Joanie's story

In 2006, I rolled over in bed and felt a grapefruit-sized mass in my abdomen. Thinking it was a fibroid, I ignored it.

Several weeks later, I injured my back and saw a physical therapist. The therapist instructed me to lie face down on the therapy table. He pressed his fingers along either side of my spine to elicit the source of pain. When he reached my lower back, I nearly jumped off the table. But the pain was not in my back—it was in my abdomen. I made an appointment with my gynecologist.

The gynecologist examined me and felt a cantaloupe-sized mass in my abdomen, probably a fibroid. But I needed an abdominal/pelvic ultrasound to confirm it.

In a darkened room, the ultrasound technician slid the ultrasound probe across the cold gel she had squirted on my abdomen. She studied the screen, then shot me a glance. Something was wrong.

I carried the films to my doctor’s office. My doctor strode into the exam room and pronounced a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. She rattled off all the tests that needed to be done including a Ca 125, the ovarian cancer marker and an abdominal/pelvic CT scan. I sat stunned. I thought we had agreed it was a fibroid.

Debulking surgery revealed a volleyball-sized mass—ovarian cancer stage 1c. I received six rounds of chemotherapy with carboplatin and taxol.

Today I am cancer-free. I speak to medical students in the Survivor’s Teaching Students program sponsored by the Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance. I am also involved in our local ovarian cancer group, The Fried Eggs—Sunny-Side Up.

I share my ovarian cancer journey in my newly released book, In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer, which also includes the cancer stories of eleven other women and helpful tips.

For media enquiries please contact: cmackay@worldovariancancercoalition.