In April of 2011, I was diagnosed with Stage 3B ovarian (high grade serous) cancer at age 57.
I believe my symptoms started about 7 months earlier, in November of 2010…
– One day my 25 lb. dog stepped on my left lower abdomen and I felt a pressure;
– I was more tired, taking naps after work;
– I had gained 10 lbs. over the last year, had a small appetite and got full fast.
In January 2011, I saw my internist for my annual physical with a routine PAP test. I remember thinking later on, I wonder why my vaginal exam was so painful and I should call my doctor to discuss. Well, I never did, that is until April when the pressure got worse and now I was having frequent urination during the night and pain with gas and bowel movements.
I made an appointment with my internist for lower abdominal pain. This time on exam, a mass was felt, it was painful and tender. An ultrasound was ordered which revealed a large lower left abdominal mass. I was referred to an OB/GYN for follow-up who ordered a transvaginal ultrasound, a CA125 “tumor marker” blood test and a pelvic CT scan, along with a referral to a gynecological oncologist surgeon.
I was scheduled for surgery on April 8, 2011, and awoke from surgery to discover I had ovarian cancer with metastasis to the omentum. 14 of 14 peri-abdominal lymph nodes removed and tested negative.
On May 18, 2011, I started on a chemotherapy regimen, which included intravenous and intraperitoneal, Cisplatinum, Taxol, and Avastin (a clinical trial drug study). My chemo ended on Sept 15; however, the Avastin infusions lasted about another year, ending in August 2012.
The summer of 2011 was tough: I battled severe nausea and abdominal pain and weighed only 97 lbs. (a 23 lb. weight loss since surgery). On July 26, I was hospitalization for intractable abdominal pain, nausea, dehydration, hypokalemia, weakness, pancytopenia, anemia, neutropenia – I was a mess!
I had a wonderful nurse admit me to the oncology unit and when she took my history she quickly realized I needed the “BAD” infusion – Benadryl, Ativan, Dexamethasone. Thank you, God! Relief was almost immediate.
In mid-September I suffered another setback of continued abdominal pain and nausea despite all of the oral medications I was taking. I went into my cancer clinic and the decision was made to send me home with an infusion of the BAD. I was able to manage this myself with the help of my husband and a home infusion company. I could also give myself IV fluids, which was a big advantage, as even water tasted like metal.
Fast forward to November 2013, I had my first reoccurrence; a 1.5 cm retroperitoneal lymph node was biopsied and positive for metastatic cancer.
I underwent 6 cycles of chemo – Carboplatinum and Taxol. That proved to be ineffective as a February 2014 CT scan showed continued growth of the lymph nodes, so chemo again… a clinical trial of Doxil was prescribed from Dec – Jan 8, 2014. This was stopped due to a severe body rash.
Then, a new chemo regimen was prescribed – Alimta, which I received until Oct 2014.
My known risk factors include: My age, never had children, hormone replacement therapy for 5 years, and a positive family history of breast cancer in 2 maternal aunts.
So today I am feeling great with plenty of energy. It will be 5 years this October (2019) since I’ve had chemo and last Spring I celebrated my 7-year mark!
I thank God every day for the gift of life and my awesome support systems including my family, friends and medical team who got me through this journey. I continue to see my oncologist every 6 months for labs and CT scans.
Thank you for reading my story and please spread the word about ovarian cancer signs, symptoms and HOPE!
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