Letter to Cancer
“In all fairness you made yourself known, you were so painful that I couldn't ignore you, I just didn't think for one second it was you." says Rowena Kincaid.
Rowena made headlines last year with her documentary investigating what she should do with the time she has left alive. This is her letter to cancer.
Do you know who you're dealing with? I honestly don't think you do. I have some idea of what you are about, and I fully understand your mission. I don't understand why you came into my life, but I don't dwell upon it.
I won't give you the satisfaction of using up my mental energy trying to figure that out. I did underestimate you, maybe that's because I've never really feared you. You have changed my life completely, and for this you are unforgiven.
I remember the day we met, you introduced yourself to me as the lump in my breast. In all fairness you made yourself known, you were so painful that I couldn't ignore you, I just didn't think for one second it was you. I bet you were really pleased with yourself when all the doctors misdiagnosed me, over and over again. Read more here...
As a family member you feel that you have to cope all the time. But if you did – you’d snap.
“I remember feeling my stomach drop out from inside me. It was complete devastation. But on the outside I stayed strong for mum’s sake. Unfortunately she was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer so we knew it was terminal right from the very start." says Louise Macken. As a family they decided that they would make the most of what they had. They took their children to Cornwall and made sure that they did things that they had always put off before. Louise's three boys got to spend lots of precious time with their Nana, especially her youngest as when her Mum was well she looked after him a lot.
"Mum had always wanted to go to the beach on New Year’s Day so we went. It was glorious. We sat on the beach and played football. Then it snowed, huge snowflakes covered the mountains." says Louise. "It was the most fantastic sight and to share it with Mum made it even more amazing."
As she looks back on that time and she smiles because they did something that her mum had always wanted to do. Louise says "I’ll treasure those times forever."
10 Things Anybody Who’s Experienced Chemo Brain Can Relate To
For more info visit blog.thebreastcancersite.com/angela-chemo-brain-list.
We have all heard of chemo brain. It is often referred to as a mental cloudiness or fog. It’s a decrease in one’s mental sharpness that often coincides with the effects of chemotherapy. Perhaps it could be caused by a lack of sleep or low blood counts. Either way, chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment is not pleasant to experience. What does chemo brain feel like? And how can you ease the symptoms? Read the list below.
- Feeling Slow – Many people with chemo brain report feeling slow in their thinking and mental processing. This can become awfully frustrating when you need to think on your feet. Figuring out a problem that has arose may take much longer than it normally would.
- Forgetting Things I Already Know – In elementary school you learned your basic math facts; you drilled those into your rote memory. When your daughter asks you to quickly correct her math page, you become flustered. What was 6 x 4 again? Or when you have worked in the same cubicle next to your co-worker for the last four years and you simply cannot remember their name even when it’s at the tip of your tongue.
- Lack Of Concentration – While sitting in a meeting, you noticed you cannot recall the last five minutes. What were we discussing again? You just hope one of your co-workers is kind enough to fill in those gaps you missed. Where did your mind go during the meeting? You can’t remember!
- Losing Your Train Of Thought – You are having a great conversation with your best friend when all of a sudden you forgot what you were talking about. It doesn’t happen just once, but multiple . . . Wait! What was I saying again?
- Forgetting The Simple Things – Those small, everyday things can be the hardest to remember at times. You may rush out the door and get to your car before you question yourself, “Did I lock the front door?” You may get all the way to work before you call and question your husband, “Did I turn off the iron?” You could return home to notice you failed to turn off the television when you left earlier.
- Trouble Multi-tasking – Multi-tasking is an art form. When you add chemo brain into the mix, it becomes more difficult. Trying to do two or three things at once during this time is challenging. You can cook and talk on the phone at the same time most days, but when you have chemo brain, you tend to forget that spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove top.
- Difficulty Learning New Things – Focus and concentration are qualities that go into learning. Chemo brain often affects each of those making learning that new skill even harder to do. Imagine you have been a dancer since high school. Learning your new routines now is taking twice, sometimes three, times longer.
- Forgetting What You Were Going To Do – You stopped cleaning the kitchen in mid-clean to grab something in the living room. As soon as you walk in there, you ask yourself the 4 W’s. Why did I come in here? What was I going to do? Where was I really going? When did I forget?
- Difficulty Speaking – That moment when you can’t remember what your favorite box of cereal is called – “That box, over there, in that thing. It’s red. It’s this tall. It’s . . . “ – can be embarrassing. Often times you know what you are talking about, but you just can’t seem to get the right words out.
