Share Your Story

In April of 2008, my wife, Marie Acanfora, 55, had been feeling extremely tired and was suffering from stomach discomfort. She conyinued teaching as the school year was approaching the end. She scheduled an appointment with her Gastointerologist in June, just to make sure that everything was ok. She suffered from irritable bowel for years, and wanted to be certain that that was all it was. Her doctor sent her for CT scan, as xrays proved something visible in the abdominal area. Her colonoscopy 9 months earlier showed nothing. By mid July, the results of the CT Scan warranted another colonoscopy, which revealed what was thought to be colon cancer, specifically in the sigmoid area. Her doctor also scheduled an appointment with an OB/GYN doctor whom he recommended.

It was determined that a colon resection was necessary, and that her ovaries should be removed. Marie had had a hysterectomy 15 years earlier, but her ovaries were not removed. Surgery was scheduled for early August, so that she would not miss our second son’s wedding on August 1st. Marie was operated on in August. Her surgeon explained that the cancer had spread to a section of the small intestines and her lymph nodes, in addition to the colon. Resections were done on both intestines, and the ovaries were removed. We still thought Marie was faced with Colon cancer. After an 8 day hospital stay, I took Marie home, and we followed up with the surgeon the next week. At that time we were advised to seek an oncologist, as he recommended chemotherapy. Before she even met with her Oncologist, her OB/GYN doctor requested to see Marie immediately. I left work and we met with her that afternoon. Results confirmed that the cancer was in fact Ovarian, which had spread to the large and small intestines, and was present in 32 out of 37 lymph nodes that had been biopsied. She was advised to seek an Ovarian cancer oncologist at Sloan Kettering as soon as possible. Her doctor told us then that Marie had a very aggressive cancer that was already in an advanced stage .

She met with the oncologist at Sloan, but we had already seen one on Staten Island. Marie opted to seek treatment close to home, as both doctors agreed on the type of chemo, the dosage, and the intervals of treatment. Marie was diagnosed at Stage IV and would begin a four month chemo regimen. She was a trooper through it all, even helping to prepare for the wedding of our 3rd son in November.

Her chemo was scheduled around the wedding, and Marie looked beautiful. Bald and exhausted, you would have never known what she had been going through. At 100 pounds she was determined to have a great time. Who would have known that on that day we would have danced together for the last time. We made it through 2 weddings, Thanksgiving and Christmas, making sure everything was done as it always had been done. We still celebrated Christmas Eve at our home with 25 family members as was customary.
Marie finished her chemo in January, and her February visit indicated that her CA125 marker was an 8. Sent home to celebrate, we bought a bottle of wine and spent a quiet evening together. Our four sons were thrilled with the news. Our oldest son was stationed near Somalia Africa during this entire ordeal, and his wife was always flying in from VA on weekends to be there for Marie. In the next 2 months, Marie’s hair began to grow back, and she managed to do things around the house. Still very weak and tired, she had to resign from her 22 year teaching career, 20 years of which were in Kindergarten.

By March, it was time for her first 3 month check-up. The news was devastating. We were told that her CA 125 was over 200 and that chemo had to begin immediately. Unfortunately, as we read and learned, Marie was considered Resistant. The typical treatment of Carboplatin and Taxol, did not work as Marie was platinum resistant. Topotecan, another drug, was to be administered every other week. We began immediately, but this drug completely exhausted Marie.

Her treatment continued for about a month when another obstruction was discovered. Rushed to the ER from the doctor’s office, Marie had another resection to help her eat and drink. By mid July I took her home once again, and she recovered nicely, awaiting to resume chemotherapy. Within a week, Marie was rushed back to the ER, as her bloating and discomfort could not be controlled. Another surgery was performed and her oncologist advised us that he would administer the Topotecan daily for 5 days, rather than once a week. We hoped this intensive, aggressive treatment would show an improvement in her condition. The treatment left her exhausted and sick for a week. Her migraine strength headaches never stopped and no drug helped ease the pain. She remained in the hospital for 28 days. It just happened to be on our 32nd wedding anniversary, when her oncologist asked to see us both. A most compassionate man, he told Marie that the Topotecan administered for 5 consecutive days, did nothing to reduce her markers. She only experienced the negative effects.

He asked her if she knew about Hospice. The remarkable woman that she was had taken care of a dying mother and an aunt on Hospice, and was well aware of what our doctor was about to ask her. He told us that the one last drug had a success rate of about 2 %, but he would try it only if she wanted. She looked at me and smiled, and turned to her doctor and told him that she had had enough. It was time to go home and she would begin hospice care. It was just 12 months earlier when this entire ordeal began.
Our son managed to visit her once from Africa, and one of the newlywed couples who lived in Los Angeles, managed to get a transfer back in June. With her family and friends around, Marie’s headaches went away and the vomiting stopped. Weak most of the time, she made the best of a bad situation. I took a leave from work to remain with her until the inevitable would happen.

The cancer continued to spread rapidly, and I helped drain her abdomen daily. Within 5 weeks, Marie’s condition began to deteriorate very quickly. She had lost about 30 pounds and was not able to even keep liquids down. Hospice was summoned at 4:30 AM one morning, and I was instructed on how to help make Marie as comfortable as possible. Heroically, she selected clothes for her funeral, requested some special students of hers to serve at her Mass, and divided her jewelry for her nieces and daughters-in-law. I cried constantly, never letting her see. After all, she had been the bravest of all.

The next day would be the last time I was able to get her to the shower. When I got her to the bed, she asked me to hold her. The embrace was our last, and she collapsed from fatigue right in my arms. I put her in bed and put on her favorite music. Marie slipped into a coma the next day. She lived for four more days. At 2:45 AM on September 29, 2009, Marie lost her battle with this terrible disease.

I have managed to share what I learned with many of our friends and relatives, many of whom have requested an internal ultrasound from their doctors. We are so committed to the work OCRF does. I wish the publicity for this most dreaded disease would be right up there with breast cancer. I know all the facts – ovarian cancer survival rates have not improved much in 30 years. At a survival rate of 11%, I only wish major organizations would embrace our cause, as they have breast cancer, which these days has a much higher survival rate.

I appreciate the opportunity to share our story with you.

 

~Matthew

 NY


Before I share my story, I must say I had the wondeful honor of knowing Louisa. She was one of the most bravest women I knew. She loved her family and life in general. She fought hard and with grace every step of the way. We met through our oncologist. I am forever grateful to have met her. She taught me so much, and because of her and the difference she made in making a difference, I push twice as hard to fight for me and every other amazing woman out there. RIP Louisa, you are dearly missed, and forever loved.

My name is Nanci Cacossa. I have cancer. Ovarian cancer. Stage 3C ovarian cancer. I lost my ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes to this disease, but I’m not about to lose my life. No, I’m fighting with all I’ve got. And what I’ve got is great! My family, friends and doctors joined hands and hearts with me, and we built a circle of strength. Together, we are fighting. We have in our arsenal weapons that will help me silence this cancer known as the silent killer. Ovarian cancer symptoms are quiet. But if you listen carefully, as I did, you can hear the whispers. Please, read my story. Please, listen to your body. Please join us in The Circle of Strength and use your voice and donations to fund ovarian cancer research to silence the silent killer.

It was October 2008 when I felt a pulling sensation in my pelvic area after I emptied my bladder. As a diabetic, I don’t ignore when my body is trying to tell me something, and it was telling me to go to a doctor. I went to my internist, who ruled out the urinary tract infection diagnosis I anticipated. The next day I was at my gynecologist’s office, where I’d been seven months earlier for my annual visit. At that time, I received a full exam, including an internal sonogram, and was given a clean bill of health. This time, the internal sonogram shocked both my doctor and me. In a little over half a year, it seemed a four-centimeter tumor had grown on my right ovary. A transverse vaginal sonogram and CAT (Computerized Axial Tomography) scan confirmed it. I had a tumor on my right ovary. Whether it was benign or malignant could only be determined through surgery.

The next four weeks were chaotic, to say the least. Emotionally, I couldn’t wrap my brain around the idea that I might have cancer. Intellectually, I told myself I would have a relatively simple laparoscopic surgery to remove the tumor and all would be fine. My dad and step mom, both cancer survivors, encouraged me to find the best gynecological oncologist surgeon available, just in case. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for their advice.

On November 25, 2008, the best gynecological oncologist surgeon began a laparoscopic procedure that turned into an eight-hour full hysterectomy. When the scope showed the condition of not only my right ovary, but my left one as well, she asked for a scalpel. My right and left ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus were cut out. While exploring my abdominal cavity, where ovarian cancer cells are known to float, she removed anything suspicious to send for pathology evaluation. The quick pathology assessment done during surgery confirmed her suspicion and my worst fear. I had cancer.

Oh, that pulling sensation I felt after emptying my bladder? It had absolutely nothing to do with my ovarian cancer, and everything to do with discovering it. When my surgeon began removing my uterus, she found my bladder was attached to it by the scar tissue my body developed after the C-section that delivered my son 14 years earlier. God bless that scar tissue. It spoke to me and I listened.

Two weeks later, I sat in my surgeon’s office with my wonderful, supportive husband, Frank, and my parents waiting for the pathology results. The diagnosis was brief. Ovarian cancer, stage 3C. Words and images collided in my head and mind’s eye. Cancer. Chemotherapy. Death. Husband. Children. Friends. Life. My father already buried one daughter, would he have to bury me?

It took me several days to come to terms with this new part of my identity. Cancer Patient. Fortunately, I quickly realized that while I couldn’t choose my diagnosis, I still had a choice; I could fight or I could surrender. I chose to fight.

