ferguson Bufford

I was married for only one year; and only 32 years old when I began to gain weight in my tummy. I never had a tummy and many thought I was expecting since I was a newly wed. But I knew I was not pregnant; so I began jogging and working out harder trying to get rid of the extra tummy and not realizing it was a cyst growing rapidly. My mother encoraged me to go and see a doctor. Once I visited the gynecologist and had a pelvic ultrasound performed….I was told I needed to quickly remove the ovarian cyst that was rapidly growing. Further CA 125 blood work was also performed and the test was negative; I thought this was good news. I was also told my chance of having cancer was very slim given my young age. But once I sat before the doctor, he informed me that in order for him to.operate I still had to sign papers to indicate that if he found cancer while operating he would be allowed to perform a complete hysterectomy. This of course was one of the most difficult decisions for me to make having been a newly wed and desiring kids.
Nonetheless I signed the documents with much trepidation and tears; the operation was performed, and cancer was discovered on the left ovary where the huge cyst was.
Prior to operation on the table, my strong faith and belief in God, allowed me to express to my doctor that I really desired to keep my right ovary no matter what he discovered while operating. When I awoke I realized that indeed I did have ovarian cancer stage 1B. I was also informed that once they discovered that I had cancer…..an oncologist was called in to further assess my internal condition by performing an additional operation removing some tissues, nkn life threatening organs and small pieces of other major organs in proximity to my ovary to determine the severity.

I was fortunate to research and also listen to the symptoms within my body that I caught this in the early stages. Because I can say today that the doctors determined that they would not remove my right ovary based on my STRONG FAITH and request… Today I have two little boys (9 and 7 years old).
It has been 16 years and counting. And I am still walking around rejoicing of God’s goodness and his favor. I give Him all the praise and encourage women everywhere to get tested early. Please listen to their bodies and trust that small inner voice in your head thats telling you something could be wrong. It usually doesn’t lead you wrong. Early diagnosis does save lives. I am a living witness of this and my strong faith in God. I still get periodic pelvic ultrasounds but my doctors have declared me ovarian cancer free 10 years ago.

Renae Ferguson Bufford

I was married for only one year; and only 32 years old when I began to gain weight in my tummy. I never had a tummy and many thought I was expecting since I was a newly wed. But I knew I was not pregnant; so I began jogging and working out harder trying to get rid of the extra tummy and not realizing it was a cyst growing rapidly. My mother encoraged me to go and see a doctor. Once I visited the gynecologist and had a pelvic ultrasound performed….I was told I needed to quickly remove the ovarian cyst that was rapidly growing. Further CA 125 blood work was also performed and the test was negative; I thought this was good news. I was also told my chance of having cancer was very slim given my young age. But once I sat before the doctor, he informed me that in order for him to.operate I still had to sign papers to indicate that if he found cancer while operating he would be allowed to perform a complete hysterectomy. This of course was one of the most difficult decisions for me to make having been a newly wed and desiring kids.
Nonetheless I signed the documents with much trepidation and tears; the operation was performed, and cancer was discovered on the left ovary where the huge cyst was.
Prior to operation on the table, my strong faith and belief in God, allowed me to express to my doctor that I really desired to keep my right ovary no matter what he discovered while operating. When I awoke I realized that indeed I did have ovarian cancer stage 1B. I was also informed that once they discovered that I had cancer…..an oncologist was called in to further assess my internal condition by performing an additional operation removing some tissues, nkn life threatening organs and small pieces of other major organs in proximity to my ovary to determine the severity.

I was fortunate to research and also listen to the symptoms within my body that I caught this in the early stages. Because I can say today that the doctors determined that they would not remove my right ovary based on my STRONG FAITH and request… Today I have two little boys (9 and 7 years old).
It has been 16 years and counting. And I am still walking around rejoicing of God’s goodness and his favor. I give Him all the praise and encourage women everywhere to get tested early. Please listen to their bodies and trust that small inner voice in your head thats telling you something could be wrong. It usually doesn’t lead you wrong. Early diagnosis does save lives. I am a living witness of this and my strong faith in God. I still get periodic pelvic ultrasounds but my doctors have declared me ovarian cancer free 10 years ago.

Bri Styla

survivor Bri photo

Bri Styla – Survivor Story

Hi, my name is Bri Styla and I am an ovarian cancer survivor. I hope my story encourages each one of you to know your body and the signs of ovarian cancer and to never lose faith along your journey back to health.

My journey began at the young age of 20. I am currently 28 years old and have been diagnosed 2 additional times. To understand my strength to fight, you first need to understand a little bit about me.

I am a very passionate, driven woman. No matter what life has dealt me, I achieve my dreams. Giving up is not an option. My biggest passion is to be a mother. I know (more than anything else in this world) I have been placed here to experience motherhood. With this being said, you can only imagine the heartbreak I felt when I heard the words “ovarian cancer”, my doctor so softly spoke.

Naturally, I isolated myself in emotion. Those words changed the very existence of my being. At my lowest moment I realized my diagnosis was defeating me. It was then I decided it was time to take my life back and not to let cancer win.

I hit the gym harder, I lived and loved harder, and pushed myself to new limits- physically and mentally. This lifestyle, this attitude and my will to live a healthy, fulfilling life, pulled me through the darkness of chemo and radiation and then again through remission for the second and third time.

Today, I am in remission and I continue to keep this outlook on life. I also continue to allow myself to have hope in achieving my biggest passion, motherhood. I’ve learned to lean on my family and friends and accept their support. At first I felt alone, and it was hard to reach out, but having gone through 3 diagnoses I know now, more than ever, we all need each other. We are all vulnerable and we all need help. We need to fight this disease together.

I hope my story has encouraged you to keep fighting, to never give up and to live life to the fullest. My last inspiring words to you “An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it is going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.”

Norma & Leah

normaleah
Norma & Leah’s story

Ours is a story of two women who didn’t survive this disease. They were sisters and when they complained of the symptoms, their doctors were unable to pinpoint the problem. Eventually they were both diagnosed at Stage IIIC. Norma and Leah each fought a valiant battle for seven years. If they had been diagnosed even a few months earlier, they might have lived to dance a their grandchildrens’ weddings. Instead we, their daughters, are rising up against ovarian cancer in their name and telling women (and those who love them) the symptoms of ovarian cancer so they can “BEAT the BIG O.” We are telling doctors and nurses to “RULE OUT! Ovarian Cancer” so that more women can live to dance at their grandchildrens’ weddings.

Tabitha Zaun

Tabitha Zaun

This May is my 14 years survivor day. It’s like a birthday and I celebrate it all month long!
I was 20 when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I had a year of constipation and the doctors told me to take fiber. When I was starting to look pregnant I went to the GYN who felt a mass. He thought it was just a cyst but a week later when they operated, my cyst was the size of a basketball and my immature teratoma pathology results showed 10% germ cell cancer.

I had more surgeries to remove my ovary and staging. Since the tumor ruptured inside my abdomen while being removed, I was staged higher.

I had chemo. Life was hard for me at that time as I was in nursing school and very sick and weak from the chemo.

Fourteen years later I am a hospice nurse and a mom of two boys, 9 and 7. I still have yearly GYN exams and at 30 years old I had my 1st mammogram. I do not want to take the risk of waiting again.

The family practice doctors told me nothing was wrong. I knew my body, I knew something was wrong and went to another doctor, he saved my life! I tell him every year THANK YOU!

Harlie

HarlieHarlie’s Story

My husband and I have been I have been married for 23 years. We have 3 beautiful daughters ages 13, 12 and 7. We are your typical busy family that, for the most part, has been pretty healthy. Doctor visits, for all of us, have been few and far between.

November 12, 2013 is a day that will be forever etched into our minds. Arriving at the ER at 6:00 AM, I was determined to find the answers to the abdominal pain. This was the 3rd doctors visit in 11 days. Other off and on symptoms mixed into the equation were fever, cough, runny nose, constipation, diarrhea and throwing up. The only constant symptom was abdominal/pelvic pain which seemed to get worse with increased activity. I was so sure this was a case of appendicitis. After the initial examination and a normal urine and white blood cell count the doctor ordered an x-ray and CT scan.

At 10:00 AM the x-ray and CT scan were performed and I was promised they would be read right away.

At 10:45 the doctor entered the room with the results. It was not appendicitis, which I already determined it had to be. He went on to tell me that they found a very large mass. The mass was so large that it covered most of the pelvic cavity. I was stunned and numb, I was in a state of shock. From that point I heard about every 4th or 5th word. Two words I did hear were ovary and Fargo.

Tears began to fall, I kept thinking to myself, this is much too young, it can’t be. Then, I heard, “Mommy why are you crying”. My daughter, sick and in pain, was lying on the examination bed. I then had to explain to her that she has a large bump in her belly and we needed to figure what it was and how to get rid of it. The closest pediatric oncologist was in Fargo which is three and a half hours away. We were told to go home, pack and go immediately to Fargo as they were waiting for us.

On November 13, 2013 a biopsy was done. We were told that our 7 year old daughter, Harlie, had Germ Cell Ovarian Cancer and it had spread to some lymph nodes. Nothing in life prepares you for that moment when a doctor tells you that your child has cancer. Our family is not immune to cancer as both my husband’s father and my father have battled cancer. And heck, if the doctor would have told me it was me that had cancer, I could understand. But why a seven year old, life is just not fair.