- Mental Fatigue – Add this to the lack of focus and the inability to concentrate. Your mind is just tired. Your brain feels overworked early in the afternoon leading to more confusion when you’re trying to follow a conversation. You could use a mental nap and find zoning out is becoming a frequent habit.
Tips to helpIf you are currently experiencing these chemo brain symptoms, there are ways to help get yourself through them. Utilize a planner or smart phone to keep track of your appointments. Keep sticky notes or a white board handy in every room; write down what you need to remember or questions to ask when they occur. Eliminate the multi-tasking by only doing one thing at a time. Repeat aloud (multiple times) what you would like to remember if you do not have any of the above available. Get enough rest and sleep to help alleviate the fatigue. Get moving! Exercise, even a slow walk, can help improve your mood and make you feel more alert. Exercise your brain as well by completing brain games like puzzles or crosswords. Eat food, like vegetables and Omega-3 rich foods, which help keep our brain power up. Lastly, don’t forget to ask for help. There are so many people around you that would like to help; utilize them when you need to.
For Christmas I Got CancerThree years ago Elaine Drysdale knew little or nothing about ovarian cancer. Like many thousands of women she led a fit and healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly,took care with her diet, was a non-smoker and drank only in moderation - life threatening illnesses were certainly far from her thoughts. But her life was turned upside down on Christmas eve 2012, when at the age of 46 she received the shattering news that she had joined the 7100 other women that are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year.
“Getting confirmation from my doctor was truly devastating, it came as a complete shock as it’s just something you think happens to other people, not yourself, especially as health wise I felt fine,” Elaine told the Gazette. But having ignored some of what she now knows to be the early symptoms - the desire to go to the toilet more, stomach aches, fatigue, back pain and feeling bloated - dismissing them indigestion and niggles of everyday life, Elaine carried on as normal. “I put to my age and not wanting it to inhibit my lifestyle, I even started pelvic floor exercises to see if that would help,” she explained.
“While all the the time the cancer was developing unchecked because I didn’t know any different and didn’t do anything about those early warning signs” Following the diagnosis Elaine underwent a hysterectomy operation and embarked on a six-month programme of chemotherapy vowing to tackle the illness head on. “Once myself and my family had overcome the shock of the situation we quickly realised the best way to beat this illness and get through the treatment programme was to stay positive at all times, I saw that as my defence mechanism,” she explained.
Elaine came through the treatment and went into remission, and decided to use her first-hand experiences of the illness to help other across Fife finding themselves in similar positions, involving herself with a number of help groups and cancer-related charity organisations. But with a 70 per cent chance of the cancer returning, just three months on Elaine received the news she had dreaded that the illness had had indeed come back, more vigorous and widespread than before. “The news was a blow but It has made me more determined than ever to beat this illness and to use my experiences to benefit and bring about a better awareness of ovarian cancer,” said Elaine.
In December Elaine joined MPs, leading health professionals and fellow cancer sufferers in Westminster in a bid to raise awareness. “It’s so easy to ignore the signs but women need to listen to what their bodies are telling them and go to see their doctor, by catching this illness early it gives them a massive advantage in beating cancer for good,” said Elaine.
Meanwhile Elaine’s own private battle continues, in April she undergoes atmospheric pressure plasma jet treatment at the Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy. As with all of her treatment so far, Elaine is approaching it in a positive fashion, despite her latest diagnosis not being a good one. “It’s the latest, most advanced type of treatment, so hopefully that will give me a fighting chance of beating this, but whatever happens, if my experiences can help other potential sufferers then it will have been worthwhile,” she added stoically.
Councillor continues fight...
Fife councillor David Graham raised a motion at the full meeting of Fife Council last week, urging the local authority, as well as the Scottih and UK Governments, to raise more awareness of ovarian cancer.
Cllr Graham’s wife Sharon lost her battle with the disease in February last year, and he vowed to carry on her fight to raise awareness of the cancer, which affects one in 50 women in their lifetime.
“As a promise to Sharon I committed to continuing her work to the best of my ability,” he said, “in firstly campaigning for awareness through the media to inform as many people as possible about the symptoms and what to watch out for, and secondly to campaign to improve the knowledge of medical professionals about what they should be looking for to improve the time which it takes to get to diagnosis which shall in turn improve survival rates.” His motion received unequivocal support from fellow councillors, and commenting after the meeting he said: “I am delighted that my motion received unanimous cross party support today and thank all councillors in Fife for their support.
“Too many women die of this horrible disease every year. This is caused by the massive lack of awareness from throughout the wider community. “I urge the local community and GPs to take up the opportunities which are out there and available to them to make themselves more aware of the symptoms.”