Based on tumor size, pathology reports and blood test levels, my doctors determined the best course of medical treatment for my cancer. Six rounds of Taxol and Carboplatinum chemotherapies. It was up to me to determine the best course of personal treatment. Based on who I am, my needs and wants, I decided not to go it alone. I opened my heart and story to my family and friends for support and encouragement. As I went through my treatments, I used Facebook status updates to update people on my status. I vented emotions, happy and sad, and posted pictures of myself in wigs, hats and simply bald. People replied with a constant stream of hearts, smiles, love and never-ending words of moral support to maintain my morale. My openness about my illness and honesty about what I was enduring was a huge learning experience for us all. The exchange and flow of information and emotion kept us strong so I could fight. Together we became a circle; The Circle of Strength.

Chemotherapy was very tough, but my cancer responded to it well and immediately. Ovarian cancer is monitored through different means. One is a blood test called CA 125. A woman’s level should be 35 or below. Before surgery, mine was 129. After surgery, it came down to 54. After just one treatment, my level was 15. The CAT scan after my third treatment confirmed my body was responding positively to the chemotherapies. The medical and personal strategies were working!

On April 22, 2009, five months after surgery, I was told I was N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease.) I fought the good fight and won. The cancer was gone!

What followed was bliss. We celebrated my daughter’s Sweet 16 in May. The summer was what summer should be- busy and fun. Fall brought a Halloween filled with treats, and Thanksgiving was thankful, to say the least. The holiday season was imbued with a renewed feeling of comfort and joy.

In January 2010, my body whispered to me again. I was feeling pain in my lower left abdomen. Maybe I pulled a muscle? After 10 days of discomfort, I called my oncologist and saw him the following day. After examining me, running blood work and scheduling a CAT scan for the next day, he said he’d call when the results were available. On January 21 he called. I think he was as upset to say as I was to hear what needed to be said. It’s back.

It’s rare that I’m in my office alone, but I’m glad I was. I cried. I cried hysterically. I cried so hard that it was difficult to breathe. I was angry. I was sad. I was petrified. They’d told me it was gone. What happened? I played by the rules of cancer. I endured surgery and chemo. How could it be back? In what sick world does a sick woman get well only to be told she’s sick again? My dear friend LCS calls cancer -the beast. How cruel can the beast be? Apparently, very cruel. During my short-lived remission, while I was being monitored, the beast was hiding under the radar of blood tests and CAT scans.

When I finally caught my breath, I knew I had to call my husband. It broke my heart to tell him, but I needed him. We agreed to meet at home and drive to the doctor together. The bad news was that a recurrence  is different from an original diagnosis. The good news was the CAT scan only showed small nodules and my CA 125 was at 42. However (a word that should be banished from the dictionary), because it was a recurrence, this round of chemo would be stronger and longer.

Facebook Status Update: Calling out to The Circle of Strength. My cancer has returned. Need support. Who’s in? Everybody! All my family and friends were there for me. Once again, I was blessed with an outpouring of support, encouragement and love.

The following Tuesday, it was back to chemo. Taxol, Carboplatinum and now Avastin, which isn’t a chemotherapy, but works with chemo to fight cancer. The following week, I lost my newly grown hair and generally felt like crud. Just as I felt better, it was time for another treatment. I didn’t think it was time to develop an allergic reaction to Carbo, but apparently someone did. Now what? I need Carbo. Turns out it’s common for an allergic reaction to develop after seven or eight treatments. Bingo, this was my eighth. Carbo would now be given over six hours on a separate day from other meds. On the bumpy road of cancer, I chose to think I merely hit a pebble.

In September 2010 (Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month), I was told I was, once again, N.E.D. A clean bill of health. It’s a bill I gladly would have paid, if only I felt clean. Something in my gut told me the beast was lurking under the radar. I demanded periodic CA 125 monitoring. By December, the results showed the numbers creeping from 15 to 22 to 27. By January 2011, the level climbed to 72 and I was experiencing sharp pains in my upper right abdomen. The beast was back and it was time for a new chemo.

The Taxol/Carbos are platinum-based, this time we went with plant-based Doxil. I hated it. I absolutely, positively hated it. Since patients on Doxil are prone to blistering, we are advised to keep our hands, feet and mouth cold for three days after treatment to avoid it. Also, chemotherapy lowers the white blood cell count, which the body needs to fight infection. At all cost, I had to avoid blisters that might get infected. I guess it’s lucky we had a cold, snowy winter. While the rest of the East Coast bundled up, I walked into the snow in flip-flops and tossed snowballs to my golden retriever with my bare hands.

It didn’t really matter what I did; Doxil didn’t work. My CA 125 surged to 385. Considering my level was 129 before surgery, this was a very scary number. Worse yet, a CAT scan showed the cancer was progressing. It hadn’t spread, but new nodules (small tumors) appeared. Time for yet another medication change.

Topotecan. (Toe-poe-tee-can.) It is also plant-based. You sort of have to love a chemotherapy that sounds like an exotic bird. I think I do love it. After the first treatment, my number came down to 289. After the second, 163. It’s a good trend.

As of now, I am receiving treatments every three weeks, four days in a row and fighting the fight. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. Not if I can help it. My husband and I plan to spend many more years living and loving together. There are still lessons to teach my children and milestones in their lives I intend to celebrate. There is love and joy to share with friends and family. I will not surrender.

I am hopeful. For now, for today, my body is again responding well to the treatments. I am hopeful I will not only tame the beast, but kick its butt once and for all. I am hopeful that my story and the efforts of The Circle of Strength will arm women with information and raise money for ovarian cancer research that will make a difference. I am especially hopeful that after you’ve read my story, you will join hands and hearts with The Circle of Strength. Together, we can silence the silent killer.

~Nanci
NY

“For about a year or so, my mother complained about bloating. She kept thinking she was gaining weight or eating wrong, and her extensive travel schedule made that a likely explanation. We had no idea that persistent bloating and stomach cramps could be signs of ovarian cancer. So one day she went to the hospital with severe stomach cramps, and was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. She fought valiantly and with a magnificent dignity, but lost the battle after sixteen months. I want to make sure one day no one has to go through what we went through. I was six months pregnant when she passed and in her I lost not only my mother but a wonderful friend and confidante. Spread the word – early detection can save lives!”

 

~Naureen
Brooklyn, NY

It all began one day while grocery shopping. Something inside of me told me to buy a pregnancy test. I had no pregnancy symptoms but something made me buy a test. You could only imagine my shock when the test came out positive. I couldn’t believe I was pregnant! I immediately called my gyno and made an appointment. The test there came out positive as well but my gyno thought it was a little strange that I felt fine. After a serious of blood tests with my HCF level fluctuating they assumed I just had a miscarriage until I felt a very slight pain on my left side. I would have normally ignored the pain but since I was sitting in his office I mentioned it. I was immediately sent for a sonogram. From there they saw what they thought were cysts on my ovaries. I was then sent for an emergency CAT scan. I was told to meet my doctor at his office on Monday where I heard the dreadful words, “It may be Ovarian Cancer!” I cannot tell you what I felt at that moment because it was all a blur. I just kept thinking to myself I am 25 years old. why is this happening to me??

After meeting with several surgeons I ended up at Memorial Sloan Kettering. There I was told I would need massive surgery because I was already Stage 3!!! On December 4th I was operated on and all cancerous cells were removed. Because the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes I needed chemotherapy. My chemo treatment was very aggressive, 5 days a week every 3 weeks. If it wasn’t for my family, friends and co-workers I wouldn’t have made it. I am happy to say that today I am cancer free and in remission. Unfortunately Ovarian Cancer shows no symptoms. If it wasn’t for the gut feeling I had I don’t even want to think about where I would be today. Together we can make a difference and raise more awareness!!

 

Rosanna L.
Brooklyn, NY

“In 2008 I was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer. I had every gynecological test every year. This included 2 transvaginal sono. 2 pelvic exams etc. The only thing I did not have and did not know about was CA125. I was getting stomach pains which was not unusual because I have IBS. My gastro. Dr. did a colonoscopy and I was fine. It wasn’t until I blew up like a balloon and took a Ct that they found ovarian cancer with ascities fluid from my pelvis to around my lung which collapsed. My CA125 was 4,000 at that time.”

 

~Sharyn
Fresh Meadows, New York

“On October 24, 2011 I lost my dearest grandmother to ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed about a year ago when she was only 65. She had her surgery only 6 months ago and the surgery was success. Everything was taken out and she started on chemo. My Nana was so positive and so optimistic about everything that no matter what happened, everything was going to be okay. Soon after, she fell down the stair and went into a psychotic outbreak which put her in the hospital. The cancer had spread to her brain at this time. But she was such a fighter and stubborn woman that she didn’t want anymore radiation. She refused to be sick anymore from the medication. Her family stuck by here though thick and thin. My Nana was loved by so many people and she had such a support system. We all held her hand until the end. I couldn’t start to describe how much my grandmother meant to me. She was my rock, my shoulder to cry on, and the one who would run her fingers though my hair when i was sad. When I think back now, through the time she was struggling most, I held her hand and ran my fingers though her hair. Ovarian cancer is horrible but I’m so proud to say that my Nana was a fighter!”

~Tashia
Binghamton, NY

 

Share Your Story p8

“In the past couple of years, I have lost my Grandmother & Mother to this horrible thing! It was the worst 7 weeks of my life! Its a brutal thing to go through. I miss my Mom every day! I wish someone would have told my Mom the warning signs! I’m happy to see that women are getting more educated!”

~Kimberly
Ringgold, Ga

“On the date of the teal walk this year will be the 2 anniversary of my moms passing. We thought that it was a sign that our family should be involved. In April 2008 my mom, Elizabeth Marino was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 48. After a long struggle with treatments she succumbed to this terrible disease. She was a wonderful mother, wife, and friend to many and she is greatly missed. Last year was our teams first year doing the walk and it is known in our huge family now that this is an event that will be supported annually by the Marino’s. We will walk in teal tye-dye for all the women who are struggling with this disease, families and friends who have lost loved ones, and those who have passed. Above all we will be walking With Love for Liz!”