On November 14th, 2013, our daughter had surgery to remove the tumor and her left ovary. They also installed a port into her shoulder so she could receive chemotherapy. The surgery removed about 90% of the cancer. In the subsequent months she had 3 chemo treatments. A second surgery was performed in February 2014 to remove some residual spots that were questionable. The spots were biopsied and on February 20th, 2014 we were told our daughter, Harlie, was cancer free!

Dee

Dee Dee’s Story

On July 29, 2005 I woke up to hear my gynecologic-oncologist say “You have stage III ovarian cancer”. Hearing those words was difficult.

A few months earlier I had seen my gynecologist about a dull pain I was having on the left side of my abdomen. I was vigilant about getting an annual physical and mammogram since my sister’s diagnosis with breast cancer ten years before.
After two ultrasounds, an MRI and a visit to the emergency room I was referred to a gynecologic oncologist. I underwent a hysterectomy, oophorectomy and complete debulking surgery. I chose to take part in a clinical trial using selenium in addition to standard chemotherapy drugs. After 9 cycles of chemotherapy I was told there was no evidence of disease.

I watched my daughter marry and my son graduate from college. Then in the fall of 2008 while my CA-125 was normal I went for a routine CT scan. I learned that my cancer had recurred on my liver and spleen. I had surgery to remove my spleen and resection my liver. And followed that with another six cycles of chemotherapy. In the spring of 2009, I was once again told I was disease free.

In 2007, my gynecologic-oncologist told me about an opportunity to take part in the first LiveSTRONG Survivors Summit in Texas. That Summit planted the seeds for my vocation as a cancer advocate. Over the past seven years, I have been involved with a number of ovarian cancer awareness organizations, I have attended medical conferences and advocated for ovarian cancer research. Currently I co-moderate a tweet chat (#gyncsm) and continue to write a blog (womenofteal.blogspot.com) about my journey with cancer.

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is not easy and side effects from treatment continue to impact my life but I have hope. Hope that there will come a time when women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will face a future that holds a cure for each and every one of them.

Every day is a Blessing!

Shirley Barnhart


In winter 2012, my mom Shirley Barnhart, began complaining that her back was hurting more than usual.

She had been the text book manager for the Illini Union Bookstore at the University of Illinois for 47 years. She was going through a book rush at the time and thought that was the cause of the increased back pain. Then she began fighting cold and flu symptoms for several months. Near the end of February 2013 she FINALLY went to the doctor’s office. My mother rarely went to the doctor for a “simple cold” or “flu bug”. We used to joke that we’d have to drag her in kicking and screaming even on her death bed.

The doctor prescribed an anti-biotic, which didn’t seem to help all that much. She went back and a chest x-ray was done. The x-ray showed compression on her right lung and little fluid in/on her left lung. Again an anti-biotic was prescribed and again it didn’t seem to help much.

By this time she also began having shortness of breath, upper abdominal pain, and diarrhea. So, on Friday March 8, 2013 I accompanied her to another doctor’s appointment. Given her symptoms the doctor issued a CT scan of her abdomen and blood work to determine if clostridium difficile was present. After a complete day at the hospital we were informed to go back to her doctor’s office.

It was there that we were told she did in fact have clostridium difficile, a bacterial infection in the intestines. Then we got the worst news of all. The CT scan also showed that she had ascites, a tumor on her intestines and a few spots on her omentum. The doctor informed us that these were significant signs of ovarian cancer.

The next week and a half brought us several doctor appointments, long days, sleepless nights, and a lot of worry. She met with her surgeon on March 20 and surgery was scheduled for Monday March 25. He was very optimistic and for the first time in a week we too began to feel optimistic and were in awe at how fast everything was getting taken care of.
However, that optimism was soon shattered. My family and I had been living with my mom for about 5 years. When I arrived home from work on Friday March 22, 2013 I found my mom. She had passed away only 3 weeks from when she was given her diagnosis. I wish I could say she was taking a nap and went peacefully, but that wasn’t the case. I wanted answers as to why exactly my mom died, so I requested an autopsy report, which showed a blot clot had entered her lungs. Being told she most likely did not suffer brought some comfort.

My mother did not deserve to die from this disease; she was only 68 years old. I know she could have had the surgery, began chemo, and beat it. She was the most selfless person I have known, very caring, and always put others before herself. She was an avid reader and had a mass collection of cookbooks, but never seemed to make any of the recipes she marked; however she did cook wonderful home-style food. She loved her grandchildren. I continue to receive cards and letters from department heads, publishing companies, professors wishing their condolences and stating how they’ve never met me in person, but had heard many, many stories of my son, George, and me.

I have begun thinking about decisions I need to make for myself, my children, and my family. Knowing that I am a mother, wife, daughter in law, niece, sister I do not want my family going through this kind of pain and loss again. Now when my doctor asks “has anyone in your family had cancer?” I have to answer yes and consider the affects this has for me and my family. Her passing has shaken my soul and shattered my heart. I will never get over losing my mom, my best friend, my confidant, my everything.

Amanda Barnes

Like many women, Amanda Barnes from Portsmouth thought her symptoms of ovarian cancer were actually menopause and that is despite her once being a gynae ward sister.

And so Amanda, a 49-year-old divisional head of nursing at Southampton Hospital, dismissed her symptoms, starting with extreme tiredness and feeling light headed, until she was eventually diagnosed with advanced stage 4 ovarian cancer with a lump in her breast and lung metastasis.

“I didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t really put my finger on what was wrong,” says Amanda. “Having a busy job in the NHS it was easy to blame how I was feeling on that,” she says.

Her GP did not pick up on the signs either and told her nine months prior to being diagnosed in October 2012 that she had nothing serious to worry about.

Gradually in the three months before diagnosis Amanda began to feel worse with a dragging pain in her abdomen, bloating and loss of appetite. Then two incidents made her realize that she needed further investigation.

“I was at a wedding party and I remember thinking that I had pulled a muscle in my abdomen and blamed the pain I felt on dancing in impossibly high heels. The pain went away, but a month later I went to another wedding, with the same dress, same heels and same dancing and the pain came back – only this time it didn’t go away.”

“I went to work as usual on that fateful day in October 2012, but I had to leave mid morning as the pain got substantially worse down the left-hand side of my abdomen. I drove the 25 miles back towards home and presented myself at my GP’s surgery hoping to make a late afternoon appointment. They took one look at my teary face and next minute I was sat with a GP and I knew that I was looking at something serious.”

“The words ‘mass’ and ‘cyst’ floated across my consciousness. I was asked which hospital would I prefer. Could I drive to the emergency department?”

“I remember the lovely registrar in the emergency department and the look on the face of the radiologist as the ultrasound scan passed over my abdomen. I remember them asking which consultant was on call and if the gynaecological registrar could come down. I remember thinking I’ve got cancer and I was right but it wasn’t confirmed until the next day.”

That was on a Friday and on that Sunday Amanda spent five hours in surgery, in which she was given a full hysterectomy. She was home five days later and five weeks after that she started a course of carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy.

Six cycles of chemotherapy finished in March 2013 and five months later Amanda was back to work full-time.

Amanda faces more treatment, after a recent CT scan showed some changes, but she is living life to the full with her husband Rob while her condition remains stable. However, she remains shocked that something so potentially deadly could take hold in her body without her realizing.

“Since getting ovarian cancer I have been telling people at work, friends and family about the disease and I’ve been astounded at the lack of knowledge about it even with people in the medical profession,” says Amanda.

She is not dwelling on what has happened and during her chemotherapy-free year she has not stopped. She has finished her dissertation and graduated with a master’s degree in advanced clinical practice. She has travelled to Verona to watch opera in the open air, seen La Bohème at the Royal Albert Hall, been on the Queen Mary to drink champagne in the sunshine on her birthday and bought a renovation project of a house.

“I am enjoying choosing paint and bricks. Life is good – bracketed with three monthly checks that still make me worry and more CT scans than I would like but I also have a strong sense of purpose and a fabulous husband who is my soul mate and my rock. There is no way that I am ready for anything less than a fantastic life.

“Ovarian cancer hasn’t changed me, but it has made me acknowledge my spirituality and embrace my life. None of us know what tomorrow will bring and that’s just fine by me.”

Ecmín Z. Otero Padró

Ecmín-Otero[13]

Susurros del Cáncer de Ovario, Inc. is a non-profit organization that was born on January 1, 2014 from the initiative of Ecmín Z. Otero Padró, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on May, 2013 when she was only 33 years old. Ecmín has responded very well to her treatment and is now in remission. During her treatment, Ecmín discovered that in Puerto Rico didn’t exist an organization dedicated to inform specifically about ovarian cancer and to help women with this cancer to pay for their treatment. She also discovered that in the general population of Puerto Rico there is a huge lack of knowledge about this cancer. Ecmín met people that did not even know that this cancer exists and women that did not know that the PAP test does not detect ovarian cancer. Ecmín decided to do something positive about her experience, so she created this organization, with the help of her husband, to raise awareness about ovarian cancer and help save the lives of more women.