Cllr Graham is supported in his campaign by the Target Ovarian Cancer charity. Rebecca Rennison, director of public affairs and services, said: “It’s fantastic that Cllr Graham is raising awareness of ovarian cancer. Sharon, his wife, was a tireless campaigner and throughout her lifetime strove to raise awareness, and we’re incredibly grateful that Cllr Graham is continuing the work that she put in motion.”
Over 65 per cent of women in Scotland diagnosed with ovarian cancer had either never heard of it before, or if they had, they didn’t know anything about it prior to their diagnosis. A study in 2012 by Target Ovarian Cancer also found that only three per cent of women surveyed were very confident about spotting any of the symptoms of the disease, and the same study found that nearly half of women believe incorrectly that cervical screening is able to detect the cancer. Symptoms to look out for include a swollen or bloated tummy, needing to go wee more, stomach pains and the feeling of always being full. This March, 50 is the magic number forTarget Ovarian Cancer. Because one in 50 women will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime, the charity is asking everyone to tell 50 people about the cancer and raise at least £50. For more info, go to www.targetovariancancer.org.uk.
Stacy was diagnosed with a stage four ovarian germ cell tumor on June 11, 2012. She went through surgery and four cycles of BEP chemotherapy and has been in remission since September 2012. This is an overview of her story. Read Stacy's blog here...
One week ago on Valentine’s day, Terry Dokken broke news to her family that she was terminally ill. Doctors told her she has six months to a year left to be with her family. The 56-year old wife, mother and grandmother has been fighting the cancer for almost two years. "It's hard. It's just I want to be there for them, and I want to tell them it's okay to cry,” said Dokken at her East Kildonan home. “I want to say, just be there for each other." At the time of her diagnosis, doctors found eight tumors inside her body. She says one of those tumors was 30 centimetres wide. Read more here...
(note: Sue shares her story with us from England. We wish her story was uncommon, but for your own protection you should read this.)
Last year I had a TAH in July to remove two tumours which were diagnosed as borderline stage 2c ovarian tumours but my story begins four years previous.
1. I kept going to doctors because of bladder issues, cystitis and a very weak bladder, was sent to specialist and nothing found, said no problems perhaps weak pelvic floor so sent for physio, helped slightly but not a great deal and that was stopped after six months as she said she had done all she could with me on pelvic floor exercises. Whilst under the specialist I did have a scan and he noticed a cyst and told me, but doctor said nothing.
2. Had a persistent cough on and off for nearly 3 years, given antibiotics didn't really help, sent for chest X-ray nothing on that. Told them I had a pain in my back at same time but told nothing to do with that.
3. Whilst all this was going on I was also gaining weight and tummy quite bloated, at the doctors kept being told, age and most probably coming up to my menopause ( I am now 50 born in 1963). Anyway eventually after I mentioned the cyst to my own GP she decided to contact the gynecologist for an appointment for me, once there seeing them and telling them everything they decided it was due to endometriosis as I had history with this 26 yrs ago, they done another scan on second visit and found another mass so sent me for MRI, again on next visit another 3 months later they decided they could not determine what it was and said it was up to me if I wanted a hysterectomy to remove it all, at this I was shocked, because in the period of a year my Ca125 had also been steadily raising it got to 100. The consultant said it could be a new disease but wasn't sure and felt I should make the choice as they still thought it could all be due to my history.
My husband and I went away in shock with there answers, any way luckily we moved and I saw a new doctor who straight away contacted local hospital and I got a letter to see oncology gynecology, she was great I had an MRI again before I saw her, but she sat me down and said it was nothing to do with my past endometriosis and had already booked me in for surgery as they felt it should all come out, so that's what happened I just thank my lucky stars that I moved.
I am now 7 months post op, send me into menopause which has its own issues, I have good days and bad days. It was decided I didn't need chemo and the few tiny cells in my pelvis are slow growing and should not cause me any issues, I am being monitored and back there in April, I only have one slight worry, I have gained weight again and I worry in case something else is going on but as being monitored I am sure it will be ok.
I am just cross that nobody picked up on my symptoms earlier, as now after reading some other ladies stories we all had similar symptoms.
"As soon as I got the diagnosis I wanted to turn a negative into a positive. “I am one of the fortunate ones who is not going to lose their hair but if I can make some good out of something I am going through it is worthwhile. “I shall be bald and proud, even if it means my ears get cold.” says Emma Brown. Read more here...