~Kristina
Oceanside NY

In January, 2016, I began experiencing sever pain in lower left side. It got to the point that I would just go home after work and lay in my bed with a heating pad until I fell asleep. I went to my primary and we both felt like I had pulled a muscle in my side somehow. I had a follow up two weeks later to check on my pain. At that time the pain had gotten to the point that when I was sitting and went to stand I would have to wait until I heard a pop before I could stand. My primary ordered a CT to be done the first week of February because while pressing on my stomach it was rock hard. The following Monday I went to have my CT done. I was told it would be a few days before I would hear from my Dr. I went to the gym that night and while putting my shoes on and talking to my friend, my Dr.’s office called and said that I had an appointment in three days with a gynecologic oncologist for a mass in my pelvis. My heart sank and I instantly started hyperventilating after hearing that. I went to the Gyn Onc and he said my report stated the mass was only 3 cm and wasn’t that concerened about it and felt good about it. He began pushing on my stomach and felt how hard it was and sent me to have my CA 125 levels checked and to have an ultrasound down. The ultrasound tech had trouble finding my left ovary because the “3 cm” mass was actually 30cm and was not only blocking the view of the left ovary but extended up toward my rib cage. My CA 125 levels came back as 199.4 which alarmed my dr because at the age of 27 they should only be around 30 at most he said. He began telling me to prepare to have a full hysterectomy done and that cancer staging will most likely take place during the surgery. March 1, 2016 is when we did the surgery and the tumors were bigger than what the ultrasound first shown. The one on the right was about 40 cm long and completley covered the right ovary and the left one was the size of a soft ball and had actually started “eating” away the wall of the ovary, which they suspected was why I was having sharp pain in my side. The tumors were Stage 1 IC2. I lost my ovaries and fallopian tubes but he left my uterus since it had not spread there. I remember waking up from surgery with my dad telling me the news that I would not be able to have my own kids. I think at that point I was done with the emotional roller coaster from the past month and just shut down. I pretty much bottled all my emotion up and pretended I was ok with everything. I grew tired of the looks I would get when people came to visit and they learned about the not having kids. It is a sympathetic look that is frustrating to see. I can’t blame them, they cared. I did not have to undergo any chemo or radiation. At my 3 month follow up in June my CA 125 levels were checked again and they went from 199.4 to a 10. At that point my Oncologist said I was officially in remission. The sense of relief I felt hearing that was amazing. I am beyond grateful that they found everything when they did. But I find it hard to find someone to talk to about it because none of my friends no what I am going thru and it is hard to explain how it is hard to watch a movie where someone is pregnant. It has been 6-7 months now and I am still working thru everything and trying to not become to paranoid when I feel pain in my pelvis or back.

~Lauren
St. Louis

 

 


“On January 2, 2007 I was at home on Christmas break with a tummy ache and leg cramps. When my dad felt my stomach, he said that it felt like a football, so he took me straight to the hospital. After hours of tests, the doctors just could not figure out what was wrong with me. Finally my mom got off work, and when they told her they didn’t know what to do so she said ovarian tumors run in our family. So they did a CAT scan and yup, that’s what it was, but there was just something weird about it. After an ambulance ride 50 miles in a blizzard, we ended up at the children’s hospital. The next day, I had surgery to take out the tumor and one of my ovaries. Luckily, after I was all better that’s when they found out what that weird thing was: it was cancer! So now, almost 5 years later, I am 11 years old and have a 7 inch scar and I can tell you my story. So now when someone asks me why I have a scar this is what I tell them.”

~Meghan
Houston, AK

Happy Mother’s Day. Today I sit in the hospital with my mother who is losing the battle to ovarian cancer. 4 year fight and now day 12 without food or water. Susan is 62, my bestfriend, bold, beautiful and graceful. I could only hope to be the women she is. The last days have been a struggle and painful to see. Pray that the pain ends soon.

~Michelle
Brooklyn, NY

 

Share Your Story p7

My name is Rosanna L. and I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in December 2008 at just 25 years old. I was only married 4 months when something in my head told me to go buy a pregnancy test. I had not missed a period or had any symptoms of pregnancy but I found myself at a drug store buying a pregnancy test. (I now know God was on my side that day) To my surprise when I took the test it came out positive. I was soo excited because there was nothing more in the world than I wanted than to become a mother. I immediately called my GYN and made an appointment.

Going into his office I was both nervous and excited. They took another test there……….positive again!! The doctor drew blood just to make sure I really was pregnant because I was not having any symptoms. Three days later I went for another blood test and then the following day for the results. Was I really pregnant?? To my shock the doctor said my HCG levels were elevated but they had dropped so he assumed it was a miscarriage. He told me to come back in three days for another blood test. I was devastated!!!! How can I miscarry?? Well, the next day I started feeling slight pain on my left side. Going back to the doctor he immediately sent me for an emergency ultrasound. Well that was the start of it all!

The ultrasound showed 2 tumors on both of my ovaries and 1 on my uterus. I was then sent for a CATScan to confirm these findings. Going into my doctor’s office and hearing the words “We think it may be Ovarian Cancer” was something i never thought I would hear. My life literally flashed before my eyes.

After seeing 2 different doctors I decided to go to Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan. There the surgeon told me it looked like Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer and I would need surgery to remove the tumors. So on December 4th 2008 with my husband and parents at my side I went in for surgery. That is the day I became infertile. The surgeon had to remove both ovaries but luckily he saved my uterus.

He told me I would need chemo just as a precaution because it was Stage 3. I began chemo on January 12th, 2009. My long beautiful hair began to fall out! I was determined to finish chemo and become a survivor!!

My last round of chemo was on March 27th, 2009 and on April 20th, 2009 I was told I was in remission!!!!!!

~Rosanna L.

“I am a 41 year old teacher and I was just about to go to visit my husband’s parents in Las Vegas for Spring Break. My stomach was bothering me and I didn’t want to travel with a stomach virus, so I made an appointment to see my doctor. She told me not to worry, that I had gas pains which can be very uncomfortable, but not serious. A few days later the pain got worse, I went to the emergency room. They told me I was constipated and sent me home. The pain was so bad that I went back to the hospital a second time. They gave me an enema and sent me home again. Telling me to follow up with my doctor. My doctor sent me to a gastroenterologist to have a colonoscopy. He said my symptoms were completely normal, and he gave me the prep for a colonoscopy to fix the “problem”. Half way through drinking the prep, I began to throw up and was told to go back to the emergency room. They did a cat scan and finally found out that it was not gas or constipation, but stage 4 ovarian cancer! I have since had 2 surgeries and a 5 month course of chemotherapy. I am currently showing no evidence of disease and hope to spend this time educating others about this disease.”

~Andrea

NY


“I lost a special friend in my life and her name is MaryLou Baker last year April 2010. She was like mother and a best friend to me. She leaves behind a daughter, granddaughter and a great grand daughter which she loved very much. she fought her way through it but she lost the battle. I will always remember her and i no she is looking down on us as walk in her memory. I will always love u my lou lou.”

~ Ashley 
Brooklyn,NY

“My name is Dorine Ricciardi and I was 44 years old when i was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer stage 1c in November of 2003. It is funny I can’t remember dates for anything but I can tell you the exact date that I was diagnosed. I had a full hysterectomy my CA125 was 825 at the time of surgery.

I had the taxol/carbo, then I went into remission for 3 1/2 years. Was feeling great then all of a sudden I knew that it was back…and it was full force. I had my 2nd surgery in July of 2007 had chemo the cocktail was gem/carbo and I have had a pulmonary embolism in 2008 due to the cancer. I am still battling this beast and I will never give into it oh hell no.

So far I’m winning and cancer be damned. I’m walking this walk not only for me but for all the brave women who lost their battle and for a cure to this dreaded disease. I am now on Avastin and all is calm. This is my fourth time with this and I’m staying strong for myself and family, friends and my doctors who have been with me every step of the way. My wonderful husband who never left my side and asked the questions that I couldnt. Love them all!”

~Stay Strong
Dorine, Staten Island, NY

In July 2010, I started feeling soooo tired. I would get out of bed in the morning and just lay on the couch most of the day. It seemed like I had no energy at all. Instead of going to the doctor and having to wait for test results, my husband took me right to the emergency room. We were there from 8:30 in the morning until about 8:30 at night. They ran tests and scans and more tests and finally gave me all the results. I had ovarian cancer. I was devastated, to say the least. I had never been sick before in my life.
My daughter and future son-in-law were getting married in Jamaica in April 2011. I had a 5 year old grandson. I wondered — would I be able to go to the wedding . . . would I get a chance to see my grandson grow up. ???

The next few days were spent on the phone, making appointments and going to doctor offices. I ended up at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. My doctor there was wonderful. I knew she would take good care of me. I had surgery August 16, 2010 and started chemo about 2 weeks later.

My goal was to get better for my daughter’s wedding. I did make it to my daughter and son-in-law’s wedding in Jamaica. I had only 2 more chemo sessions to face when I got back.
But my blood work when I got home showed that my body couldn’t take any more chemo. My doctor sent me for a PET scan and said the results would decide if I’d need more surgery or radiation. But the scan came back clear. I was cancer-free!!!!!

This past summer, I babysat for my grandson every day and was able to make many happy memories with him.

I am so grateful to my doctor and the whole team at the Cancer Institute of NJ. I am so grateful for my husband of 31 years. I truly could not have made it through the treatments without him. I am grateful to my family and friends who were so supportive and encouraging.

I was truly blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people.