Robin Babbini

Robin-Cancer-Day-Info.[8]

HONORING THE MEMORY OF ROBIN BABBINI

MAY, 1986 – JUNE, 2006

Robin Babbini was your busy teenager and honor student, engaged in numerous high school activities – co-captain of the cheerleading squad, homecoming queen and dramatic arts. Her dynamic life was turned upside down when at the age of 17 she was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer. She had a total hysterectomy followed by chemo treatments. Amazingly, with unrivaled optimism she completed her classes, graduated high school and began her freshman year at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Six, short months later, symptoms of the cancer recurred. Following another surgery, which revealed the cancer had metastasized to several other organs. Robin began an endless round of grueling, exhausting treatments. Undeterred, she continued her studies and pledged the national sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, where she quickly found new friendships and wondrous support. She even participated as co-captain at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at UCSB, where she spoke poignantly about the disease that was consuming her.

Six weeks later on June 29, 2006, Robin Babbini lost her battle with ovarian cancer. She was 20 years old!

Robin has left a remarkable legacy. The Ovarian Cancer Circle/Inspired By Robin Babbini, is a non profit organization based in Los Angeles, founded by Robin’s mother, Paulinda to honor Robin’s memory and help educate others about this most deadly disease.

Robin’s alma mater, Pacific Hills High School in West Hollywood has created the “Robin Babbini Outstanding Senior Award.” The Ovarian Cancer Circle annually presents the “Robin Babbini Community Achievement Award” to honor a member of her beloved sorority. The UCSB French Language Department designates the annual “Robin Memorial Award to an outstanding French 3 level student.

Most importantly, Robin has brought Ovarian Cancer to the forefront of young women’s awareness, who now know that this insidious disease knows no age boundaries.

If there had been an early detection test, improved diagnosis and targeted treatments, maybe Robin would be here today to tell her story herself!

 

Natasha Lynn Blaisdell

NatashasFamily

I am a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, which has given me the strength and perseverance to survive.
No matter what the future may hold, I am proud to fight this battle and to live my life to the fullest knowing that I am an ovarian cancer fighter and survivor.

Longer than I can remember, I have had most or all of these symptoms. The first time I had a pap smear and internal exam, I was told I had cysts on my ovaries. They were never biopsied or truly examined. Since I started menstruating at 15, it was always irregular, and would go in tandem with excruciating leg and hip pain. I threw up more than anyone should, and was constantly complaining of stomach pains and how it felt like my “stomach was eating itself.” From the beginning of the leg pain, I saw multiple doctors and had multiple CAT scans, X-rays, and Ultrasounds. No one could give me an explanation for my mysterious pain. The symptoms persisted through my early twenties.

In November 2010, I lost my health insurance and did not seek medical treatment for almost a year. By the time September 2011 had begun, I had a cyst like growth protruding from my belly button. For the first time I thought that there had to be something seriously wrong. A month later I met my general surgeon Dr. Rodriguez, and that day was the most surreal day of my life.

Dr. Rodriguez was concerned that the growth was cancerous, and conducted a biopsy. A week later, my results were in and the beginning of 2012 was not just the start of a new year, it was also the mark of my new life. The biopsy confirmed carcinoma. A CAT scan showed that it had spread to my liver, giving me a Stage IV diagnosis. Doctors were not positive that it was ovarian cancer, so were required to make the final diagnosis following my surgery.

On February 13, 2012, I underwent an 11 hour surgery to remove all of the infected parts; both ovaries, my uterus, 1.5’ of bowel, stomach lining, appendix, spleen, and attempted to remove as much from my liver and diaphragm as possible. I was also given a temporary ileostomy as my bowels needed time to heal.

It was August 2012, just before my 26th birthday, when I completed the last cycle of treatment. My CA-125 level was stable and supporting CAT Scans confirmed that there was no sign of cancer growth. I was put in remission, and scheduled for 6-week follow-ups/checks.

In November 2012, my numbers elevated once again, and when they reached above 55 my doctors and I agreed to start maintenance treatment, after which my CA-125 level were in the normal range. Unfortunately, my symptoms and overall health did not match up with the CA-125 level. My doctors ordered another CAT scan in April 2013 and were disappointed to find some cancerous growths on my liver, and possibly on the sides of my pelvis. My doctors and I made the decision to switch treatments once again and at the beginning of May 2013 I began a new treatment.

Most days I look at my cancer as a blessing. It has completely re-prioritized my life and made me truly see what matters. I love my family and my friends, and most of my miracle child. He makes life worth living. Some days I feel sorry that I cannot have any more children but then I look at him and know that it doesn’t matter. I have him and he is all I need. He has given me the strength each and every day to fight, and he is what will get me passed that 5 year mark, then to 10, 15.

As a really good friend Michelle once said, “We are just like anyone else fighting a daily medical condition. A cancer diagnosis isn’t the end it is just a lifestyle change, and a battle that we must all be strong enough to fight.” Cancer isn’t life ending, its life changing, and you are your own destiny. Your mind is the strongest tool in your fight, and the will and determination to fight daily, and to not fear but embrace this disease, will give you far more strength and success than anything else.

Andreya Nicholson

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Hi, my name is Andreya.

9 years ago I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was 25 and according to most people, I was too young to be a cancer patient. I was misdiagnosed for a while. By the time we know what it was, “Alfred” (that’s what my friends and I named my tumor) had grown to an impressive 14.5 inches and weighed in at 10 lbs.

I was looking forward to finishing my Associates Degree to hanging out with my friends for the summer. Sometimes I look back on that summer and think, “Man that summer SUCKED!”…And then I think that was the moment my life changed.

It changed in some ways for the worst. I entered early menopause. I’m not able to have kids. Chemotherapy…YUCK. Not to mention the emotional baggage that you accrue when you are diagnosed, during therapy, and after.

But that is not all that happened when I got diagnosed with stage 4 malignant dysgerminoma. I also gained perspective. I have made the decision that I would take chances. That I would fight for the things that I wanted. That I would work just as hard as hard as I played. I decided that I would try my very best not to be afraid of the challenges that life was going to throw at me. In short, sometimes our trials define us. But there is no set rule that says we, the survivors, cannot set the definition parameters.

After treatment I went to finish my degree at Western Oregon University. I was awarded a Graduate Teaching Assistantship that paid for Graduate School. I currently am the head of the voice department at the St. Lucia School of Music. I love my job. I love my life. I am incredibly grateful for my family, and friends that were my superstars during my treatment. My doctors were awesome. Cancer changed my life. But I am survivor who sets her own definitions…. and rocks some teal. 🙂

Renate McGrail

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Hello. My name is Renate McGrail. I am 46 years old.  I was diagnosed with Stage 3b ovarian cancer on New Year’s Day January 2012.

After having an emergency CT scan at the hospital my diagnosis was swift.  On January 10th they performed a complete hysterectomy. They removed my uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, omentum and part of my diaphragm. They were able to obtain optimal debulking and were confident that they had removed everything and that the cancer seeds that were remaining would be addressed with chemotherapy.

I underwent 6 rounds of agressive chemotherapy directly into my abdomen. I had read that this type of chemotherapy had the highest success rate. Unfortunately, my body was resistant to this type chemotherapy and that since I had had the most agressive therapy there was that there was not much else they could do. Fortunately, my story had not yet ended. I was lucky to get a spot in a clinical drug trial in September 2012. This seemed to work for me and held the disease stable until February 2013 when they had to remove me from the trial because the tumours had started to grow again. Again I have been fortunate to be able to join another drug trial. I have been on this trial for 8 weeks and will find out on May 6th whether this treatment is helping me.

Our family has been blind sided by all of this. There is no history of ovarian cancer in our family. I had experienced stomach aches and heavier menstrual symptoms. I had an ultra sound in March 2011 and there was no sign of anything.  I have 3 daughters that are 17, 13 and 6. I want a test to be found in their lifetime to diagnose this disease early. My two daughters are doing their part to create awareness by participating in a legacy girls study at Princess Margaret Hospital. My thirteen year old daughter is also creating t-shirts for the first world ovarian awareness day with her friends. I will post a picture of them. They are doing it in my honour.

We are making the best of every day and I consider each day a gift and a victory.

 

Jill Morgenstien


In December 2008, at 36 years old, I went in for endometriosis surgery. I was experiencing pain and the doctor thought it would be best to explore though he assured me it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which I knew I suffered from. Not knowing the signs of ovarian cancer, the day came for surgery and I went in thinking it would be easy with nothing to worry about since I have no family history of cancer.

When I wakened, the doctor visited and said I would be in pain but fine – he had to remove part of my left ovary but it would not impede me or my ability to have children because it was still functional.

Ten days later I went in alone for my post-op appointment where the doctor drew a diagram and explained I had stage 1 granulosa cell tumor ovarian cancer!!! He said I was lucky it was caught early and removed and that there was no need for radiation or chemotherapy. I would need to be checked every 3 months for safety measures. I walked out numb and shocked. Then the difficulty came of having to tell my family of this discovery. I was utterly confused considering the day before surgery I had ca125 blood work which showed no evidence of tumour.

As the doctor ordered, I went routinely for ultra sounds, blood work and pelvic exams. Everything was fine until spring 2011 – less than three years after my initial diagnosis when I started to have the same symptoms. Again I spoke to my doctors and was told all the tests pointed to me fine. My gut told me otherwise; I guess once you have a scare, you learn to listen to your body. Since the first surgery, I’ve had three additional surgeries for thyroid, breast lumpectomy, and gallbladder – all hormone related!