When Janette Oljanuk began to feel unwell she thought there was a simple explanation. “It was Christmas 2012 when I started to feel bloated and tired,” she says. “I had a horse at the time and I put it down to the early starts at the stable, mucking out.” The primary school learning mentor, who lives in Wibsey, thought the menopause was also having an effect. “I assumed it was a combination of these things,” she adds. Read more here...
How Long Have I Got Left?
An Oncologist with Cancer
Dr. Paul Kalanithi reports:
Now, instead of wondering why some patients persist in asking statistics questions, I began to wonder why physicians obfuscate when they have so much knowledge and experience. Initially when I saw my CT scan, I figured I had only a few months to live. The scan looked bad. I looked bad. I’d lost 30 pounds, developed excruciating back pain and felt more fatigued every day. My tests revealed severely low protein levels and low blood counts consistent with the body overwhelmed, failing in its basic drive to sustain itself.
For a few months, I’d suspected I had cancer. I had seen a lot of young patients with cancer. So I wasn’t taken aback. In fact, there was a certain relief. The next steps were clear: Prepare to die. Cry. Tell my wife that she should remarry, and refinance the mortgage. Write overdue letters to dear friends. Yes, there were lots of things I had meant to do in life, but sometimes this happens: Nothing could be more obvious when your day’s work includes treating head trauma and brain cancer.
But on my first visit with my oncologist, she mentioned my going back to work someday. Wasn’t I a ghost? No. But then how long did I have? Silence. Read more here...
A visit to the emergency room for shortness of breath in October 2012 changed the life of the Nuss family. Within a few days, Leslie Nuss, then 19, was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, and underwent major surgeries to remove the cancerous cells. Despite the effort, the tumors had spread to other organs, her mother said. The devastating news has rocked her friends and family, but the young Benicia woman said Sunday her faith is keeping her hopeful. Read more here...
Sometimes a friend walks into your life whose love changes you forever. That friend, for Heidi Noelle, is Peri Thomas.
It all started back in September with a knock at Heidi's back door.
It was Heidi's new friend and neighbor, Peri. She motion her in. Since their kids (and them) have been in and out of each other’s houses all day long since they moved in 4 houses down the street in June, she really didn’t need to knock.
The children were upstairs, engaged in dueling plastic sword battles. Heidi welcomed the skirmishes. Even 10-year old Clayton, her sweetheart with down syndrome, has asked to come play and lays on the floor happily tapping matchbox cars together. Read more here...
When doctors said experimental drugs were Tanya Beverly's only hope against terminal cancer, her son decided to leap out of an airplane to raise funds. Don Champion reports.
World famous author Susan Gubar talks about her experiences with Ovarian Cancer in her blog on the New York Times:
"The first question many cancer patients are asked at a doctor’s office or an infusion center is “Do you have a port?” I shake my head no, but add the words “not yet.” To port or not to port: That is the question facing me when I arrive on the hospital hall dedicated to clinical trials. “They are tiny and rollers,” the nurse says as his fingertips trace the veins on my arms. My part in a trial has begun, but the only “good” vein in the crook of my left arm looks alarmingly bruised, as do both of my wrists. Since my diagnosis with ovarian cancer, many nurses have sorrowed over the fact that I am “a hard stick.””
Read her story here, one of her recent blog posts here or here, and her blog here. Be sure to read Susan's story about N.E.D. and "Third-Person Reality".
Hunter Hansen is only 11 years old, but she knows a lot about life's challenges.
For nearly a year, the girl from Sandy has bravely fought small cell ovarian cancer, a disease Primary Children’s Hospital hasn’t seen in a child in more than 20 years.
While she is still going through treatments, Hunter wants to help other children dealing with illness at the hospital with a special fundraiser.
She puts on a brave face and smiles a lot, but she’s exhausted.
“I’m tired. My hair is growing back in, so that’s why my head hurts,” Hunter said with a laugh.
Read about Hunter's experience here.
Angela Dilger wondered "How did this happen to me? Me, who is vigilant about doctor’s appointments and have probably never whispered in my life about anything!"
Although she was a determined advocate for her body changes, four doctors did not pick up any abnormality. How can this be? It is the doctor in the clinical setting who needs to be aware of the subtle symptoms and have the knowledge to provide the proper tests. The Ovarian Cancer Action group is advocating for CA 125 tests to be given routinely as well as a transvaginal ultrasound for every woman. But not any of Angela's friends, or herself, had ever heard of the CA 125 until she was diagnosed. She, of course, tells everyone she comes in contact with but that is not enough.
Maybe if we yell loud enough the powers that be, whether that be physicians, insurance companies or our government will finally hear the call. And whatever you do, DON”T WHISPER!
