In January 2016 I got a bad cold. When it cleared up, the only thing left was congestion in my lung. After two weeks of OTC medication, I went in for an x-ray and within 10 days has a diagnosis of stage IV ovarian cancer. I had no other symptoms. Also, none of the women in my family had ever had breast cancer or ovarian cancer (though my mother had a hysterectomy at age 41 for endometriosis that was benign). The only cancers in my family were lung cancers (a couple of heavy smokers) and skin cancer. I was 51.
I had 18 weeks of dose-dense Carbo/Taxol chemo and the results were dramatic. My initial PT scan had lit up all over, but by week 9 the scan was dull and after 18 weeks the tumors appeared to be gone and the linings were not lighting up. After a six-week recovery period, I had surgery and that was also deemed a success. The surgeon found no “living” cancer and my lungs were clear. There were no tumors on my liver or other organs. I had two more rounds of less intense chemo and was declared in remission by Thanksgiving. I did have a pretty severe allergic reaction to Taxol. I took steroids the day before and after treatment, we doubled the Benadryl and slowed the drip by half. I also had neuropathy in my hands and feet by the end, and the neuropathy in my feet got better but is still pretty intense. However, it doesn’t interfere with any activities.
Through the treatment, I learned how strong and resilient my body is. I had always thought of myself as pretty lazy and not very active, certainly no athlete, but my body served me well. Of course, during treatment, I couldn’t do much and that was extremely frustrating. It took me two full years to get back to what I consider “baseline”, but I’ve been healthy throughout remission. I did get a personal trainer after 18 months because I kept injuring myself when I tried to work out, and that has made a big difference.
I grow much of our produce and preserve it through canning. I cut my garden way back during treatment, but I also enlisted people to help me with the planting, weeding, and harvesting. I froze food instead of canning, a big lesson for me was to resort to easier food to prepare during treatment. Although it was often a source of frustration, it was important for me to not give up my garden entirely that year.
After 16 months in remission in March 2018 I had my first recurrence. I underwent an 8-cycle treatment for six months of carboplatin and gemzar and my CA-125 has been trending steadily down. I’ve shifted my thinking about ovarian cancer as a chronic disease and am grateful that my disease was responsive to the chemotherapy and that so many treatments are available – with new ones coming.
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.