I insisted on a CAT scan and the results showed honeycomb masses in the remaining left ovary. My oncologist said let’s wait and see and at that moment I decided to be my own advocate and be more proactive. I found another oncologist specializing in women’s cancer and made an appointment with him – he got me in right away! I met with him on a Wednesday in November and by the following Monday I went in for “routine exploratory” surgery. I guess you should know when leaving a doctor’s office if he hugs you and your mother goodbye it’s not a great sign. My one hour surgery turned into four hours and the removal of my left ovary, fallopian tube, lymph nodes, omentum, and partial uterus as it showed my cancer had, in fact, returned.

Recovery was awful the 2nd time and was not helped by the fact that the doctor said I would need to wait ten days to find out if it had spread to my lymph nodes and if I needed radiation and chemotherapy. Now I had to wait, wondering can I beat this a second time? Can I make it through chemo and radiation? All of these thoughts were filling my head with nightmares! After ten days, the doctor reported I was extremely lucky to be one of the few where it had not spread and the surgery removed my cancer and again I did not need additional treatment.

I would need close monitoring and testing in addition to yearly God-awful PET scans. I happily agreed and I am diligent with my follow ups and care two years later. Unfortunately each day I wake up with thoughts of recurrence since I haven’t made my five year mark yet. I am grateful and appreciative of each daily blessing and I try to spread that to every person I encounter because you never know what battle they are fighting. People can look wonderful on the outside and feel awful on the inside. My biggest wish is that this story can help one person and their family and friends from suffering because of this disease.

Janet Rowe

Janet Rowe Photo

My name is Janet, and I live in Melbourne, Australia.

I still don’t know why I went to the doctor in January 2010, except to say that I thought I must be menopausal – not sleeping well, grumpy, and going to the loo more often. I was 54 years old with two teenage kids and a long-suffering husband! I had never thought about the possibility of getting a serious disease.

My doctor sent me for an ultrasound, which in retrospect, was quite remarkable given my lack of symptoms. Within 10 days I was in hospital having a laparotomy. My life and that of my family was quickly turned upside down. I had Stage 3C ovarian cancer which had traveled to my lymph nodes. Following the surgery, I undertook 4 months of chemotherapy. Losing my hair wasn’t such a big shock as losing my eyebrows and eyelashes. Once I had got used to the chemotherapy, I was able to work most of the way through the treatment. I felt much better being back at work and in a normal environment. I also continued to exercise. I like cycling and swimming. I’m convinced that being fit really helped me both mentally and physically to deal with being sick.

Like most people, I read a lot, talked to a lot of people and made as much use as possible of experts. I think that in addition to learning more about the disease, it was a way to take back some control over my life. I attended a Gawler Foundation Living and Learning course at the end of the chemotherapy. I got a lot out of it and it gave me a much greater perspective on what extraordinary challenges people face. My life returned back to normal and although I had read that many people change their attitude to things and learn to appreciate things more, I didn’t have any such epiphany. I felt that I had a good life and was lucky enough to have traveled widely and I’d always enjoyed every opportunity that came along. I did however have a heightened sense of pleasure being around my family and friends. Something I still feel.

I was going very well until June 2012, when I went to the doctor again because of lower back pain. It turned out that I had a growth in my pelvis. My cancer had returned but without the ability to make CA125, so my regular blood tests had been showing no change in levels and I didn’t think the back pain was all that suspicious. It was like Groundhog Day – same operation, same hospital, same medical team. It was really hard going back into ‘being sick’ mode. However, as we all do, I rallied myself and got myself prepared. My tumour was isolated, so that was very encouraging. I did 6 months of chemotherapy with slightly different drugs from the first time. Remarkably enough, when I found out that the cancer had returned, I didn’t feel scared. I felt that I could deal with it. I finished the treatment 3 months ago and now have my hair back – including my eyebrows! I am feeling fine and still feeling optimistic about life.

I had always assumed I’d see my children grow up and that I’d have grand children. It was a big shock to understand that I couldn’t assume any such thing. However, without these assumptions, everything that happens now comes to me as a pleasant surprise.

I believe that there are three areas of support which have been essential to me over the last three years. The unfailing care and love of my husband and children. The amazing protection I’ve felt from my seriously wonderful friends. And last, but not least, the support group and the activities which surround Ovarian Cancer Australia, of which I’ve always appreciated being a part.

Maisa Aleksandravicius

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Maisa is 54 and lives in Rio de Janeiro. She was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer in 2007. After feeling a constant abdominal pain she had an appointment with her doctor and after some exams the cancer was found.

She believes the cancer diagnostic gave her a new point of view of life and says she is thankful for the opportunity to be alive and keep doing the things she loves. To know more about her experience, click here (content in Brazilian Portuguese).

Kamilla Barbosa

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Kamilla is 23 and lives in Belém do Pará (north of Brazil). For more than a year she felt a very strong pelvic pain, but because of her busy daily-life, never had time to look for a doctor. When the symptoms got intolerable she realized that was time to stop and look after her health.

After spending a few days at hospital and doing some exams, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Due to the diagnostic, Kamilla was forced to stop studying and focuses in her treatment. To share her experience she started blogging and it helped her to be in touch with other young girls facing the same problem as her. To know more about her fight against ovarian cancer, click here (content in Brazilian Portuguese).

Nanci Bueno Venturi

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Nanci is 48, married and has no children. She lives in Santo André, close from São Paulo. She never had any symptom, apart from strong colic and some gastric problems, which she was treating with specific medication and never thought it could be something to worry about.

One day, after lunch, she started feeling a strong abdominal pain and also had a significant increased abdominal size. These symptoms kept getting worse and she finally decided to look for a doctor. After many exams, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at a late stage in the end of 2011. To know more about her experience, click here (content in brazilian portuguese).

Gurbachan Johal

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Treatment for ovarian cancer was the hardest thing I have ever gone through, but now I am sharing my experience to help raise symptoms awareness.

In December 2008 I had a really bad cold, which I just couldn’t shake off, so in January I went to see my doctor. She sent me for a blood test and when I went back to see her for the results, because my stomach was hard, she made an appointment for me to have a scan in February.  

Nothing to worry about
In early February I was very unwell – unable to eat anything despite feeling hungry; and despite feeling tired, unable to sleep because
I felt so uncomfortable.

My appointment at West Middlesex Hospital was on 11 February, and I had all the investigations, including an ultrasound and CT scan, which showed I had multiple fibroids. The hospital told me it was nothing to worry about and that I just needed to have a hysterectomy, which was booked for March. Despite me telling them I couldn’t wait that long they said it was the best they could do.

After talking it through with my husband we decided to consult a specialist privately, and she saw me the following week and operated at the end of February.
It was during the operation that she discovered my cancer, and an omental biopsy revealed that it was stage 3 ovarian cancer.

I was still very weak from the operation when I was told the news, and I cried all the way home. My husband was a tower of strength and held my hand.

The hardest thing

I was referred to Hammersmith Hospital where my consultant was Professor Hani Gabra. Treatment for ovarian cancer was the hardest thing I have ever gone through, but I was so lucky to have my husband (a great nurse!) and lots of friends and family members to support me – day and night.

My husband has been an absolute rock. He’s held me close when I’ve felt down, and wiped away my tears when I’ve cried. He’s rubbed my legs when they hurt, dressed me when I couldn’t dress myself, and cooked when I couldn’t. His support and love has made me strong.

My friends and family members have also been wonderful. My son helped me by researching what my treatment would involve. My brothers and sisters phoned regularly, and visited to massage my legs when they were painful. My sister-in-law flew in from Canada to look after me for four weeks; and my husband’s family came to our house to cook for me, and phoned every day. I know I am very lucky.

Talking helps
My treatment included three chemotherapy sessions, another operation to debulk the ovarian tumour; and then a further three chemotherapy sessions. During this time I found that talking to people who had come through cancer was tremendously helpful – it was so useful to see that despite what they had been through they were OK.

Knowing this has made me determined to try and help others in the same way. I also believe passionately that we must raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer to help women be diagnosed earlier and improve their chances of surviving.

Sharing my experience
Since I’ve finished my treatment I’ve been helping Ovarian Cancer Action. I volunteered to become an Ovarian Cancer Voice, and I appear in the film for the online symptoms awareness campaign, as well as the new leaflet. I’ve also spoken on the radio and been interviewed by Asian Woman magazine.

Becoming an Ovarian Cancer Voice has been an amazing experience, which has helped my self-confidence and given me a new sense of purpose. I’ve given talks at local temples to tell other women about ovarian cancer and make them aware of the symptoms. I’ve met twice with my local MP, Alan Keen, and I’ve visited numerous local shops and clinics asking them to display symptoms awareness materials. If nothing else, I have kept myself busy!

But all joking apart, I know how much strength I have drawn from talking to other people who have had cancer, and I hope that sharing my experience of ovarian cancer will help others too.

Raise your voice!
To join Ovarian Cancer Voices and help us make sure the voices of people affected by ovarian cancer are heard, visit our website at www.ovarian.org.uk or email voices@ovarian.org.uk

Miho Katagi

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I had a diagnosis of an ovarian cancer(Mucinous adenocarcinoma, stage 1a) in April, 2004. I was 30 years old in those days.

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My son was 2years old. I had an operation and chemotherapy treatment. In the spring of 2006, a surprising thing was told me by my friend who had ovarian cancer: that not all drugs for ovarian cancer were available in Japan.

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In order to advocate about this, we formed a patient support group called ‘SMILEY’. We pressured the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to work on the approval of these anticancer agents. We appealed to the broader community about the need for access to drugs to treat ovarian cancer through the mass media.