Read about Lisa's experience here.
Lisa Gamelin's challenge began last year. She thought she was too young to be in menopause, Lisa said. "I had a rushed, unhappy medical experience when I got a checkup last year, and was able to be referred to a new doctor. This doctor spent an hour getting to know me and delivering medical options. I chose to have a simple hysterectomy.
"On the operating table, the doctor was given permission to take out anything that was suspicious. She took out an ovary that had a cyst. The doctors try to leave in one ovary. The prognosis was benign, no indication of cancer. I was fine, back at work. The pathology report, was sent to three different specialists; at my first oncology meeting, the doctor said fine, fine. Nothing to do. But when I saw the gynecological oncologist for a second opinion, he read my record and saw something I did not know."
Read about Lisa's experience here.
Una Crudden spoke to the full city council after the mayor heard Una speak at a health awareness event for Council employees.
She told her own story and recounted her path to diagnosis, highlighting the need for greater awareness of ovarian cancer.
Una explained how, with five other women diagnosed at the same time as herself some four years ago, she is the only survivor at this stage,
Read about Una's experience here.
Tasha Imberi, a senior at Eureka High School, is happy to be back at school.
Imberi was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer and was in and out of school as she underwent chemotherapy following removal of a tumor.
She said it was great having the support of her family, friends and the community as she battled cancer.
"We just stuck by her," said Susan Imberi. "We had a friend that took her to chemo, and, if she needed someone, she always had family and friends sticking by her."
Tasha, her family and a friend, Nicole Rau, will be embarking on a dream vacation thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
They'll be going on a Caribbean cruise.
She was referred to the program during a visit to Dr. David Starks' office in Sioux Falls. Imberi found out in April that she qualified as a Make-A-Wish recipient.
Read about Tasha's experience here and here.
When Tarah Warren was first diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer she never knew the fight would be this long or this hard. Even after Tarah was told the Cancer had metastasized to two other places in her body, and had begun to travel elsewhere she still never knew how much fight she would need to not be defeated. Tarah had no idea the pain would be this strong, the loss so great, or the fight so permeable into the rest of her existence. We all live in chapters, and this next chapter Tarah is beginning is a scary one, and maybe the hardest part yet is finding where she fits in after treading water for such an extensive period of time.
Read about Tarah's experience here
Teenager Layla Hooper is receiving chemotherapy for a disease normally seen in women three times her age, ovarian cancer.
The 19-year-old has lost her ovaries, her uterus and her job as a dental therapist since being diagnosed two years ago, but amid the ``big shock'' of having cancer, she's also found a passion for art.
Layla began art therapy at the Mater Cancer Care Centre in Brisbane earlier this year during the many hours she spends hooked up to chemotherapy.
``I used to just sit in the chemo room and slowly watch the chemo drip in but the art has helped me keep my mind off what I'm actually going into hospital for,'' she said. ``You don't even remember you're there.''
Read about Layla's experience here
Dianne Peckford was not going to let cancer slow her down.
The retired teacher will be back in St. John’s Sunday to compete in the Tely 10 road race for a sixth time
This one will be her first since completing chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer last October.
“I knew I was just going to keep going,” the 68-year-old says. “That’s it. There was no reason to stop.”
Read about Dianne's experience here
WHEN a Emily Wheldon attended her prom night, it was an occasion her family thought she would never see.
Emily, 16, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of three. Now, after years of treatment, she hopes to be discharged from hospital in Nottingham by the end of the year.
Emily's mum, Emma, said she could not be more proud of the way her daughter had battled.
Read about Emily's experience here
(note: Cheryl submitted her story to us directly through our "Your Story" form, we would love to hear from you to)
My name is Cheryl Schneider; my journey began on the afternoon of August 2, 1999.
Prior to this date I had undergone a minor procedure (oophorectomy) in March 1999 at this time there was no signs/symptoms of ovarian cancer, from March to July 1999 I suffered with severe abdominal pain when my menstrual cycle began and the Doctor had me undergo an ultrasound and discovered a shady area near my ovaries and decided to remove the other fallopian tube, upon my post op visit the Doctor discovered that the cancer appeared with in those 4 months.
So began the battle to overcome Ovarian Cancer (serous cell carcinoma stage IIIB) I was referred to Women and Infants Hospital in Providence RI, to which I am still a patient. My first consultation outlined my treatment plan; I was introduced the Taxol/cisplatnin, I don’t quite remember the schedule, but this is when we realized just how sensitive I am to meds. I reacted to them and was then switched to another set of chemo (carboplatnin) to which I reacted. I was often referred to the “DRAMA QUEEN” because I reacted to just about every chemo; I the pain had become so unbearable by mid November I was just so very uncomfortable and the Doctor he decided to move the surgery up.
