My survivor story began when my best friend, Connie was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer in April 2015. We were close from the moment we met in college. Through me she met one of my best guy friends from high school, and they were married in 1986. Our friendship never faded, and we often discussed how much fun we would have during retirement.
Connie’s diagnosis shocked our group of friends and we all rallied around her. She started treatment and had surgery. I went to a chemotherapy appointment with her and when she decided it was time for her Buzz Cut Party, I was with her. We celebrated her beauty and strength.
Her cancer fight continued with short remissions and unfortunate recurrences. She fought with a strong heart and beautiful spirit embracing all treatments; chemo, surgery, more chemo, radiation, brain surgery, more radiation. In early September 2017, she transitioned to hospice care and she passed on September 6, 2017.
In late 2016 I was planning my June 2017 retirement and started to think about organizations where I wanted to volunteer. Having recently done the Teal Stride Walk on Connie’s PacMan team, I was impressed by MOCA’s approach to supporting patients, survivors, caregivers, medical community and focus on research. I am a strong believer in the need for research in order to move treatments, cures and early detection forward, so finding an organization whose mission included research excited me. I began volunteering by participating on the Consumer Grant review and Gala committees.
After Connie’s passing, I continued to honor her by volunteering at MOCA. I was enjoying my retirement and making plans for traveling, gardening, spending time with family and friends. Then the unexpected happened. In July 2018 I was stunned when I was diagnosed with stage IIIb ovarian cancer.
As with my friend Connie, my symptoms seemed normal for women our age – frequent urination, some constipation, bloating. It wasn’t until spring 2018 that I began thinking maybe I should see my doctor just to make sure it was nothing. In early summer, whether real or not, I believe I saw signs from Connie. Dragonflies for us represent Connie and I was seeing them everywhere. I recall one afternoon being on my patio thinking should I go see the doctor when I spotted a couple of dragonflies in my flower garden. I said out loud, “Okay Connie, I’ll go in and talk to the doctor.”
At my appointment, the doctor felt something and scheduled me for a CT. I got “the call” on my 57th birthday, letting me know they found masses on both ovaries and suspected cancer. The next day I met with my oncologist and had surgery four days later. Unfortunately, I had surgical complications which delayed my chemotherapy by a little over a month. I went through six treatments (carboplatin/taxol) from September 2018 to January 2019. Those months were difficult but also filled with support, love and laughter of family and friends.
My results to date are very good, no evidence of disease. I am adjusting to this new normal. I recall my friend Connie saying “Is there ‘normal’ life after having cancer? Probably not, but just like I dealt with the last eight months, I am going to be positive and live, laugh and love to the fullest every day.” I try to remember this daily. She faced her cancer with a strong heart, grace and beautiful spirit which has and continues to help me through my own journey which I know has just begun.
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