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In 2009 and 2011, several drugs were approved for use. Many of my friends with ovarian cancer died before these drugs were approved. Now patients have access to them however. This increase in treatment options gave much hope to an ovarian cancer patients.

Access to cancer drugs is not just a problem for ovarian cancer patients in Japan – it is for many other cancers also, like pancreatic. I am working on helping all of these patients find a solution.

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I made a booklet so patients can learn about clinical trials for ovarian cancer recently and I working to have a smile become the ovarian cancer patient symbol of Japan.

Ovarian cancer patient support group, ‘SMILEY’ has 153 members now.
Patients 75%, Family(and friends) 25%.
Our Mission:
1. We demand the approval of pharmaceutical products.
2. We offer the information about ovarian cancer to patients.
3. We offer the information about ovarian cancer to the public.

Stephanie Peterson

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Although Stephanie is no longer with us, she lives on through the work of the Small Cell Ovarian Cancer Foundation which was founded in her memory. While she was in treatment, Stephanie vowed that when she got better, she would help others fight this deadly disease. Her determination and confidence inspired us to start the Small Cell Ovarian Cancer Foundation and do the work she wasn’t able to do herself.

Stephanie was a vibrant, caring and talented young woman whose life was a gift to those of us lucky enough to know her. She approached everything she did with a determination to succeed and she always strived for perfection. She was a graceful dancer, talented designer, loving family member and loyal friend.

Stephanie grew up in Sandy, Utah, where she was a dedicated student, cheerleader and dancer. After graduating at the top of her class from Alta High School in 2002, she pursued her dream of becoming an architect at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where she graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Architecture in 2007. She accepted a position in Santa Barbara, California with an architecture firm and earned her LEED accreditation. But in May 2009, her dream was tragically interrupted when she was diagnosed with small cell ovarian cancer, hypercalcemic type.

Several months prior to her diagnosis, Stephanie had been experiencing what we’ve since learned were classic symptoms of ovarian cancer. She was seeing her general practitioner for a series of bladder infections, but because she was a healthy and strong young woman, she never thought to mention the other little things going on, like fatigue, queasiness, gas and expanding tummy. None of us knew these were symptoms of ovarian cancer, nor did any of us dream they could be caused by something so serious.
After Stephanie’s first surgery, her doctor informed her that she did indeed have cancer. Her eyes filled with tears, she pulled the covers up over her head, then pulled them right back down again and said, “OK, I can do this.”

Stephanie Petersen with her brother, Greg 2004

During chemotherapy, one of Stephanie’s nurses said, “Stephanie doesn’t know how to do anything but succeed.” In December of 2009, we believed that statement had come true. After chemo and radiation, there was no evidence of disease. But just three months later, she woke up with severe lung pain and went to an urgent care office. They sent her to a hospital for a CT scan where she learned her cancer was back. Again, Stephanie refused to give up. She chose to participate in a Phase 1 trial, which initially seemed to work well. But within a few months, she was much worse.

Like everything she did in life, Stephanie faced her cancer with amazing strength, courage and grace. Her radiant smile always shone through, even in her darkest hours. Stephanie fought with all she had, but succumbed to this dreadful disease on June 27, 2010, just 13 months after she was diagnosed. She was just 26.

After the heartbreaking loss of our beautiful Stephanie, our family started the Small Cell Ovarian Cancer Foundation to help her legacy live on and to honor her amazing determination to beat cancer. Our foundation’s mission is threefold: To raise awareness of the symptoms of small cell ovarian cancer, make information more readily available to future patients and their families, and to fund research into this little-known, but deadly disease.

From the time Stephanie was first diagnosed, we were incredibly frustrated by the lack of information available about the disease. Very little was out there just 2 1/2 years ago. To remedy this, and to help raise awareness, we designed and printed bookmarks with symptoms and facts about small cell ovarian cancer. They are spreading the word that small cell ovarian cancer is a highly malignant tumor that affects mainly young women, with an average median age of 24. We are distributing the bookmarks where we can easily reach this audience—at colleges and universities in all 50 states, as well as locations in England, New Zealand and Spain. We have also formed Team Stephanie, a group of active volunteers who plan and participate in fundraising and race events all around the country to honor Stephanie in a very positive, uplifting way.

To make information more available on the Internet, we created and maintain a website (smallcellovarian.org) with information and symptoms of small cell ovarian cancer, as well as links to medical papers, ongoing research studies, and a health forum where women can engage with others who are fighting the disease.

Through fundraising efforts, we have and will continue to support research into this very rare form of ovarian cancer. Our ultimate goal is to help find a successful screening, treatment and cure.

Stephanie Petersen College Graduation 2007

Laura Vivas Cuevas

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One year ago, I began this long trail when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was a tough year, very hard, but it is over and I overcame the disease. Today I am thankful for life. Now a year has passed, I am writing my story. I want to share it with all patients who now are going through this process. It has been a hard and tough process but with great strength, faith, and love for life, it can be overcome. A big hug and courage. Yes, you CAN!

One year ago, like a regular day, very early in the morning, without permission or preparation, just like that, I learned: I had CANCER! And how was it possible to understand the word without fear and uncertainty?

I remember our meeting, it and me. It was that kind of encounter that you never want to have but they happen: the sonogram room, your body’s image on the screen, looking great: the hidden enemy growing in, without my consent, without even any warning it seized me. I was so surprised, stunned, speechless … thousand questions without an answer and there we were, the two very close together, hand by hand. Knowing that we had to begin a hard, hard road, and so we started facing a long and hard battle for many months full of operating rooms, doctors, tests, needles, drugs, travels, and every 21 days the battle, the fighting day directly against you.

I received life drop by drop coming through my veins but, paradoxically, in spite of winning that fight, I was slowly deteriorating. I lost my hair, I had aches, pains, and fear became a big issue.

I hated you for every tear shed, for every sleepless night, for each day away from my son, for the mirror reminding me how bad I looked.But we just spent our time, months passed, and the big day came, June 5: Our long-awaited final battle for me. The day we dropped our hands. That hand you have been holding all these months reminding me that life is so short and death is there, very close, waiting for all.

I remember the excitement of that day when I opened my eyes and saw the day light, reaching the chemo room and waiting for the most desired seven hours: you left me, you were my enemy! I was FREE and felt quietness and peace, proud of my accomplishment. I repeated to myself a thousand times: you did it!

Then, I started getting better every day. The pain was going away, my hair began to grow back my security, fears fainted, and life smiled me again but with a different face than I knew before. I’m stronger. I have learned to enjoy the most plain and simple things.

Now, in spite of all, I can only count my blessings and feel that my life makes sense, that no matter what happens, I can always move on.

Samantha Lockwood

Samantha Lockwood Climbing Photo

Several years ago I had the surreal experience of being told I had cancer while I was in a hospital bed with morphine dripping into my arm. I had gone into the hospital a day earlier for routine surgery for an ovarian cyst that my original doctor told me I could either have removed immediately or just “wait and see.” I opted to have it removed immediately since it was winter, and I wanted to be able to rock climb that summer.

I was diagnosed with Stage IIC ovarian cancer, but it was fortunate that I was diagnosed early. My original doctor told me that, at age 30, I was way too young for cancer and that I shouldn’t worry. Later, I happened to meet and talk with a fellow climber/doctor who urged me to see a gynecologic oncologist. Fortunately, by going to a “gyn onc,” I was staged correctly during the initial surgery. Studies show that when a gyn-oncologist performs the surgery, survival rates increase up to 25%.

My chemo treatments left me bald. I hated wearing wigs because they were just too high maintenance. When I wore scarves, I felt everyone’s looks of sympathy because they could tell I was sick. On one particularly hot day I asked my boyfriend if he minded if I took my scarf off. Of course he didn’t, but when I did, I felt naked, like I was topless or something. The next morning I made a decision. I rode my bike to the tattoo shop and had a dragon tattooed on my head. Dragons are a symbol of strength and protection. With my head decorated I didn’t feel naked being bald and no one gave me looks of sympathy anymore. In fact they looked at me like I was a badass which was pretty cool.

Samantha Lockwood Head Shot

During my good days I’d go rock climbing, take pottery classes, rest, meet with my knitting circle, and eat really healthy foods. I’d even ride my bike six or so miles every week when I had to get my blood work done. I took two climbing weekends at Seneca Rocks, WV. Six months later, I got the news that I was cancer free. I threw a big party and called it the “Bury the Dragon” Party: my hair would grow back and the dragon tattoo would be buried forever, never to be seen again.

In 2008, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer again, but with a new cell type. I had to have a complete hysterectomy and more chemotherapy. This time the chemo happened during a very bad flu season and I couldn’t go to work or to the climbing gym because my white blood cell counts were so low. I spent most of my days knitting and watching movies. When the weather was nice enough I rode my bike around the river. That New Year’s Day I had another party and invited close family and friends. Everyone was told to be there at 5:00 pm for a New Year’s toast. People speculated that my boyfriend and I were getting engaged that evening. Instead, we got married right then and there. It was a blast and the best thing I ever did!

That Spring I was elected to the Board of Directors of the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation. I was declared cancer free once again on May 12, 2009. Less than three months later I rode my bike 540 miles from Burlington, VT to Palmerton, PA in one of the country’s most challenging organized rides.

Samantha Lockwood

What started out as a completely surreal experience has turned into an incredible journey, learning some huge life lessons:
• Doing what you love is important, but sometimes doing what you love is impossible. So you have to get up and find something else to love, and then go do that.
• I’m very lucky to have people in my life who care about me.
• Be your own advocate and when you can’t, ask for help.
• Every morning I wake up is precious, and I try to relish each day.