~Gail
NJ

 

Share Your Story p6

“My name is Cindy Swift and I am a survivor. Our Labrador (now 13 months old) saved my life. I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer at age 41. On Mother’s Day, May 10, 2009 our Labrador puppy tripped me and I landed on my left kneecap. One week later I went to the emergency room with severe calf pain and was diagnosed with a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis – blood clot – the DVT was caused by the cancer) and also put on crutches for an ankle injury (result of the fall one week prior to the visit to the emergency room). While beginning treatment for the DVT and waiting to see an orthopedic surgeon for my ankle I developed a fever and a cough that wouldn’t go away (the cough had been progressively getting worse for about 3 months). Since the cough wouldn’t go away I requested further testing – my internist ordered a chest CT Scan (June 22nd). On June 22, 2009 the doctors found an 8-10 cm mass on my right ovary and I was told that “it does not look good and is most likely Ovarian Cancer.” My blood work a couple of days later showed my CA125 levels to be over 400. On my second visit to my oncologist I was admitted to the hospital because of running high fevers that just would not go away. On July 7, 2009 I had a complete hysterectomy and spent a total of 12 days in the hospital. I have since received 8 chemo treatments (last one on January 7, 2010) and hope to have a full recovery (first follow-up CT Scan is scheduled for late February 2010). I am very fortunate in being diagnosed in Stage IIa – my cancer was only on my right ovary and had not spread anywhere else. My symptoms were very vague and really only included abdominal bloating and some random cramping (not severe). As we look back we found that my symptoms also included the fever and cough – the fever and cough went away almost immediately after my surgery.

After my diagnosis my oncologist had me see a genetic counselor to further investigate why I have Ovarian Cancer. I tested negative for the BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 genes and am waiting for possible further testing for Lynch Syndrome (hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)) – people with Lynch syndrome have an increased risk of cancers of the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder ducts, upper urinary tract, brain, skin, and prostate. Women with this disorder also have a high risk of cancer of the endometrium (lining of the uterus) and ovaries. We have also discovered that there has been a family history of some of these particular cancers as well.

I know that God has been with me every step of the way and will continue to be there each and every day. ”

~Cindy
Memphis, TN

“Sitting in my home office writing this, I look around the room that was once Gail’s nursery… wonderful memories of bringing this precious little bundle home from the hospital … the white wicker bassinette sitting just behind where my chair is now. Fast forward with me the pre-school years of being a stay at home mom, dancing across the kitchen floor with Gail standing on my socked feet, piano lessons, tricycles, lemonade stands, bicycles, Brownie scouts, cheerleading, band practice, ball games, children – then teenagers hanging out at our house. Thirty years of holidays, vacations, laughter, a few tears. A special mother/daughter relationship – a bond like no other… unconditional love.

Gail graduated from Silver Bluff High School with honors in 1994 and was attending USC in Columbia when she was diagnosed with ovarian cysts. The cysts were surgically removed and everything seemed perfectly normal for years. Gail continued attending college, transferring to USC-Aiken before graduating in 1999 (she jokingly said she was on the five-year plan). Gail worked at Publix in Aiken during college and her Target career began with the opening of the new store in Aiken shortly after graduation. “Abi” as she was called by her Target team, later made career moves to Charleston, Summerville, then Florence, SC.

While some women may have changed doctors for convenience after they moved, Gail trusted her doctor in Augusta and continued seeing her for yearly examinations. In 2005, when Gail was 29 years old, she wasn’t feeling well and thought she had cysts again. At her next appointment she asked the doctor for a sonogram and was told that the pain she was having was from scar tissue from her earlier surgery and a sonogram wasn’t necessary. Gail and I discussed this at length before she drove back to Florence – with Gail finally telling me, “but mom, she’s the doctor”.

The pain and discomfort did not go away. Gail went to a chiropractor near Florence for back pain – and had spa massages, too. Her paternal grandmother had recently been moved to an assisted living facility near Aiken and Gail desperately wanted to be close by to visit – so in the summer of 2006, she transferred from Target in Florence to the Aiken Target even though it meant stepping down from an executive position. She was finally nearby – close to family and friends and working five days a week and in retail THAT is practically unheard of. Everything was wonderful… and we were looking forward to the holidays already. No more rushed traveling to spend holidays or days off together. Gail settled in to the new job, enjoyed being within minutes of nieces and nephews, church, friends and family. She joined Curves – and was named their ‘biggest loser’ of inches and pounds her first month. Gail at times seemed tired, but she attributed that to the new job – at least that’s what she told me. She went to a prompt care medical facility with back and body aches the week before her upcoming appointment. A friend and Target team member later told me that Gail was having extreme pain at work the weeks leading up to this next appointment. And I was unaware of the over the counter medications Gail was taking for upset stomach, etc.

In October 2006, four months after Gail moved back to Aiken, at what was scheduled as a routine annual physical, a “mass” was found. Within a week, Gail had major surgery – and the mass was soon diagnosed as small cell ovarian cancer, stage IIIc. Rounds of chemo quickly followed and I was thankful that, even though Gail kept her apartment in Aiken, she stayed with me during this time. Gail was able to focus solely on following doctor’s orders and family members made sure she had what she wanted or needed. Her faith remained strong and she knew she’d “be ok” regardless of the outcome. Gail asked me one day, “What if the chemo doesn’t work?” We discussed not being able to imagine what life would be like without the other one here… how difficult it would be… and that regardless of which of us went first, we’d save a place for the other one in Heaven. That may not have been the perfect answer – not that there is one – but I never expected the two of us to have a conversation like that. The bottom line was we knew that regardless of the outcome of this battle with cancer, we’d see each other again.

On February 14, 2007 — less than four months after her annual checkup — Gail, my only child, became one of the estimated 15,250 women who lost their battle with ovarian cancer in 2007. I had a choice – I could grieve myself to death or I could make something positive out of this horrible experience. I did what Gail would’ve done if the roles were reversed… I chose to make a difference in ovarian cancer awareness.

In April 2007 a Relay For Life team formed by family, friends and co-workers in Gail’s memory. Our team, Gail’s Anatomy, celebrates those fighting cancer and those that have won the battle; we remember those that have passed; and we fight back by sponsoring ovarian cancer awareness events year round. The team has raised more than $20,000 for the American Cancer Society with all funds directed to ovarian cancer awareness. Ovarian cancer awareness events have been held at Washington Savannah River Company; Curves for Women; the Aiken Mall; URS Washington Division in Aiken; PowerCuts Salon & Spa; Target stores in Florence, Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Summerville and Aiken, SC; the Town of Jackson, SC; USC-Aiken with the softball team (10/4/08 and 10/3/09) and the basketball teams (12/13/08 and 1/13/10); as well as Jackson Middle School, Midland Valley High School and Fox Creek High School. Other businesses have joined the awareness campaign, which include: Lamar Advertising (in Augusta, GA), Denise Jane Portrait Design, Innovative Solutions, Jim Hanna Sports, Necessary Arrangements, Up & Away on Laurens Street, Aiken Chamber of Commerce, and Newberry Hall in Aiken, South Carolina. URS Washington Division Headquarters in Boise, Idaho published an article in the Employee Communication newsletter during September (Ovarian Cancer Awareness month), which was distributed to their employees worldwide. Billboards focusing on ovarian cancer awareness are displayed during the month of September. This website was highlighted in the August 2009 CSRABereaved Parents newsletter to promote ovarian cancer awareness. Skirt! magazine featured ovarian cancer awareness in the 24/7 Q&A section of the September ’09 issue and Augusta Oncology Associates staff wear our “Fight Like A Girl” t-shirts each week in support of ovarian cancer awareness!

Gail did everything right. She had gynecologic exams every year since she was 18 years old. She even went to the same doctor. Gail had none of the risk factors; there was no known family history of ovarian or breast cancer, but this horrible disease introduced itself to our family. Gail discovered after her diagnosis that she had all the symptoms of ovarian cancer except one. We both thought that a yearly physical and pap test would detect any potential female problems. We can’t change the past but we can certainly make a difference now by taking steps to educate others. Don’t let this happen to you. Pay attention to your body – you know yourself better than any one or any doctor. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms, follow the recommendation of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and see your physician. Insist on a CA-125 blood test and a transvaginal sonogram. Early detection makes a difference… early detection saves lives. Together we can make a difference in the fight against ovarian cancer. Let’s begin with you.

Thank you for reading Gail’s story.

~Gail’s mom, Debbie
South Carolina

Dear Teal Walk folks and especially Louisa,

I want to compliment you on the extremely well run walk on Sat. I live in the Catskills but made a point to come down to Brooklyn for the walk. (I was diagnosed about 5 1/2 years. And while my journey goes up and down, I am still hanging in there.) I am so touched, impressed and moved by Louisa and all who made this event happen. It was a privilege to do my little part of putting one foot in front of the other.

All the best to all of you and a debt of gratitude,

~Ellen
Youngsville, NY

My story is to let all women know of the importance of getting your yearly exam at the gynecologist and following up on abnormal tests.

Back in January of 2002 I went for my normal papsmear and week later I received a phone call that I had abnormal cells and it looked like dysplasia. This was the first time I ever had a bad pap smear so of course I went into hysteria and called all of my female support and everyone told me dont worry everyone gets a bad pap smear. So I went to the doctor for the follow up visit and they did a coposcopy and found a spot and sampled it. A week later it came back as nothing. I was told to follow up in 6 months. Around 6 months later I went in for a routine visit for a yeast infection not worried about the last scare since it was “nothing” anyway and a week later they called and said that I had a bad pap smear but this time it was something different. This time I went in to have a scraping and again was reassured that it was nothing and that I never had a bad pap smear but they just wanted to make sure. Well a week later just before Thanksgiving I was told that I have “Carcinoma Insitu” and that it was non invasive yet but it was aggressively moving up my uterus. Since this was all done with my Gynecologist I decided to get a second opinion with an Oncologist and opted for a partial hysterectomy because there was no guarantee that it would not spread if they did a coning.

I was very lucky that I only needed to receive a partial and I kept my ovaries but and it is a big BUT if I didn’t go to the doctor and follow up when I did months would have changed my life. My message to all women is that “GO for your YEARLY exam and don’t skip plus follow up and research your diagnosis even if they say its nothing!!! I am hoping to be there for the walk on September 12th with some of my friends and if I cant be there I will help in other way.