So on Nov. 21, 1999 I had a full hysterectomy I had five tumors that were pressing against the ovaries/uterus.
The regimen for chemo began again and I continued to have reactions to all of them in one way or another.
Sometime in January 2000 I had to undergo a bowel resection/debulking the cancer found its way to a portion of my intestines; and so at this point the Dr’s had to find a regimen of chemo that would work so I would have to go in very early in the morning and they would put me to sleep and drop the chemo at 28 milliliters.
My body tolerated this and so the treatments went on for approx 12 wks, 2x wkly. (I think) so from 2000 to present I have had 4-6 reoccurrences that required surgery and follow up chemo and radiation.
I was first introduced to radiation in 2007, the cancer had returned only this time it was in the vaginal wall upon completion of surgery I underwent vaginal radiation for approx 6wks.
Throughout this process I would not have been able to manage without my FAITH, my family and friends. My most recent reoccurrence began in Sept 2009
The CA125 has never been a good marker for me, so whenever the cancer presented itself I would know because of how I felt, but at any rate I was having abdominal pain and thought maybe it was my gall bladder went through a bunch of test only to find out that the cancer reappeared in the abdominal rectus muscle so from there I had surgery and after about 4 months I started having the same pain and had a CT scan only to find out that the cancer was back in the rectus muscle and my Doctor decided to start me on a regimen of chemo needless to say I reacted to all of them and suffered more side effects so this ended my chemo treatment and he presented my case to the tumor board and decided to treat me with radiation.
This involved several minor procedures to place the gold seeds in my abdomen area and measure the capacity of treatments and how long it would take. The scheduled regimen worked out to be daily treatments for 5-7 weeks. Since then I am monitored by CT SCANS and follow up appointments approx every 3 months or sooner.
I have good days and bad days, often times I am tired, but I managed to make it through. Sharing our stories encourages others and helps us to heal.
Please don’t allow this ugly disease to intimidate you. Fight and advocate for yourself as much as you can.
Cheryl Schneider- Norwich, CT
Indigestion. That’s all it was, the Rev. Sherry Schacht told herself.
She was doubled over with pain. Earlier that night, she’d eaten at a tavern in Romeo and knew she indulged a little too much in $1 burgers and sweet potato fries.
It happened again a few nights later, after eating Mexican food.
“I was in agony,” she says. Her husband urged her to go to the emergency room.
Finally, she did, but warned the doctor that she couldn’t stay too long. She was determined to lead her congregation at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Romeo in Sunday morning service. Mostly, she says, she went to the ER to make sure her symptoms weren’t related to a heart attack.
They weren’t. It was cancer.
Read about Sherry's experience here
Susan Bahorich is usually seen behind the anchor desk on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
But for last few months, a lot of her time has been spent at the Blue Ridge Cancer Care.
She has ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed right before Christmas.
Susan's doctors knew that she had endometriosis, which is very common in women dealing with your menstrual cycle. They knew that she had cysts on her ovaries. "I get tested every year to see how the cysts are doing. They had decreased in size; that's a good thing. So, during this routine examination, they discovered that I had a fibroid, which was the size of a tennis ball." says Susan. Her doctor said she should get it removed, so she did. She had scheduled it for mid December, they removed it, no problem. The doctor also cleaned up the endometriosis. A week later Susan got a call from her doctor while she was driving. He told her "You have cancer..."
Read about Susan's experience here and here
There are two parallel worlds which exist side by side – one populated by those living healthy, busy lives, and the other inhabited by those coping with terminal illness.
That's how Jamie Schneider of Lemon Hollow Road describes her situation.
For the past three years, Schneider, 61, has been locked in a battle with a disease that has robbed her of the life she once led in that busy, healthy world.
In February 2010, she was diagnosed with stage-three ovarian cancer. Today, the disease invading her body is at stage four.
Read about Jamie's experience here.
Having cancer has changed Stephanie Waitere's life, but she now wants to use her experiences to help others get through the agonising process of chemotherapy.
Last year had been a rollercoaster for the young woman, after it took almost 20 visits to medical professionals for her to be diagnosed, she said.
Miss Waitere knew something was wrong when she started unexpectedly gaining weight in her abdomen and was in pain.