All in all, I feel lucky to have been diagnosed early, and I am grateful to be alive. I want to give back by being a part of the HERA Community to help spread awareness and stop the loss of women from ovarian cancer. My climbing team is called Bury the Dragon, and I will be participating in the 8th Annual HERA Climb4LifeSM DC on July 13, 2013. I hope you will join me for a really fun weekend of climbing and hiking to benefit the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation: www.herafoundation.org. See you there!

NOTE: Samantha Lockwood is Vice President of the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation whose signature fundraising events are the Climb4LifeSM weekends featuring rock climbing and hiking activities. Of the funds raised through Climb4LifeSM and other sources, 88% provides for HERA’s scientific research grants and community awareness grants. Visit: www.herafoundation.org.

Joan Sommer

Joan Sommer

Coping with Treatment, Remission and Recurrence.
A profile of Joan Sommer, 19 year ovarian cancer survivor.

Joan Sommer was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in April of 1993, the day she gave birth to her third child, a daughter named Danica. “I heard my doctor say: ‘Oh my god, it’s a girl,’” Joan recalls. “Then a few minutes later, ‘Oh my god, it’s ovarian cancer.’”

Joan’s doctors immediately operated to remove as many tumors as they could. She ultimately spent five weeks in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy for stage four ovarian cancer. Both the diagnosis and the effects of treatment made it hard for Joan to bond with Danica. “The little I knew about ovarian cancer—the very little—was that it was called the silent killer and that most women die very quickly after diagnosis. I started mulling over all the things I was going to miss—birthdays, kindergarten, graduations, weddings. I felt like it was easier to say goodbye if I didn’t say hello.”

On her third day in the hospital, an oncologist met with Joan. He started by congratulating her on the birth of her little girl. “It was the first time someone acknowledged why I came into the hospital, and who I was as a person,” says Joan. The doctor told Joan he had a plan for treating her disease, and that he thought she would do well, because she was young and healthy. “It was the first time that I felt a little hope. I had something to work towards.”

Later that day, Joan felt her milk start to come in. “I was outraged at first. Doesn’t my body get it? I just had a hysterectomy!” But the experience led to a pearl of wisdom that Joan now passes on to other survivors: Your body knows what to do to support life. Get out of your own way and trust your body.

Another insight arrived when Joan returned home from the hospital. She quickly noticed how much baby Danica had changed in five weeks. “As an adult, life can get pretty boring,” Joan says, “But as a newborn every day brings so many big changes. She ended up being a yardstick for my cancer journey. Danica reminded me to focus on each day with my family.”

Joan experienced her first remission about 14 months after her diagnosis. “Everyone around me was clapping and celebrating, but I was scared to death. You’re supposed to be happy in this state of remission, but in your head is this screeching heavy metal band screaming ‘Cancer! Cancer!’ and you have no idea where the volume button is.”

Once she was in remission, Joan had more energy and started to read about the statistics of ovarian cancer. Those numbers made her think that her disease would most likely recur, and that she probably didn’t have very long to live. She didn’t know any women with ovarian cancer, and assumed it was because none of them survived.

One day, Joan spotted an ad on television for a walk in Central Park dedicated to breast and ovarian cancer. That ad led Joan to her first support group for ovarian cancer, where she met women who had survived five and even ten years. “They had recurrences but they were working, traveling, volunteering.” The women in that support group taught Joan to live with the disease. “I had been petrified to tell the doctor how tired I felt—I was afraid to complain because he might stop the treatment. Now I tell women: ‘Don’t be afraid to have chemo on Thursday, rather than Monday, because you have something to do.’”

When her ovarian cancer recurred for the first time, Joan was angry. “I couldn’t imagine how I was going to endure the treatment another year. That anger helped me be a lot more outspoken. I learned to ask for medication to help with the fatigue and anemia. It left me feeling like I do have some control over this.”

Over the years, Joan has experienced many cycles of recurrence and remission. “I never thought I would say this, but I really lost count of how many remissions and recurrences I’ve had. Eventually you’re pretty much on treatment all the time to remain stable.”

Advances in medicine and the support of other survivors helped Joan cope. Better medications allowed Joan to return to her previous work as a nurse. In addition to feeling less nausea and fatigue from her treatments, Joan has turned to clinical trials and research as a source of hope. “I always felt like I needed to have something in my back pocket—if I need to switch treatments, I can try this, whether it be radiation or medication or a clinical trial.”

Support from fellow survivors is important to Joan, as well. She belongs to several online groups, and says: “That has been one of the most important mentors for me in terms of treatment. I’ll post ‘I’m thinking of trying this drug, has anyone been on it? How do you tolerate it?’” Other women’s responses help her know what to expect from a new treatment.

The baby born moments before Joan’s diagnosis is now a sophomore in college. Over the years, Joan has gained many insights into coping with cancer, both from her own experience and those of fellow survivors.

Lindy Waldron

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Lindy Waldron of East Sussex, England is a former community nurse. Like many women – and despite being a nurse – Lindy ignored her symptoms for months before visiting her GP. After a convoluted referral path she was finally diagnosed with the most advanced stage of ovarian cancer.

“I remember lying in the bath and looking with disgust at my fat stomach. It didn’t occur to me that it might have been caused by anything other than biscuits. At work I did my best to conceal it under my nursing uniform, but I still looked pregnant. I was 54.

There was a lot going on in my personal and professional life. My brother and father both died from cancer within three months of each other. I continued working throughout, and then my sister unexpectedly left the country for a new life in Australia. As the months went on I felt tired and emotional. Constipation was a problem but I assumed it was due to stress, and I had lower back pain which, as a nurse, was nothing new. One day I had to walk up a fairly steep incline and felt so breathless and dizzy at the top that I had to sit down. I felt bloated and was eating less but there was no weight loss.

As a nurse, looking back, these symptoms should have alerted me that something was wrong but I ignored them. At the time, we were all in shock and trying to come to terms with everything that had happened. Our way of coping was to keep busy. For me to be ill was out of the question.

Eventually, I found my work with terminally ill patients and their carers too difficult. I took unpaid leave, then sick leave and was referred to a bereavement counsellor. I was offered anti-depressants by my GP and by Occupational Health, which I refused. I didn’t think it relevant to mention any of my other symptoms at that time, and nobody asked. The consultations never progressed beyond me bursting into tears. Occupational Health was determined to get me back to work, but I was still depressed so they found me a non-clinical post. I felt pressurised and unsupported and it seemed easier just to hand in my notice. I felt my manager was relieved. Of course it was a huge error of judgement. I had no idea I was physically ill. Financially it was a disaster. I had no sick pay and no job for over two years.

During all this I began to experience right-sided abdominal pain, which became persistent and eventually kept me awake at night. Always in the same place and unlike any other pain I had experienced. Very worried and convinced that I had bowel cancer, I visited my GP.

She felt my abdomen and couldn’t detect anything abnormal. Her diagnosis was irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but seeing the worried look on my face she agreed to refer me to a gastroenterologist. He also examined me abdominally and recorded “no obvious mass”. I then had a colonoscopy to rule out colitis. The procedure was difficult and painful and although the results were normal, my ovary on the right side was seen to be protruding against the intestine.

A week later I had a trans-vaginal ultrasound (TVU). During the scan I realised that something was very wrong. The sonographer said nothing, but afterwards she ran to find the consultant with the results. I remember sitting alone in the car in a complete state of shock and then having to drive home. The consultant rang me later with the bad news. I had a large irregular complex mass behind the uterus and extending to both sides of the pelvis. I was referred urgently to a gynaecologist. When I rang my GP to tell her I might have cancer, she was lost for words.

A good friend came to sit with me at home that afternoon. At a loss to know what to do or say, she brought cream cakes! I found myself in a surreal situation – the first of many – and from that moment my life changed.

I had surgery to remove my uterus, ovaries, omentum (an apron which covers the intestines and stomach) and pelvic lymph nodes. A biopsy was taken of my spleen during surgery and a general surgeon was on hand to perform a splenectomy when the results were found to be positive.

Because the cancer had spread to another organ it was classified as Stage IV, giving a very poor prognosis, but my surgeon was always confident that he had removed everything and he remains optimistic to this day. I have found his positive attitude an extremely helpful aid to recovery.

Six weeks later I began a chemotherapy regime of taxol and carboplatin. The side effects were tolerable and the only long-term damage has been peripheral neuropathy. My toes are still slightly numb. Essentially I feel well now, although inclined to pick up any infection and take longer to fight it off. I have occasional bowel problems and pain, which is to be expected, but I live a full and active life and consider myself to be very, very fortunate.

I now work with Target Ovarian Cancer to raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. I am ‘the face’ of their symptoms leaflets, have campaigned at Parliament and been in the media, to use every opportunity I can to make sure that women are aware of the symptoms and visit their GP. Early diagnosis saves lives, so every bit of awareness helps.”

Lynn Hill

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Lynn Hill of Staffordshire is a Postwoman and mum living with ovarian cancer. Like many women, Lynn had never even heard of ovarian cancer, let alone knew of the symptoms – as a result, it was months before she was finally diagnosed as being in the advanced stages of ovarian cancer. She’s now a tireless campaigner for symptoms awareness.