~Nanci

I was diagnosed in May of 2006 with Ovarian Cancer. This was a very big surprise to me because no one in my family ever had cancer. I was the only one, so we were all taken aback. It started out with a pain on my left side. In May of 2005 I had told my GYN Doctor that I had stopped getting my period. She said it could be from me being pre-menopausal. She made me go through a series of test’s…CA125, thyroid, menopause and they came back negative. So she said don’t worry, I will continue to monitor you every 6 months. In three months I called her again to say I still had not gotten my period. She told me to come in again and she did the CA125 again and still negative. Now in 6 months she mentioned to me that I should wait a couple of months because it could be my nerves from stress at work. So, now I waited until it was 9 months and I called again. This time I went back to her office and she still could not find anything. A year to the day I could not take the pain I had on my left side and went to a health clinic that sent me to the emergency room. At that point in time was when they found that I had ovarian cancer and a tumor on my aorta. They did not know what to do. I was in the hospital for a week and all that they were doing for me was giving me pain killers because they felt that they did not have the proper expertise in that hospital to help me.

The Dr’s there started asking me for my primary doctor’s name, my GYN doctor’s name and any other doctor that I had been in contact with. After my husband and I were able to provide them with these doctors was when they came up with Dr Chuang. Dr Chuang was recommended to me by my GYN doctor. The doctor in the hospital recommended that we go see Doctor Dr Chuang and that I be moved from Horton Hospital to Mt. Sinai. At Mt. Sinai, Dr Chuang explained to me what needed to be done. He was not able to perform surgery until he had a specialist that would be able to help with the tumor I had on my aorta. I waited a week for the two doctors to be able to perform both surgeries. Due to both doctors expertise the surgery was a success.

While I was in the hospital Valerie and Arden came to visit me and told me about Woman to Woman. When I came home and Pamela called me and introduced herself as one of the volunteers and that was a survivor. That’s when I started to get all of my questions answered. Pamela helped provide me with the comfort that I needed to realize that I can over come this.

Two weeks after I had surgery I started my chemo treatments. I decided to get my treatments on an out patient basis that was closer to home. My treatments were intense. I had to go for a week of chemo from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm every day for a week and then off for two weeks. I had to do 4 treatments so this really took a toll on me. These treatments were the worst thing that I ever had to go through. Every day I was poked with a new IV. By the end of my fourth treatments my arms were shot. On the last day of my chemo the nurse poked me four times before she realized that she just could not get into my veins any more. So she had to use a butterfly needle and get the chemo into me via my hand. This treatment took forever. Needless to say I was going to do whatever it took to make sure that I got this last treatment. Till this day my veins have not been the same. I have a hard time giving blood. Every time I give blood is like I am being but back in that chair when I was getting chemo again.

I have to thank my husband, son, sister, and family for all of their support. They were my rock to help me get through this. They all alternated to get me to my treatments and back home. I could not have gone on this journey without their help and support. I love them all dearly!

While I was going through my chemo treatment I was able to speak with Arden and expressed the need to want to help others as Valerie, Pamela and Arden did with me. It was comforting to have these three amazing women helping me through my process. I want to thank them for there support! Just like so may other people. The first thing I did was go on the internet. This provided me with a lot of information that was very disturbing. So having them guide me was a blessing.

In 2007 I join these women and now I am also a volunteer and I look forward to helping other woman that needs our support. I’ve met so many wonderful families and patients that have helped me as while as I have helped them. It’s any experience that I am happy to be part of and look forward too.

On September 26, 2008 I was diagnosed again with Ovarian Cancer. I had surgery again and was hospitalized for about 3 to 4 days. I did not have any chemo treatments but I did have to take a pill called Arimidex. It had side affects as well and after taking it for 6 months my Doctor has taken me off it.

I would like to say that my cancer came back in late 2011. My doctors decided to wait to see if they can stop it by giving me chemo. I had chemo from Jan. to April of 2012. I was giving another CT Scan in Jan. and they saw it was still growing and realized that it had to come out. So, in June of 2012 I had surgery. As of today I am all clear and have been told by my Dr. that I am in remission. I think this is a good thing to say. I am was very happy to hear those words.

~Nancy
Highland Mills, NY

 

Share Your Story p5

I was never married, no kids. Until I had cancer I was very healthy—active, never smoked, reasonable weight.
Right around my 47th birthday (Sept. 2, 2010) I noticed more bloating than normal, but chalked it up to peri-menopause as I’ve heard plenty of women talk about how the shape of your body changes.
In January-February, I felt more tired than usual. I tend to be a night owl, but suddenly felt myself needing to go to bed at 10pm. That only lasted a week or two so I just assumed I was “fighting something off” like the flu.
I had my annual with my gyno on Feb. 22. I told him that I was noticing changes—my period was becoming more irregular, more bloating, etc. but he told me everything looked normal and that these symptoms were appropriate for my age.
In mid-March is when I started noticing abdominal pains. I went to my family doctor who thought it might be diverticulitis or something gynecological. He gave me a prescription for an anti-biotic (for the diverticulitis) as well as a prescription for an un ultrasound. But the next day I got my period and thought I was feeling better, so I chalked it up to that.
But within the next few weeks I noticed that the pains weren’t going away and I also started to experience pain during bowel movements. That really through me off because I didn’t think a gynecological condition could cause pain in that area.
Late March/early April were particularly busy for me both personally and professionally so I was not paying as much attention to this as I should have, but I was trying little things—eating differently, giving up coffee, etc.
Finally, on April 13, my gynecologist called—a full SEVEN weeks after my appointment—to tell me my PAP came back abnormal. I told him I was actually happy he called because I wasn’t feeling well. I used his tardiness with the call to get an appointment quickly. I also explained to him that I wasn’t sure if my pains were gyno- or gastro-related so he suggested I pursue the latter with my family doctor.
When I went for the colposcopy, I again expressed my displeasure with the seven-week delay. He told me “I would never put your health at risk,” but as soon as he performed the procedure he knew something was wrong. I wouldn’t stop bleeding—they twice packed me with gauze. I was there for several hours and by the time I left I felt like I had been raped. Without waiting for the results, he recommended Dr. Stephanie King at Fox Chase Cancer Center. He said the next step was a cone biopsy and he didn’t feel comfortable performing it in his office because of the way I bled.
As it turned out, the colposcopy came back negative. In hindsight the theory is that some of the cancer “dripped onto the cervix” causing the bad PAP.
My family doctor immediately ordered lots of tests—blood work, ultrasounds, cat scans, and a colonoscopy. And things were complicated by the fact that on May 5 I was heading to Holland for a 10-day bike trip, but he seemed to take this as a challenge to find out what was wrong before I left! He—not the gynecologist—ordered the CA 125. I literally got those results (I had a reading of 150) as I was pulling up to the terminal for my flight.
The ultrasounds and scans showed pelvic fluid and a suspicious area or two but no large tumors. The gastro doctor wasn’t able to complete my colonoscopy because he said I had a kink in my column, which is not unusual. So he sent me for a barium enema which showed no cancer in the colon.
I asked both of my doctors if it was safe that I go on vacation and they said yes—that whatever this was wasn’t likely to land me in the hospital in Holland. My appointment at Fox Chase was already scheduled for May 18. So I went and had a good time.
When I saw Dr. King on May 18, she told me she thought I simply had endometriosis (that could explain the pain and the elevated CA 125) and that the bleeding was caused by vaginal chemistry that was out of whack.
Still, she somewhat reluctantly scheduled a laparoscopy, a cone biopsy, and a D&C. The procedure took place on May 27; the bowel prep the day before left me in complete agony. Dr. King never completed the last two procedures as once she looked inside, she saw the cancer. She told me she thought it was stage I or II and I would need surgery and chemo.
My surgery was scheduled for June 16. She had offered me May 31 (she felt quite bad about telling me I had nothing to worry about) but she also said I had time for a second opinion. At that point I wasn’t too crazy about Dr. King! I had a friend with a connection at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Memorial Day weekend was absolutely crazy—letting friends and family know and trying to get the paperwork needed to get an appointment at MSK.
On Tuesday after the holiday, I planned to go the the office an tell my co-workers; I had plenty to do to prepare for an extended absence. But as fate would have it, I woke at 4am with excruciating pain in my right side. At 6:30 I called Dr. King (she had given me her cell) but no answer. At 7:30 I called 911.*
I was at the emergency room for most of the day. After several tests, the doctor believed it was my gall bladder and wanted to admit me. I told him about my diagnosis and asked him to call Dr. King. If I was going to spend the night in the hospital, I wanted it to be Fox Chase as I found it hard to believe this attack was unrelated to my cancer.
So I was treated to another ambulance ride. The next day they removed fluid from my right lung cavity and after a few hours, the pain subsided. In the meantime, I asked Dr. King if it was possible to move up the surgery. Two days later (June 2) I was in the OR.
The surgery lasted 51/2 hours. They had to remove part of my colon (so it wasn’t a kink—the lesions had wrapped around it) and gave me a temporary colostomy. At times, that made me cry more than the cancer. They told me I was stage IIIC although my oncologist believes I was IIIIA due to the fluid in my lung (although the tests released no cancer in that fluid).
I left the hospital on June 10; had my port put in on June 27 and started chemo on July 5. I went every week for 41/2 months; I received taxol every week and carboplatin every third.
Chemo was not as bad as I feared. I did experience nausea but never vomited. There was, of course, fatigue and I lost my hair. I never had to skip a treatment but there were come complications. I had an allergic reaction to the taxol the first time out so they had to give me Benadryl and drip it slowly. And because my white blood count dropped, I was injecting myself with Nupigen. Finally, there were numerous transfusions as my hemoglobin was very low.
I returned to work part time in August. I’d go to the office Monday and Wednesday and work from home a third day if needed. In September I turned 48.
I responded very well to the treatment. By mid-August my CA 125 was in the normal range; by late September I was in single digits, which is where I still live.
My last chemo was on Nov. 1. On Dec. 5 I had the reversal surgery for my colostomy. In January I returned to work full time although I say I didn’t really keep normal hours until February.
I am getting checked every two months and so far, so good. I am told the first 18 months are critical, but the fact that I am in the single digits is a very good sign. In April I am scheduled for genetic testing. My gut tells me this was not genetic because I am the youngest of the youngest and no siblings, cousins, aunts, or uncles have had cancer at a young age. Both of my parents are living (dad is 83; mom is 81) and although they’ve each had cancer (dad—prostate at 76 and mom—breast at 78) I don’t think that’s what happened here. But I do feel like being tested is the right thing to do.
So here I am, still feeling a few side effects from chemo (neuropathy in my feet, overall joint pain) and my digestive system is settling into a new normal. For the first time, I am attending yoga classes. I am embracing my new curly brown hair (it used to be red and straight) although truth be told I do wish it were red!
On Wednesday I’m off to Park City for a ski trip with friends. I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to ski, but there’s always the hot tub.
I had an absolutely amazing support system of family and friends to help me through all of this. I will never forget their generosity (more stories for another time). When I first got sick I was worried about being single—as it turned out I feel like it was a blessing that being single with no children has allowed me to have a much larger circle of friends, every one of whom came to my rescue at one point or another.

