I’ve loved the many roles I’ve had in my life: teacher, massage therapist, friend, sister, wife, mother, mother-in-law, and my current favorite, grandmother. I love traveling, horseback riding, biking, skiing, dancing and being in nature. In 2019, my life changed.
My ovarian cancer started whispering, as they say. I lost weight. I was positive that it was happening because I was grieving the recent loss of my husband of 34 years. Riding my bike seemed uphill in both directions. Maybe I was just getting older. Then, I started spotting and could no longer ignore my body’s messages.
I saw my family doctor and fairly quickly moved through the local medical system. I had robotic surgery and learned that I had stage 3 ovarian cancer. Six rounds of chemo were scheduled.
I did my best to understand my diagnosis and my options. I had recently lost several of my best friends to cancer. I knew the steps I would take mattered. I needed to advocate for myself. Before I even started chemo, I went into full research mode. I feverishly studied the information on stages, treatments, recurrence, and survival statistics. I talked to everyone I knew about resources or doctors.
Recommendations led me to a gynecologic oncologic who discussed an immunotherapy clinical trial to prevent recurrence that might be beneficial to me. I took part in this trial, that MOCA helped fund.
Everyone’s journey is different. Different treatment plans benefit different people. I’m grateful. It’s been two years with no evidence of disease.
My medical team is great. If a girl needs to get ovarian cancer, Minnesota is the place. Just as important, my support team of friends and family is also great. Without my husband, I knew I needed to count other people. I had always been a helper instead of a receiver. I had always found it difficult to ask for help. Luckily, my people showed up. Rides, food, fun, faith, support, alternative health ideas, and even transport for my dog to come to chemo sessions was miraculously figured out. They help me laugh at the craziness of the journey. What I learned was that when we let someone help, we are receiving a gift—and they are too.
I also found support by connecting with another ovarian cancer survivor. A mutual friend asked if she could set us up to meet. We agreed and our blind date happened in the infusion room where my friend was beginning chemo locally. At first meeting, we knew we wanted to see more of each other. That was over three years ago.
We walked. We talked. We did art together. Okay, one of us did art—and I got to have fun with my artistic friend’s toys and tools. When we talked, we didn’t need to explain or qualify. We just let it out. We could tell each other those things we didn’t want to burden or scare our families and friends about. We could share frustrations about the unglamorous side of treatment. We even attended an event that featured beauty products for those with no hair, eyebrows, or eyelashes.
We went to the Light Duluth Teal Gala together in September 2019. We helped with donations and asked many people to attend. We attended the Gala again in September 2022. We continue to work with MOCA to let other women in the Northland know that we’d like to connect with them.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve started mentoring another woman through a national cancer group. I’m also looking forward to mentoring with MOCA.
Drawing strength from each other gives us hope. Hearing the struggles and strength others have, helps us find strength in ourselves.
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.