In 2012 and 2013 I began to notice changes with my menstrual cycle, just like all women do as their body begins to prepare for menopause. There was nothing unusual or alarming. I suppose the only thing unusual was that I was almost 56 years old and still having monthly periods. However in May 2013 after my period, I had what I thought was a common yeast infection that wouldn’t clear up. Since it didn’t go away after using over-the-counter medication, it did cause me to finally call the nurse line a week later.
On Monday morning I called the nurse line to get advice and determine what I should do. The nurse carefully listened and encouraged me several times to schedule an appointment to see my doctor. I didn’t think that that was necessary; it was “just” a yeast infection or possibly perimenopause changes. She checked the schedule and my doctor just happened to have several openings that same day. I finally relented and took one of the appointments.
When I saw my doctor he also carefully listened to me. He did an exam and realized something was going on and that I needed further evaluation. So right then he conducted an ultrasound and discovered a cyst on each ovary. I wasn’t too alarmed because I know that cysts are not unusual. He also saw that my uterine lining was thickened, which I believed was causing my symptoms. He then took some biopsies.
My doctor called on Friday morning. The biopsy results from the uterine lining showed abnormal cells. Due to the abnormal cells, the cysts on each ovary and my age, he highly recommended a hysterectomy! It was a bit of a shock for me to hear the word hysterectomy since I thought I had “just a common yeast infection”.
Given the possibility of cancer due to the abnormal cells and the skill needed to perform laparoscopy surgery, which my regular gynecologist did not do, he referred me to a surgeon who was a gynecologic oncologist. This was a very good thing for me and the right recommendation! Their office called that same afternoon and I learned that there was an opening on Monday. It was wonderful to have such a short time to have to wait for an appointment, although I did feel like that was one of the longest weekends in my life!
So within one week of calling the nurse line, seeing my doctor, and getting a referral, I was in another exam room talking to a surgeon about having a hysterectomy. Of course she talked about the possibly of me having cancer due to the abnormal cells but I knew that wasn’t the case. I was feeling great and had no pain or any other issues. We scheduled the surgery to be conducted in 2-1/2 weeks.
On June 26, I went to the hospital to have what I thought would be a routine hysterectomy. Once the hysterectomy, which included the removal of the uterus, cervix, both ovaries and both fallopian tubes, was completed, the surgery was put “on hold” while they conducted a quick pathology test. The surgeon learned that I had 2 cancers, ovarian cancer and uterine cancer! So she went back in and removed my omentum, 15 lymph nodes from the pelvis and abdomen and endometriosis as well as a conducting of a complete pelvic washing. I was lucky that it hadn’t spread to any other organs and all the things she removed came back negative, cancer free! Although my surgeon felt confident that she removed all the cancer, she recommended chemo as my insurance policy for any remaining cancer cells that may have been hidden.
After my surgery I stopped by my regular doctor’s office to thank the nurse on the nurse line for listening to me and encouraging me to schedule an appointment. I also thanked my doctor for listening and not discounting my concerns and for being very thorough in his exam because ultimately, they both played a huge role in saving my life!
Before I started my first chemo, I discovered MOCA. It was so wonderful to talk to a staff person who understood what I was going through. I was even matched with a mentor to talk through my concerns and fears. A few weeks later, I stopped by the office and immediately felt connected. There were books and resources I could check out and I even signed up for the MOCA Gala, the night before my first chemo! Weeks later, I attended support meetings and began to participate in all sorts of MOCA activities including creating a team for my first HOM Teal Strides walk/run that September.
3-1/2 weeks after my surgery I began my first of 6 rounds of chemo with the drugs Carboplatin and Taxol. The first round of chemo was hard mainly due to my being scared and not knowing what to expect. But the good news was I was able to tolerate the drugs okay especially since the oncologist offered a number of anti-nausea drugs to keep that in check. Of course now in addition to recovering from surgery and dealing with chemo, I was going thru surgically induced menopause, so I had to deal with those symptoms too!
During each of my 6 rounds of chemo I had a chemo buddy, a family member or friend who would come with me during treatments to offer help, love and encouragement. The 6 rounds seemed to be a long time when mapped out for months on the calendar, yet the every three week cycle and each time being able to cross off one more round of chemo helped to keep me going. As I became more experienced with the chemo and learned what to expect, it became a little easier. I began to gain my strength back from the surgery and was starting to feel better. Chemo week was hard, but there was always week 2 and week 3 to look forward to when I would feel better! I became stronger and more active during this time and began to do a lot of walking. Once I was given the final okay from the surgeon to resume normal activities, I began to run again; however it was more like a really fast walk! But during those hot days of August when I ran, I would imagine sweating out any remaining cancer cells and that kept me motivated.
I finished my last round of chemo on Veteran’s Day 2013. It was a great day! My daughter fixed a special dinner and my husband, daughter and her boyfriend all celebrated with me. Now I celebrate anything and everything, big or small. I continue with regular checkups and so far things are looking good for me which is very reassuring.
I have been on the MOCA Board of Directors since May 2014 and love volunteering and participating in all the MOCA activities and events. Since then, I have become even more involved in the ovarian cancer community. I joined the board of directors for the Ovarian Cancer Survivors Foundation which helps to fund the ovarian cancer retreats at Camp Mak-A-Dream in Montana. I have attended the camp twice as a camper and as a volunteer.
Lastly I am very active with my ovarian cancer friends in the Twin Cities, the Chemo Chicks. We have fun together, laugh and provide support for each other thru the ups and downs of ovarian cancer. Since my diagnosis, I am amazed and inspired by all the women I have met and now feel like I am part of a very, very special group of women. Throughout all of this, I have learned that I am stronger than I realized and am capable of facing tough news head-on. Little things really don’t matter so much anymore. I try hard every day to do what a special friend recently said to me, “Live with enthusiasm”!
The information enclosed in Survivor Stories should not be considered a substitute for the opinion of a qualified health care provider. MOCA does not recommend or guarantee any product mentioned. Please use this information to assist you in obtaining further information and in making your own health care decisions.