~Lisa
NJ

In September 2012 my Grandmother was diagnosed with liver cancer. I was in for what I thought would be a road to helping her recover. As she went through more testing, more cancer was found- this time we learned she had advanced bone cancer, in her spine and hips, but the doctors were confused and ran more tests. It turns out that both of these cancers were secondary cancers. They wanted to find where it started. I was upset, because did it really matter- they had already said it could not be cured. Why keep doing more tests. But they did. And they found Ovarian cancer, the primary cause of her sickness. My Grandmother went through one round of chemotherapy, because she had hoped they could give her some more time. After her first treatment the doctors told her that at most it would get her 6 months, but they would be miserable. Without treatment she had three. She opted out. They were right, she passed away on January 20, 2012 at home. Her courage and strength still amazes me. I hope that one day there is a cure, and no more grandchildren have to lose their grandmothers, or more husbands lose their wives, or children lose their mothers.

 ~Jenn
 Livonia, NY

This Sunday, March 11th 2012 will mark the 8th anniversary of my wife’s passing from this horrible disease. She was 36 years old and we were two weeks shy of our 11th wedding anniversary and it was only three weeks after our daughter turned 6.

Christmas Eve was always one of Cee-Cee’s favorite days but Christmas Eve in 1999 was different. Her stomach was bothering her and she didn’t get to enjoy the usual feast that my family prepared. We didn’t really think it was anything to worry about and with all the Y2K stuff a week away, we were pre-occupied.

The discomfort continued after the New Year and she went to the doctor for an ultrasound where they saw a large cyst and we made an appointment to have it removed a week or so later.

January 28th, 2000 was a crisp, clear day. A little warm for January, but the bare trees and low sun reminded you of the time of year all the same.

When we arrived at St. Vincent’s hospital, we were laughing and joking as we usually did, that was the one thing that was always present in our relationship—laughter. We settled into a room and waited. The doctor came in and spoke with us, we kissed good-bye and Cee-Cee went in while I went into the waiting room. It was a little after 1 in the afternoon.

The waiting room was pretty crowded and there was a TV on in the corner, I was reading a book and barely noticed the time slipping by. As darkness began to fall and the waiting room began to empty, I started to feel an uneasiness. When the 5 o’clock news started on the TV, I was the only one left and was now concerned. The Doctor appeared in the doorway and he was white as a ghost. “We need to talk,” he said to me and we proceeded down an empty hallway. I had no idea what I was about to hear but I knew it couldn’t be good.

When he told me Cee-Cee had Ovarian cancer and that it had spread outside of her pelvic area, I felt like someone hit me in the head with a brick. My knees buckled and I felt like a lost child. He gave me some options and I said that I would rather discuss it with her. He pointed me to a phone but I couldn’t dial, I couldn’t even speak. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs but I could do nothing but cry. I finally picked up the phone and called my mother and Cee-Cee’s sister Pat.

When Cee-Cee came to a few hours later (I think, time became a fog at that point) I was by her side. She knew immediately that something was wrong.

“What’s wrong with me?” she asked.
“What are you talking about?” I answered without being able to look her in the eyes.
“I can see the clock, I know something is wrong.”
The doctor was nearby, we both knew that I would not be able to deliver the news. When he finished explaining to her, Cee-Cee smiled (she had the most beautiful smile) at me and I saw a strength that I had never seen before and that I would never have. She said she would fight this and that she would win and she wanted to call her family. What still amazes me is that a still half dazed Cee-Cee called her family and assured them that she would fight and she would be okay.

The surgery was the following Tuesday and because of her age they were able to be aggresive and attack every cell that they could see and even some they weren’t sure of. Chemo was next and Cee-Cee once again took control, shaving her own head so that the disease wouldn’t control her. Six months later, she was feeling good and it looked like she was going into remission.

They always told us that if it was coming back, it would probably do so within two years. Almost two years to the day it came back. Cee-Cee once again was strong and defiant. She had the surgery and treatments and kept smiling the entire time. She even comforted the new patients while she was getting chemo, helping them deal with it as well.

Six months later, it was back again and this time it wasn’t going away no matter what. When the doctor told me that she probably wouldn’t make it another year I locked myself in the basement of the pizzeria that I owned at the time and broke everything I could get my hands on. I threw things, I screamed and yelled and then cried. When my parents got to me I was slumped against the wall.

The next few months were brutal, how could I look at her smiling and fighting, even while she was wasting away, smiling and fighting and I knew the end was inevitable and coming? That was the most difficult time in my life. I was resigned to what was happening, I was trying to prepare myself and she would still never give up. It was so hard to look at her knowing this.

Thursday, March 11th, 2004 at approximately 10:40 PM, Cee-Cee took her last breath and I was by her side. The most difficult thing that I have ever done in my life was the next morning, telling our 6 year old daughter that Mommy went to Heaven the night before.

The wake was on the Saturday and Sunday that followed and the crowd was so large that the funeral home opened three rooms for us. I was overwhelmed at the amount of people that came to say good-bye to her. Thinking about it now, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Cee-Cee’s smile and her faith, strength and courage touched many people.

In the year that followed, I was consumed by anger and it has taken me eight years and this site to finally allow me to air out Cee-Cee’s story. I truly believe that she watches over me and every thing I do, I believe she is always still with me and helped me through that dark year and helped me get my life back together. I still see her smile everyday, I miss her and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her.

~Danny Konczynski
Staten Island, NY


“Some 27 years ago, at the age of 66, my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Because she refused to go to a gynacologist she was being diagnosed with constipation at a hospital in Riverhead, NY & was sent home from there with a strong laxative. Her stomach became quite distended as a result of the fluid build-up from the cancer. She underwent a total hysterectomy, but by then it was too late. She was put on a regimen of Chemotherapy. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. As the surgeon predicted, she passed away within that year. Ovarian cancer is a silent killer. Please ladies, go for your annual gynecological exams, or if you experience bloating, or sometimes even abdominal discomfort frequently, please get checked right away. It could mean your life. My aunt & a cousin, no blood relation to any of my family, were also diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but luckily, it was caught early enough for a total cure & they’re still alive today, proving regular exams will save your life.”

~Kathy G.

“I was diagnosed December 24, 2007. Had surgery on January 4, 2008. I had just retired in Aug 2007, bought a new house. Then my world stopped for awhile. I was just going into the hospital for exploratory surgery. They could not find my left ovary on the sonogram. I was only to be there for about 3 days. I stayed for 8 days and was told I had ovarian cancer. Well, I knew no one who had this, so I had no idea what I had. I started chemo on Feb. 4, 2008. Was encouraged to get on the research program of 22 treatments. I did not want to do this, but was more or less talked into it. After the first 6 treatments, it was supposed to be just the research drug Avastin. In December 2008, I had a scan and my lymph nodes were enlarged, so he put me back on another cycle of a different drug. In April of this year I had 2 clean scans and have been off treatment since. I go in September for another scan and it will determine what happens with that one. In January 2009 my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He took 42 treatments of radiation. I still have some neuropathy in my feet. Have just a gem of a doctor and team of nurses. But over all doing well.”

~Christine
Leeds, Alabama

 

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Hello, I am Madison my aunt Louisa was diagnosed 5 years ago with Ovarian Cancer but when we volunteers shouted out T.E.A.L. it became a big thing to people all around the world now every September we do a walk for all people who survived been diagnosed with it even just someone that you know and we show every body that we can make change just by doing this walk I Madison Bellocchio think that i can do any thing just by walking for my aunt Louisa McGregor and ill never forget about her!Thank you for reading this!

~Madison
Staten Island, NY


Thank God and my great Doctor at UConn I am a 6 year ovarian cancer survivor. I have walked for the Komen foundation for the past 5 yrs and yesterday I walked for the American Cancer Society . but they are all about breast cancer I am happy to see someone is trying to spread the word about ovarian cancer. my cancer started from endemetriotis about 10 yrs ago which my doctor said was probably just a change of life so I wasn’t to concerned then 6 years ago with in 8 weeks I got bloated felt sick thought I had the flu it to the point that I

could only eat one ramen noodle I was so weak I knew something was wrong I don’t drive and hospital was only down the hill maybe 4 blocks away so I started to walk to hospital my son was with me i almost collapsed my so called 911 and an ambulance I was taken to the hospital I was running a fever that was about 1pm at 3am I was told I had Cancer but they said it was cervical I was admitted and had my stomach drained of 3 liters of fluids then a pelvic ultrasound was done it was confirmed it was ovarian cancer not cervical. Over the past few years I had become so anemic they were going to transfuse me . but left me go home 2 days later Set up an appointment at UConn where I had a very special cancer staff and I was to meet my oncology Doctor in a few days well I was so sick the day I met her she admitted me on the spot cleared her schedule for next day and did my surgery she said I scared her my blood pressure kept dropping plus they gave me 4 liters blood and did 6 months chemo . But thank god and my great doctors I am here today . I am happy to see someone is trying to get the word out about ovarian cancer and getting the symptoms out there. I wish I had known the symptoms long before I got this cancer

~Elizabeth, CT

 


Hi my name is Noraima I’m only 22 years old, and i represent the Teal Monkeys thats lead by Wanda Aponte. She is a survivor of Ovarian Cancer but I also walk in memory of my grandmother that passed away last year of Ovarian Cancer. I would like to help and get the word out about Ovarian Cancer.