“As a 49 year old postwoman, married with a 9 year old son, I’d always considered myself to be fairly fit and healthy. But, on the 5th April 2012 I was diagnosed in Accident & Emergency with stage 3 ovarian cancer.

It had all started about two years earlier when I started to have bowel problems. After a few fairly invasive tests I was diagnosed by a consultant as having Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

In June 2011 I had a prolapse and had to go into hospital for operation. I was told that it was caused by my being a postwoman and carrying heavy bags of mail. After my operation I immediately started having bladder problems. At a check-up I was told to see my GP and get physiotherapy for a weak pelvic floor. They suspected this was caused by having a big baby and me being petite. So, for about nine months, I lived my life thinking this was the case, even though everything was getting steadily worse. Finally, my physio suggested that I go back my GP, who then got me and appointment with an urologist.

In late March 2012 I started having problems with my clothes feeling really tight, even though I was beginning to struggle eating. It was only when my sister came to lunch with her family and thought that I looked pregnant that it really clicked that something was dreadfully wrong. Especially as there was no way I could be pregnant as I’d had a hysterectomy six years earlier.

I saw my GP on the Monday, who arranged for blood tests the next day and breathing tests on the Wednesday. I went in for the blood test and carried on as best as possible as by this time, my stomach was really swollen and I was having breathing problems.

In a twist of fate, I’ve a friend who’s a Macmillan nurse. She told me to get myself straight to Accident & Emergency. But, because I didn’t think it was serious enough to go to A&E for, it took a couple of phone calls from the doctor to get me there saying that they’d found a blood clot on the lung. 48 hours and many tests later, I got the real diagnosis – ovarian cancer.

I had to have debulking surgery (that’s when they remove the tumour), and six chemotherapy sessions, which at the time seemed rough, but in reality I sailed through it all. I went back to work after the second chemotherapy session, but on reduced hours.

This has made me very determined to work with Target Ovarian Cancer to raise awareness of symptoms, as I hadn’t known them or even heard of ovarian cancer. Early diagnosis can save lives and make treatment easier. I have managed to get the information into the Royal Mail in-house magazine; I have had my story and the symptoms sent to 1885 managers within Royal Mail; the local hospital I go to has put an article in the in-house magazine; my local paper did a three page spread; I have been on two radio shows; I have given the information leaflets and posters to local doctors’ surgeries; and finally I have put leaflets and posters out in the public collection office at the Royal Mail office where I work.”

Jenny Bogle

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Jenny Bogle, 49 from London, England was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is currently undergoing her third round of treatment as her ovarian cancer keeps coming back.

“My diagnosis came out of the blue. I had difficulty breathing and a pain in my chest which had been caused by secondary tumours in the lining of my lung. It took a month of scans and tests to find out where the cancer was coming from, and I have since had two major lung operations, a radical hysterectomy, further surgery and am on my third course of chemotherapy.

No one in my family has a history of cancer, and I had always been really healthy, so it was a total shock. I found out about Target Ovarian Cancer by looking on the internet. It was a year after I had been diagnosed and I really wish I had been in touch with them earlier – but I had been afraid to explore on the web because there is so much frightening rubbish out there! In particular I wish I had had their very sensible ‘What happens next’ booklet when I was first diagnosed. I now make sure my hospital has a good supply.

My daughter was only 10 when I was diagnosed and I immediately let school know and emailed her schoolmates’ parents as I wanted them to hear it from me directly, and to be aware in case she needed support. I’m amazed by how positive she is; she has even been doing fundraising at school through making and selling rosettes and cupcakes. I have a fantastic support network of family and friends who have looked after my daughter, brought us ‘meals on wheels’ when I’ve felt lousy, walked the dog when I’ve been too tired, given me lifts to hospital, helped me choose a wig, and some have also got involved volunteering and raising money. One friend recently had a coffee morning and invited me to come and talk about the sort of support cancer patients do (and sometimes don’t!) need.

I’ve had so much really helpful advice and support from Target Ovarian Cancer. I attended one of their events where women, both living with ovarian cancer and survivors, meet up. It’s a very uplifting event and women can take part in workshops on anything from raising awareness to diet and nutrition. I was very keen to do something positive so I’ve been helping them get Members of Parliament to support the cause. Although I’m not working at the moment I am a lawyer, so I’m very determined and can handle a debate!

I am determined not to let this disease define me, but I find it easier to cope by trying to do everything I possibly can to help give women in the future access to better treatments and support. I was horrified when I realised how common ovarian cancer is, yet the ‘standard’ first line treatment for it is 20 years old; and I’m fed up with explaining to people who tell me ‘they can do so much now, new treatments are coming out all the time, you’ll be fine’ that it just isn’t the case for ovarian cancer, which has been overlooked for too long.

Target Ovarian Cancer is helping to fund research, which is vital as there is an urgent need for new treatments. Their work supporting women diagnosed and improving early diagnosis is also incredibly important. The Walk for One Million is key to spreading awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. If 1000 people take part in the Walk for One Million and get sponsorship from 10 friends that’s 10,000 more people that are aware of the disease. Plus they’ll raise funds for a very worthy cause.”

Macon Dunnagan

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The Expedition of Hope a hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro – the world’s fourth highest peak – will take place in September 2013! A teal flag will be raised at 19,341 feet above sea level while raising awareness and funds for the work of Ovarian Cancer Canada.

In September of 2012, Macon, 51, of Charlotte, North Carolina, set a record four summits of Mount Kilimanjaro within 28 days – for a total of 25 summits on Africa’s highest peak.

Macon made his first ascent in 1999 with the loving encouragement of wife Michelle Phillips Dunnagan, who was originally from Gibsons, BC. Michelle was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2005 and died in 2007.

“I’ve always wanted to give back to Canada because Michelle was Canadian,” says Macon. “I came up to Ovarian Cancer Canada’s LOVE HER event in Toronto earlier this year. There was massive enthusiasm to do something like the Expedition of Hope, so that was it!”

Macon is looking for new and experienced climbers, ovarian cancer survivors, family members and friends from across the country. “Climbing Kilimanjaro is like going from the equator to the North Pole in four days through jungle, tundra and ice cap. Most people never get to see stars and the Milky Way so clearly – it’s truly beautiful up there.”

While he admits that it is “the hardest mental and physical challenge you will ever face,” he is quick to point out that climbing the mountain “is a walk, not a race. It’s a doable thing. I recently took a 77-year-old lady and a 12-year-old up Kilimanjaro. Once you climb Kili, you can use that momentum to tackle any other challenge in your life.”

The Expedition of Hope offers two routes. The Marangu Route is the simplest and involves walking with less steep ascents. Hikers sleep in huts. The Rongai Route is a more difficult hike with less walking each day but higher ascents. Hikers sleep in tents.

The goal is to raise $150,000 for Ovarian Cancer Canada. All climbers are committed to fundraising a minimum of $2,500, and associated travel and tour fees are paid directly by the climber. Information sessions will be held during the year to help expedition participants train and prepare for the Expedition of Hope.

People from several regions across the country have already signed up and space is limited. An Expedition of HopeFacebook page has been launched so that climbers can communicate with one another and share information in advance of the event.

 

Macon and Michelle: a love story

The story behind the Expedition of Hope began with the love story of Macon Dunnagan and Michelle Phillips.

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Photo: Michelle Dunnagan

A long-time employee of US Airways, Macon was on a multi-country trip in 1997, when he met Michelle in Fiji. It was his last night there and her first night – but Macon knew instantly that his bachelor days were over. The pair decided to pursue a long distance relationship between South Carolina and British Columbia.

Six months later, Macon proposed to Michelle at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris; the couple was married in January 1998 and settled in North Carolina. For their first anniversary, they travelled to South Africa. When Michelle returned to South Carolina for work, Macon went to Tanzania for his first attempt at climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

“I found the name Zara Tours in the back of a book. I sent them a cheque and told them I was coming. That’s how it all started,” recalls Macon. “I trained a little but that was all. Michelle just laughed so hard because I’d never been in a sleeping bag before and there I was planning on climbing Kilimanjaro.”

But Macon succeeded and he was hooked by the experience. Not only has he climbed Kilimanjaro 25 times as of the end of September 2012 but he has bookings as far as 2017!

In 2001, Macon wrote Sons of Kilimanjaro, a novel about four men who face the challenges of a climb. One of the men is taking his wife’s ashes up the mountain.

“I wrote that book years before Michelle got ovarian cancer,” says Macon.

In a twist that proves truth can be stranger than fiction, what Macon wrote came true several years later.

“Michelle always wanted to climb Kili with me but we thought she had all the time in world. Her dream to climb Kilimanjaro became her dying wish that her ashes be spread up there. So two weeks after she died, I took her ashes up Kilimanjaro.”

Each year since then, Macon has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro during September’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in memory of Michelle and to raise funds and awareness of ovarian cancer.

“I’m really excited about 2013 for Ovarian Cancer Canada,” says Macon. “Kilimanjaro is such a positive experience for people. I really want the Expedition of Hope to be a tremendous success and I want to help out in any way possible to make sure it is.”

Aimable Turabumukiza

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Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro has been in Aimable Turabumukiza’s “basket of dreams” since he first saw “this most beautiful mountain” after fleeing the Rwandan genocide as a badly injured teenager in 1994.

But instead of climbing Africa’s highest peak as part of a vacation, the Edmonton-based owner of a trucking company will join Ovarian Cancer Canada’s Expedition of Hope in September in honour of overcoming ovarian cancer – a cause he has adopted for the many women in his life.