"Every time I saw a doctor they kept thinking I was pregnant, when I knew I wasn't. I had 12 pregnancy tests at the hospital. When she was diagnosed, the tumour in her abdomen was 8 centimetres by 9cm. Two weeks later, when she was operated on in Wellington, it was 14cm by 12cm.
Read about Odette's experience here.
Tasha Imberi, 17, never thought a heart screening at Eureka School would turn up an 11-pound tumor.
During the routine health screening for students in January, technicians advised her to have her abdomen examined after they noticed it was abnormally protruding.
"I didn't think I had something major going on," Imberi said.
A few days after an ultrasound and other tests, the tumor was removed in February.
She was found to have a rare form of ovarian cancer.
Read about Odette's experience here.
Cancer sufferer Odette Cisinsky has pledged to spend the last years of her life raising money to help other women fighting the Ovarian Cancer.
Odette was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer 14 months ago and despite chemotherapy and surgery, was given a prognosis of just five years.
The 52-year-old is now aiming to make the most of her time by helping to fundraise and raise awareness of the disease. Odette was being treated for a water infection in December 2011 when, two weeks before Christmas, she had further tests and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Read about Odette's experience here.
Imagine being in great health, active, energetic, and fun-loving. Imagine that you were one of those people who took life and your health for granted.
Not that you were arrogant, just that you thought you were going to be perfectly healthy until the day you die (a long time from now). You know, the kind of person who thinks health issues are other people’s problem. Then imagine being told after a routine physical that you had a chronic disease that could kill you.
Read about Kathy's experience here.
Remember the first time you tried a Jell-O shot, apple martini or lemon drop? You'd feel as if you were immune to getting drunk off these yummy sweet concoctions, so you'd have another and another and then – boom – they finally hit you and you'd end up racing to the ladies' room, swearing you would never drink again as you grasped the porcelain rim.
Well, that, my friends, is day two of chemo; day two feels like a hangover from hell that won’t go away.
However, the first day after chemo is like taking the first delicious sip of that apple martini. You're on cloud nine. The heavy steroids that they now put in your chemo cocktail infusion make you feel so numb to the pain you actually believe, "Wow, I guess I'm not gonna feel the bad side effects this time, I feel great!"
Read Diem's blog here.
Jennifer Mason remembered Susan Sarandon in the movie "Stepmom." Once diagnosed with cancer, Sarandon's vibrant character turned ghostly pale and sickly ill. That image taunted Mason as she withdrew from classes at Western Illinois University. As an ambitious hotel and restaurant management student, Mason hadn't planned for stage 3-C ovarian cancer to infiltrate her body and interrupt her college education. She'd seen cancer in the movie, but she'd never seen it in her plan for life.
Since her diagnosis in July 2011, Mason has rearranged that plan.
One week, she's a spirited senior at WIU in Macomb. Like many college students, she worries about classes, and in some cases, getting to classes at all.
The next week, she's a determined ovarian cancer patient. The academic struggle becomes secondary to an emotional and physical challenge. At 23 years old, Mason already is fighting her second round of cancer.
Read More about Cindy's story here
In April of 2009, the 56-year-old Cindy Fisher was working nights at Gothenburg Memorial Hospital.
After her shift one day, Cindy had a routine pap smear and during the examination, the physician’s assistant felt a mass in her abdomen and sent her to the hospital for a CT scan.
“I knew I was in trouble when I saw her eyes,” Cindy said.
By the time Fisher received the results by phone at home, she learned not only was it ovarian cancer but there were questionable spots on her liver and fluid in her abdomen.
Read More about Cindy's story here
Samantha Lockwood is a Sr. Manager of Talent Acquisition Operations for Comcast Corporation in Philadelphia, Pa. She grew up in Hazleton, Pa. and moved to the Philadelphia area 20 years ago. She is a successful career woman with a bright future, but a few years ago her world came crashing down when she learned she had ovarian cancer. Below she shares her transformative story and provides tips on what women can do to fight ovarian cancer.
Read More about Samantha's story here
Twelve weeks into Suzanne Edwards' pregnancy, she and her spouse were delighted to see their “bean” on ultrasound. They thrilled to the sight of a four-chambered squeezing heart, an enormous head, and tiny, thrashing limbs. When the technician glimpsed an unusual growth on Suzanne's ovary, they barely paid attention. Only a biopsy could determine what those bulbous shadows in the ultrasound were, but the doctor explained it was either a benign cyst (very likely) or cancer (very unlikely). The chances that the biopsy would result in miscarriage were slightly greater than the odds that the growth would threaten Suzanne's health if left alone. Buoyed by the doctor’s assurances that the baby looked great, they decided the biopsy was a bad bet.