~Noraima, NY


In 2008 my dear sister in law Angie was diagnosed with stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. She battled for 2 years, chemo cycles and treatments. Never once did she complain, she was determined to beat this disease. In 2010 our lovely beautiful Angie at the age of 45 was taken from our family.Our family has been involved with organizations like T.E.A.L and it will always be one of missions in life to Tell Every Amazing Lady we meet about Ovarian Cancer. We will find a CURE!

~Jana 
Westminster, CA


WHEN I WAS 11 YEARS OLD MY WHOLE LIFE CHANGED WHEN I WAS FIRST DIAGNOSED WITH OVARIAN CANCER. I FELT LOST AND NOT REALLY BEING ABLE TO UNDERSTAND AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE WAS EVEN HARDER. AFTER VISITING DOCTOR AND DOCTOR THEY FINALLY FIGURED OUT WHAT WAS GOING ON. I WENT THREW TWO YEARS TREATMENT AND SURGERY NOW THREE YEARS LATER I’VE RECENTLY BEEN DIAGNOSED AGAIN AND STARTED TREATMENT EACH DAY I WAKE UP I PLAN ON IT BEING A GREAT DAY BUT THEY NEVR END UP THAT WAY THIS HAS BEEN ONE ON GOING SITUATION THATS LEAD ME TO BECOME THE STRONGER PERSON THAT I AM TODAY                                                                                              ~Amanda,
Staten Island, NY

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WHY I AM CAMPAIGNING

Because I know I will make a difference in the fight to end ovarian cancer. I know that fundraising by walking and holding bake sales for T.E.A.L. (“Tell Every Amazing Lady”) events I will help save lives from ovarian cancer.

I believe that one day ovarian cancer will never steal another year from any woman’s life. T.E.A.L. is not only an opportunity for my community to join the fight against ovarian cancer, but also a way to inspire hope by raising funds and awareness to help those facing the disease. That’s why I’m walking to celebrate more birthdays.

WHO I AM CAMPAIGNING FOR

My reason for walking in the Tell Every Amazing Lady event is personal – On 8/23/2013, at the young age of 34, and 5 days before my 35th birthday, I was diagnosed with this life-changing disease called Ovarian Cancer. For those who know me know that I am very outgoing and very hard working. This illness took me by storm – taking away a greater portion of my life, but giving me the strength to survive!

On 10/29/13, treatment began with a radical hysterectomy. I was blessed in not having to go through chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Thanks to all of my family & friends who supported me throughout this journey, because today, I claim victory over ovarian cancer and I am getting my life back.

My team is walking because we’ve been affected by ovarian cancer in some way, and because the T.E.A.L. event gives us the power to make a difference and fight back. This is my opportunity to honor ovarian cancer survivors, remember the women we have lost, and help raise funds for groundbreaking research information and services for people fighting ovarian cancer, as well as help find a way for early detection. It was a coincidence I was diagnosed early but God forbid I had not, I may not have been fortunate enough to see the age of 36.

WHY I SUPPORT T.E.A.L.
Every day T.E.A.L. helps people take steps to reduce their risk of ovarian cancer or find it early when it is easiest to treat. Today, one out of every three women newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer reaches out to T.E.A.L. for help and support. They provide free information and services when and where women need it throughout their journey to get well. I have signed up to walk and fund-raise with Tell Every Amazing Lady. I hope you will consider joining my team and/or making a donation in support of my efforts.

Together we can TELL EVERY AMAZING LADY and end ovarian cancer!

~Michelle
Burlington, NJ


My amazing mom Rae Arden Bassini Karlovsky was diagnosed with Stage III Ovarian Cancer in May 2004. She was 53 years old. She had the classic symptoms for months and was misdiagnosed by her doctors. Had her symptoms been recognized earlier, she may have still been with us today. She fought an incredible battle for over 3 years. Surgeries, chemo and countless indignities just to stay alive. She lost her battle to on September 16, 2007 at 56 years old. I miss her every day and think about her every day. There is a gaping hole in my heart and in my life that will never be replaced.

I love you mom and miss you.

I am the team leader of Rae’s Leopard Divas. We are all walking to honor my mom’s memory this year, 2013.

~Rebecca
Dix Hills, NY

 


July 12, 2008 was the best day of my life. I married my high school sweetheart, the love of my life. They always say the first year of marriage is the hardest but boy did we prove that right. Just 3 months after my fairytale wedding I was at the supermarket doing my weekly grocery shopping. As I was walking home I thought, “I think I am going to buy a pregnancy test.” By no means did I think I was pregnant but I went to the pharmacy and purchased one anyway. I went home and took the test the whole time thinking it can’t be positive. To my complete shock the test was positive! I was pregnant!!! I couldn’t wait to tell my husband.

After a few days I went to see my OB where another test did confirm I was pregnant. I was so excited but my OB wanted a blood test to make sure. When we got the blood test results something wasn’t right. My numbers weren’t high so we just assumed I was going to have a miscarriage. A few days later at another visit I mentioned to my doctor that I had a slight pain on my side. This was a pain that I would never have mentioned but for some reason I felt the need to. At that point he immediately sent me for a sonogram. Well I must say the sonogram was the worst experience of my life. The technician basically made me think I was on the verge of dying and kept scaring me the entire visit. I waited in the office for my OB to call me back where he then told me to go tomorrow for a CAT scan. After my CAT Scan this technician came up to me and kept asking me questions on if I felt any pain or not. From the look on his face and the questions I knew something was wrong! I was told to meet my OB in the office on Monday to discuss my results.

I honestly can’t tell you how that appointment went because it is all a blur. All I remember was the words “Ovarian Cancer.” I think I was in such shock that I ended up going back to work because I couldn’t believe they thought I had cancer. I was 25 years old, young people don’t get cancer. After making several appointments with surgeons all they wanted to do was give me a full hysterectomy because they said it was the best way. I was not going to accept the fact that I will never be able to carry children. How could I become infertile as a 25 year old newlywed?? There has to be another answer. I already had accepted the fact that my ovaries were gone and there was no saving them. I just hoped my uterus would be saved. I immediately knew I had to make an appointment at Memorial Sloan Kettering. I remember sitting in the waiting room shocked, nervous and very scared. How could I be sitting in the waiting room at Memorial Sloan Kettering as a patient, I was too young! My surgeon at Sloan didn’t just look at me as an Ovarian Cancer patient but rather a young girl with a full life ahead of her. I knew I could trust him to operate on me.

On December 4, 2008 it was finally my surgery day. I remember the surgeon speaking to me before the surgery and told me he would do everything you can to save my uterus. Going into the operating room was one of the scariest moments in my life. The anesthesiologist did everything he could to talk to me and almost make me forget where I was. The first thing I remember post-surgery was the doctor whispering to me that he saved my uterus. At that point I didn’t feel any pain but just pure joy! He took the time to make sure I would have the ability to carry a child.

Now fast forward 4 ½ years…On March 11, 2013 I welcomed my beautiful twins Alexa Maria and Nicola Giuseppe. I had a pregnancy with very minor complications and carried them to 38 weeks. I probably would have gone longer but we scheduled a C-section to be on the safe side. When I saw them for the very first time I knew these were my miracle children. When I got diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer I really kissed my chance at motherhood goodbye, but now here I am looking at my children.

The reason I am sharing my story is to help all those young Ovarian Cancer and other cancer patients. I know not all are as lucky as me to be able to carry a child but anything is possible. I want to be able to help people overcome the struggle cancer brings you. I never would have thought I would be strong and overcome my cancer, but I was. Even 5 years later cancer is on my mind every single day. Cancer brought me into debt, emotional and physical discomfort. I just hope by sharing my story I can brighten up the day of a fellow survivor or a warrior fighting this horrible disease!

~Rosanna
Brooklyn, NY

my best friend, hero, mother was all ready to walk the walk of a survivor, but exactly three years to the date of her last treatment she begins a new treatment because of reoccurrence. She still plans on walking saturday as a survivor, and i will be walking proudly next to her.

~Michelle
Brooklyn, NY  


Hi my name is Maria, April 2012 I lost my mom she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer October 2009, she went thru chemo and treatments but she lost her battle, she was a fighter and brave never complain about pain or anything else but I new how much she was suffering, I miss her so much and I wish that soon a cure will be find for this terrible illness.