Aimable, 36, has six sisters, three sisters-in-law, a wife and two daughters. “As a man, what should I do to protect the women I love? I can’t protect them from ovarian cancer but I can help them to be aware. The gift I can give to the women in my life is to show them that I care and look out for their best interest by climbing the tallest mountain in Africa, having fun on their behalf and promoting the cause.”

Aimable, who came to Canada in 2006, had never heard of ovarian cancer until a woman who worked with a company in the Yukon that dealt with his trucking firm was diagnosed with stage IV disease and then died.

“I couldn’t shake it from my mind,” says Aimable. He asked his wife Aline about the disease and he asked other women but no one seemed to know much about it. After doing some research, he found the Ovarian Cancer Canada website. He read about the disease and the Expedition of Hope led by Macon Dunnagan, who lost his wife to ovarian cancer. Aline challenged Aimable to do the climb and he accepted.

“I decided to dedicate 2013 and beyond to talking about ovarian cancer here in Canada. We have adopted Ovarian Cancer Canada as our charity of choice. We need more voices so that’s how my heart was drawn to the cause of ovarian cancer. We will promote it through our business and push it to the maximum.”

Aimable’s involvement in ovarian cancer is very special to him, even though he doesn’t have anyone with this disease who is directly related.

“I’ve been through the most horrific events of human life during Rwandan genocide and many years afterward. I was beaten and nearly died. And we lost so many people. Was I going to be bitter, look for revenge and cry about how I was victimized or instead find a cause and put my heart into it?”

For years, Aimable worked to promote awareness of prostate cancer and leukemia, as he knew many people affected by these diseases. But ovarian cancer and the Expedition of Hope have captured his interest because he has so many women in his life and more women need to know about the disease.

He is particularly passionate to get the awareness message out to new immigrants.

“Our country is the most diverse in the world. Many people come here looking for a better life yet clinging to their traditions and not paying attention to what is going on with their bodies because of the many instant changes they experience while settling in their new country. By embracing the medical system, you will be doing a service to your family. You will be less of a burden on the system and your family, and you will enjoy your new country much more.”

Aimable now considers himself “a student of ovarian cancer” and shares information about the disease daily on his Facebook page, on Twitter and soon he plans to begin a blog.

Aimable and Aline are just beginning to fundraise for his Kilimanjaro climb. They will be approaching business contacts, Facebook followers, family and friends for their support. They will be speaking to members of their church and are also planning a series of fundraising events including a car wash and barbecue.

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Photo: Mount Kilimanjaro

Aline has taken on the task of getting Aimable in shape for the climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. Training began in January with a workout routine and weight lifting.

“My wife is 100% behind me. She is the most loving and supportive person,” says Aimable.

“He’s a strong-minded guy,” laughs Aline, “so if I tell him to do something, we have to fight first before he can do it my way!”

But beyond the joking, Aline is profoundly touched by her husband’s resolve to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with Ovarian Cancer Canada’s Expedition of Hope team. “The fact that it’s something for women and he’s really burning for it, I find it’s honourable,” she says.

Cynthia Bradburn

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The Handsome Little Man in the photo below will be guest of honour at the Ovarian Cancer Canada Mini Walk of Hope in Burlington/Oakville, Ontario on September 11. “I can’t wait to introduce him to everyone,” says Mom Cynthia Bradburn, 36, an ovarian cancer survivor and the Mini Walk chair.

Evan Alexander David Bradburn – or “Evan sent from Heaven,” as his parents call him – is a dream-come-true for Cynthia and her husband Jay. The biological son of the couple was born on April 7, 2011 using a surrogate.

In May 2009, Cynthia was diagnosed with stage IIc ovarian cancer and stage Ib uterine cancer. She had surgery to remove a 20 cm tumour and her reproductive organs, and then underwent six rounds of chemotherapy.

Before her diagnosis, the newlyweds had been trying to start a family but Cynthia was experiencing persistent symptoms including bloating, gas, frequent urination, menstrual pain and bleeding. Prior to Cynthia’s surgery, the Bradburns completed a cycle of in vitro fertilization and a friend offered to carry the couple’s child – “the best gift anyone could ever give us.

“I couldn’t carry my own child and it was so important to Jay and me to have a family. My fertility had been instantly taken away from me. But Evan really saved my life.”

While Cynthia was undergoing treatment, she decided that she needed to do something to raise awareness about ovarian cancer, particularly among younger women. “Until we have a screening tool for early detection, women need to be aware of the disease and know the signs and symptoms.”

She registered a team for the 2009 Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope in Toronto, and in 2010 she launched the Mini Walk in Burlington/Oakville. “We had the largest MiniWalk in Canada with over 300 participants and we raised more than $63,000.”

Cynthia wants young women diagnosed with ovarian cancer to know that “there are options that can help you to have your family.” She says she’s learned that “my life has no guarantees, so I’m living each day to the fullest without regrets. Anything that’s within my control, I’m going to take it and run with it.”

That’s exactly what Cynthia and Jay did with their desire to be parents. And it’s everything they ever dreamed of and more.

“Jay is a proud father. He has wanted kids for a long time. And being a Mom is fantastic,” says Cynthia. “I just love waking up every morning to Evan’s sparkling eyes and contagious smile. It makes any kind of day better.”

Claudia Nathan Cynthia EvanPhoto: Nathan, Claudia Connor, Cynthia and Evan at the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope last September

Claudia Connor

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When 33-year-old Claudia Connor lost her reproductive organs to early stage ovarian cancer in 2007, her dreams of being a mother were shattered.

“The hurt was terrible,” says Claudia. “I told myself not to hold onto the dream of being a Mom though deep down I knew I would fulfill that role one way or another – through being an aunt or someone important in the lives of my friends’ children.”

Four years after her diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation for stage 1c ovarian cancer, Claudia and her husband Sean became the joyous parents of baby Nathan through an adoption in Colombia, where Claudia’s parents were born.

“Nathan is now my son…he is my heart, my family, he is part of me,” says Claudia, Ovarian Cancer Canada’s National Walk of Hope Coordinator, who returns to work this summer following parental leave.

Claudia encourages young women who have lost their fertility to early stage ovarian cancer not to lose hope of realizing their dream of motherhood. “Give yourself the time to allow your body, your heart and soul to heal, and take the time to rebuild yourself. If you feel deep down that you are destined to be a mother, you will be.”

Acknowledging that adoption is not for everyone, Claudia says it is a rigorous process that requires the support of a woman’s partner, family and friends. While some countries will not consider adoptive parents with a history of cancer, others require medical proof that there has been no evidence of disease for a number of years. In Claudia’s case, Colombia needed medical certificates from her oncologist and family doctor indicating that there had been no sign of cancer in three years.

Claudia also points out that adoption is one of a number of options for women and their partners. She witnessed her friend Cynthia Bradburn become a parent through harvesting of her eggs, in vitro fertilization and freezing of embryos prior to surgery for ovarian cancer, followed several years later by surrogacy.

“We had tried a similar procedure but we weren’t successful,” Claudia says. “Just because you can’t give birth doesn’t mean you can’t be a mother. The opportunity will come.”

For Claudia and Sean, their opportunity involved months of paper work, undergoing psychological testing, home studies and taking courses on parenting.

“If you have any doubts about being a parent, going through an adoption process will uncover them – most definitely.”

For Claudia and Sean, becoming parents has been the realization of a long-standing dream. They had been planning for pregnancy when Claudia’s ovarian cancer was discovered and their lives were thrown off track. Now they say that being parents is even better than they could have imagined.

“I didn’t know what being a Mom would be like,” says Claudia. “I thought I was happy with my life before – with Sean, great family, friends and co-workers. But when Nathan came into the picture, my happiness increased one-hundred fold! He makes every single day amazing.”

Claudia and Sean became instant parents on Canada Day, July 1, 2011 in Bogotá, Colombia, the day they picked up their son from an orphanage. They were accompanied by a van load of relatives including Claudia’s mother and Sean’s parents from Canada, and Claudia’s extended family who gave them a home base in Colombia while the legalities were finalized over the summer.

When Claudia and Sean first saw Nathan, he was in a swing chair in the orphanage nursery. “He was just looking up, taking everything in, looking at our faces. He was the most beautiful, perfect baby I had ever seen – just the sweetest thing,” she recalls. “I touched him and he just melted into me. I didn’t want to let him go. Sean finally said, ‘Okay, I need to hold him!’”

Back at her uncle’s house, Claudia and Sean went about learning the practical aspects of parenting a baby with guidance from Claudia’s mother. After two weeks, Sean returned to Canada for work while Claudia and Nathan stayed behind for court dates, Nathan’s passport and visa. Sean came back for another week later in the summer, and finally Claudia and Nathan returned to Canada on September 4.

One of Claudia’s great joys was getting home in time to attend the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope, where she saw her friend Cynthia and met baby Evan for the first time. “I was so elated for Cynthia and there we were together with our sons – after all we had both been through.”

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Photo: Nathan, Claudia, Cynthia Bradburn and Evan at the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope last September

“That walk was a dream come true for me,” says Claudia.

“Having Nathan be part of the walk, it put all my worlds together. I remember being at the walk when I just finished my treatment and being thankful for just being alive and being able to walk five kilometers with my family – never allowing myself to think that one day I would actually be at the walk with my own child.”