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. They were married in 1986. Our friendship never faded, and we often discussed how much fun we would have during retirement.
Connie introduced me to MOCA when she signed up for HOM Teal Strides for Ovarian Cancer (walk run) in 2016. We participated as the Ms. PacMan Cancer Chomper team. Connie’s 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 and more radiation. Connie passed on September 6, 2017.
I was impressed by MOCA’s approach to supporting patients, survivors, caregivers, and medical community—as well as the organization’s focus on research. I am a strong believer in the need for research to move treatments, cures, and early detection forward, so finding an organization whose mission included research excited me. I began volunteering by participating in the MOCA Consumer Grant Review and the Black, White & Teal Gala committees at first to support her, and later in her memory.
I was enjoying my retirement and making plans for traveling, gardening, and 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, ten months after Connie passed.
As with my friend Connie, my symptoms seemed normal for women our age – frequent urination, some constipation, bloating and hip pain. 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 me, represent Connie—and I was seeing them everywhere. I recall one afternoon being on my patio thinking, “Should I go see the doctor?” Then, 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 from family, friends and MOCA.
For about 18 months, my life was somewhat normal. I recall my friend Connie saying, “Is there ‘normal’ life after having cancer?” Probably not, as those months were interrupted by blood checks and CA-125 anxiety that lessened with each month as I got back good results. Then, in the fall of 2020, we noticed my CA-125 was rising, not much—but enough I asked to have a scan to check it out. I got the call letting me know there was a new tumor. After consulting with my gynecologic oncologist and considering my options, we decided on another surgery and focused radiation, followed by initiating a maintenance drug called Lynparza. Thankfully the surgery and radiation went well, and I have now been tolerating the drug for almost 3 years.
I still go in to get blood work routinely and see my doctors, but I am trying hard to be positive and live, laugh and love to the fullest every day. I know that if another recurrence happens, we will figure out a plan and move forward. There are new treatments being researched and approved every year, which gives me hope.
I continue to volunteer with MOCA, attend MOCA support group and take part in as many of the other MOCA activities I can. Every day, I think of my friend Connie and how she faced her cancer with a strong heart, grace and beautiful spirit. This helps me through my own journey, which thankfully continues for me.
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