~Maria,New York, NY

 

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I am the mother of 4 daughters. My oldest daughter, Brandi, was 29 when she started having stomach issues. She had never missed a yearly checkup with her Gynecologist. Her papsmears had always been normal and her monthly cycle was regular. Brandi did get off her birth control 6 months or more prior to these issues. She saw 3 different doctors and received 3 different diagnosis! Urinary tract infection, constipation and gallstones. She was having severe stomach aches and backache. None of the prescribed medicines gave relief. Theses symptoms were severe enough to keep her in the bed in tears on a heating pad! She made an appointment with a gastro doctor. Another diagnosis, C-Diff. Sent home with a bland diet and a $600 prescription. She immediately lost weight which was chalked up to the diet. You see she was 5’9″ weighing 130. So any weight loss was very noticeable! On her return check up the doctor was extremely concerned with the near 30 pound weight loss in 2 weeks. It was at this visit that he could feel a large mass in her abdomen. She was immediately referred to a Gynecological oncologist. Her CA-125 came back over 300! Normal range is 0-30. After 6 months of being misdiagnosed we had an official diagnosis, Ovarian Cancer. Surgery to de-bulk was scheduled within days. A tumor the size of a football was removed along with her uterus, ovaries, spleen and appendix. Cancer was left behind on her spine and liver. A tumor that was too high up in the abdomen had to be left. So we knew at that point Brandi would never be cancer free! But her oncologist thought he could get her to remission and keep her there for a few years. Chemo started 3 weeks after surgery. After a bowel blockage that nearly took her life she did achieve remission! She was placed on a maintenance chemo for the next 6 months. By the following year she was hospitalized again. This time a scan showed the cancer had traveled to the brain. A floating tumor the size of a golf ball. Within hours of a CT scan she was whisked off to surgery on her head. A choice had to be made, start chemo again or radiation to the head to prevent re occurrence. Radiation was chosen. We were fortunate enough to have an awesome gynecological oncologist that immediately signed her up for a clinical trial. We made the initial visit, signed over the brain tumor and all test results. She was to start a chemo pill by mouth. But the radiation really took its toll on her body and cancer was rapidly growing in her abdomen. Her bowels by this time had begun to fall apart. All treatment had to cease. We heard the words, there is nothing else we can do. Brandi passed away on March 10th 2012. She was 30 years old. Brandi gave it all she had for 15 months.You see young women don’t fit the criteria for the diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer. Brandi tested negative for the hereditary gene that causes this disease. A few weeks after her passing I attended a Strike Out Ovarian Cancer softball game at LSU under the coaching of Beth Torina. Her mother is an Ovarian Cancer Survivor! After brainstorming with friends one sent coach an email. We met with Coach Beth a few weeks later and planned our 1st walk to bring awareness! GEAUXTEAL was born. I was able to keep a promise to Brandi. Spread the word about this silent killer! Thank you to all that work so diligently to spread awareness and raise money for research! The one thing I learned that is so important is this, when a woman of ANY age starts having any kind of stomach issues, visit your Gynecologist first! Rule out female problems, then see a gastro Dr. Thank you for the privilege of telling Brandi’s story……….

~Licia
Louisiana

My name is Arcangela Lopez. On September 2014 I was diagnosed with Plural Peritoneal Carcinomatotis, an Ovarian Cancer. The reason I want to share my story with you is because of the way the cancer was found. For few months, almost all summer 2014 I had cough fits that would become more and more frequently. I went by family doctor several times for the cough, treated as an allergy, took lots of allergy medicine, antibiotics, and etc. Meanwhile the cough would become worse. In September I developed pneumonia. Treated with antibiotics by a family doctor, but the cough would not go away. I decided to go by a pulmonologist, Dr. Richard Yan, prescribed a CT scan of the lungs. The CT showed I had fluid at the bottom of my lungs, by the abdomen; therefore Dr. Yan prescribed a full body CT that showed two tumors in the pelvis area, an ovarian mass. In April 2014 I went for yearly OBGYM visit and was told everything was normal, therefore did not need a sonogram. I never had pain or discomfort or bleeding to suspect that something so bad was growing in me.
A doctor from NYU Langone Medical Center operated on me on October 13th, 2014. It was a stage 2 ovarian cancer. I had 18 sessions of chemotherapy at the Permutter Cancer Center. Since March 30, 2015 I am in remission. I go every three months for checkup and CA125, always pray for the best.
Hope my story will inspire everyone to listen to your body. Do not hesitate to consult a specialist.
May God Bless you.

~Arcangela
Brooklyn, NY

My mom was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer last April. She had surgery to remove tumors from the lining of her stomach, ovaries, and gall bladder. She continued chemo treatment to remove the rest.

By January, she complained of stomach issues, and we found out she had a bowel blockage. After 2 months of trying to remove the bowel blockage, her doctor decided to take her off chemo treatment, and put on hospice care.

I was 9 months pregnant and unable to fly from Massachusetts to Georgia where she lived. She found the strength to fly up to Massachusetts with the help of her brother. She spent 11 days with me, family and friends before the baby was born. She met her first grandchild and died 3 days later when we returned home from the hospital. She was 66-years-old.

 

Hannah
Framingham


I’m an ovarian cancer survivor that was diagnosed at 19. I woke up from a surgery to remove tumors to discover I had to have a full hysterectomy. I am now 29 and unable to have children of my own. It’s difficult to relate to anyone that is older that has already had children. If you or someone you know is similar to my age or situation that cannot have any children please feel free to contact me. It would be nice to have someone I can talk to who understands.

~Lacy
Colorado Springs


Hello. I lost my mom to ovarian cancer in October of 2014. She was 91 years old. She was diagnosed after having gone to the doctor with pains in her stomach (and a very bloated stomach). They did a cat scan and discovered she had cancer in the lining of her stomach but that it did not originate there. They were 95% sure that the cancer originated in her ovaries. At 91 years old she wasn’t strong enough nor did she want any intervention. They gave mom up to 6 months to live but she died in 3 weeks. My mom and I were so close. She lived with me and my young daughter for the last 3 years before she was diagnosed. I miss her every moment of every day. I am going to walk for this oh so important cause ‘TEAL’. Thank you for reading this.

 

~Maria
Scarsdale, NY

 

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In January 2012 my life changed with a single doctors visit. Prior to I had a growth emerging from my belly button. A visit to my primary care in Nov 2011 left me with the impression that the growth was a side effect associated with the fact I had gall bladder surgery less than a year before. To make sure I was referred to the general surgeon whom completed the laparoscopic surgery. Immediately upon seeeing the growth his gut and expertise eluded to cancer. I was in complete denial and couldn’t fathom at 25 I may have cancer. There I was with my 15 month old son going through the motions in utter shock. On January 9th the doctors suspicions were confirmed. The extent of the damage was so much that he could not determine what type or stage cancer it was therefore a debulking exploratory surgery would be necessary. On February 13 I underwent a 13 hour surgery. A complete hysterectomy, appendectomy, ileostomy placement, 1.5 foot of bowel removed, spleen removed, stomach lining removed, belly button, diaphragm and liver dissection. 15 days recovery in the hospital followed by months of discomfort and pain. Mostly due to the ileostomy bag. I began chemo shortly after being cleared and have pretty much been on some form or another since 2012. In August I will be celebrating my 7th birthday since diagnosis and turning 32. I truly would not be here today with out the love and support from my husband and son. As well as family and friends and of course my doctors. I have had many ups and downs and been told on multiple occasions that I was going to die and should prepare for my end of life. But as of today I am still here. My husband stood by my side more than I could ever imagined or prayed for. Two days following the confirmation of cancer at my general surgeons office, he stood by my side and confirmed his vows to become husband and wife. He did it without question or hesitation . Instead of a honeymoon, he learned how to change my ileostomy bag and take care of me in ways neither of us could fathom. He is my rock in this fight and I know with him and my son we are unstoppable. I am currently scheduled to undergo surgery in a couple days and have a pleurex catheter placed to drain fluid from my lung. I was diagnosed with trapped lung and have no functionality with it.

I pray every day that I will live to see my son graduate and to start a family. I hope that I can grow old with my husband and to see and live as many memories and life events as possible.

~Natasha B.
South Berwick, ME

I do not know what year my mom was diagnosed. I just know one day she was fine and the next moment she was going banc and forth to the doctors. We were convinced she will be ok. She did not share any details of her illness with her children. Her mom and my father kept the information from us. I remember when we she began treatment in a hospital in Chicago. That is when I realized she had cancer. We still did not know what kind, but she went there every other weekend. Sometime she will stay weeks at a time. She met a group of ladies she would out on outings, The food was awesome. Visiting her was always something to look forward to. She still remain positive. In 2010, my mom died. The last I saw her alive was Novembers 2010. I got the call from Michigan that my mom died in her classroom. She was a teacher and went through her entire day. When school let out my father found her. That was the worst day of my life. In 2013, I found out what my mom dies of. She had Ovarian Cancer. My dad told us 3 years later what she died from. He told us the details of her struggle mental and physically. In November the doctors told her it was nothing they can do. They gave her how many weeks she had left.

~ Khadijah H.
Pikesville

I want to thank you for the care package you sent me with the brochures. I took the backpack & let the kids stuff it with things for my mother in law. She got coloring books, crayons, crossword puzzles, new flip flops, new hat…they just kept finding stuff to put in it! She was overjoyed! I have let my husband look over all the information as well, especially the caregiver pamphlet. I think it has helped him a little in dealing with his mother being so sick. Even though we are miles away from one another, I can’t tell you how valuable the support from you & your organization has been to my family. Knowing there is someone out there who knows what we are going through & is willing to reach out with support is priceless. Thank you just doesn’t seem to cut it!

Thank you,

~Jessi
Asheville, NC 


“This was my first 5k, and what a great event! I just started running in March. I attended the warm-up in July with Kai and really benefited from that as well as a 1:1 with him after. When I was a senior in high school, fifteen years ago, my girlfriend’s mom died of ovarian cancer. It was very fast five months from diagnosis to losing her. She wasn’t exactly on my mind when I registered, but she certainly was as I got to the band shell Saturday morning. I look forward to running for T.E.A.L. for years to come!”

~Michael

Brooklyn, NY


I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Fallopian Tube cancer September 8, 2016. Two days after giving birth to my baby girl. I did not want a c section at all and feared one. However, God was watching over and my baby was not coming vaginally and I had to have a c section. That is when they found all the tumors in my body. My baby girl saved me. I was first diagnosed with primary peritoneal cancer. I completed 3 cycles of chemo and had a de bulking surgery December 6th. I just started more chemo. After the surgery and with the pathology report the DR believes it started in my Fallopian tube which changed my diagnosis. I’m BRCA 1 positive. I’m sharing just in case anyone has questions and to bring awareness. I’m sure most of you know the signs of ovarian and Fallopian tube cancer but just a reminder:

Bloating, abdominal pain, urgency to urinate, feeling full quickly after eating. Please don’t take these lightly. Also, there is power in prayer and a positive attitude. The DRs are so surprised how my body is responding to the chemo and how well I did in surgery. Stay strong and have faith and hope!

~Angela
Reston, VA