Read More about Suzanne's story here
Watch her video for more info.
Two years ago Elizabeth Tenny didn't have insurance, so she never went to the doctor, but it got to the point where she was having a lot of trouble with what she thought was her gallbladder. They sent Elizabeth for a scan, and the tech did a scan of her upper and lower abdomen, even though they hadn’t ordered it.
When they spotted something she wasn’t worried about it. Elizabeth thought "they always give you worst-case scenario, right?" They gave her a genetic marker test and it came back positive. The more she learned, the more serious it became. It changed her life completely. Elizabeth started chemotherapy in September, had surgery in October, and went back into chemo after that. That’s when she felt like I experienced her first miracle...
Read More about Heather here
Author Heather McCollum has three spirited children and lives in the comfortable suburbs where she juggles the shouts for “Mom!” with the shouts from my characters. "Seems everyone wants my attention!" Heather shares some of her experience with Ovarian Cancer "It has been a long year as I’ve battled for my life against Ovarian Cancer. Chemo ends in July 2012 and then I start my new journey to recovery and detoxifying my body from the medications. My prognosis is good and I hope to make a full recovery.
I’m excited to say that I am finally writing again. I’m sorry for the delay in Book Four of THE DRAGONFLY CHRONICLES, but Kailin (Kat’s twin sister) will be exploring her immense powers in Victorian Era Egypt soon. The cancer put my writing (and everything else in my life) on hold for about a year."
Read More about Heather here
13 WTHR Indianapolis
"This is a treatable cancer but not a curable cancer which is kind of a tough message to hear," says Becky Lundberg. She says she was amazed to learn such a deadly illness was present when her symptoms were so slight. "I literally had a stomach - kind of like I ate too much Halloween candy kind of stomach ache. Not all the time and nothing to just really put me down but just a lingering stomach ache," she said.
Read her story here
Mary Jo Keenan was first diagnosed in 2006, after a year of treatment for the ovarian cancer that snuck up on her without symptoms, she was in great shape. Unfortunately a routine CAT scan showed a new tumor on her pelvic bone.
“When they performed surgery, they discovered that the cancer was everywhere,” Mary Jo said. “Sometimes cancers don’t show up on scans.”
A seven-hour surgery was conducted, during which infected areas were rebuilt or resected. The subsequent chemotherapy robbed Mary Jo of her energy and her hair.
Cancer proved a stubborn foe, hanging on in spite of treatments, necessitating more surgery and more chemo. Not surprisingly, she admitted to more than a few “dark days.”
Read her story here
Gynecologic cancer survivor, Jenny Allen, a mother, writer and performer urges women to see a doctor, if they have symptoms that last two weeks or longer. She tells a moving personal story about noticing symptoms, being diagnosed with uterine and ovarian cancer, and getting treatment. She says, "Be brave. Ask questions."
Women who carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations have a 40 to 60 percent chance of developing ovarian and/or breast cancer. Usually, carriers learn their status only after a family member turns up with cancer.
That’s exactly how Melanie discovered her mutation. After her oldest sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and found to carry the BRCA2 mutation, Melanie, along with her two other sisters and their mother, went for screening. They all had it too.
“There’s only about a 12 percent chance that the entire family would be positive,” said Melanie, who lives in San Luis Obispo, Calif. “But my sister basically gave us a crystal ball by doing the genetic testing.”
Since the discovery, Melanie decided to have a preventive surgery to remove her ovaries — prophylactic oophorectomy — thus nearly eliminating her risk for ovarian cancer and significantly reducing her chance of developing breast cancer. Her twin sister and mother have undergone prophylactic mastectomies, which removes breast tissue. Melanie is now debating the breast surgery for herself.
In August 2010 Debbie Johnston began experiencing abdominal pains, shortness of breath and general malaise. Having several years earlier been diagnosed with a gastrointestinal condition, Johnston chalked up some symptoms to the GI condition, but these newer ones were different:
“I felt as full after eating a few bites as you do after Thanksgiving dinner;” and “I was getting bigger but not gaining weight,” she says, pointing to her stomach. “I just wasn't feeling well.”
What Johnston knows now is that all her symptoms were classic signs of ovarian cancer.
She went for her annual gynecological exam but after the exam and even after reviewing ultrasound findings, the doctor told her she had nothing wrong and that all was normal. That was after the ultrasound technologist told her she was “full of fluid” throughout her pelvic and abdominal areas.
Johnston left the doctor's office in confusion and tears.
“I knew something wasn't right,” she recalls. Read more here...
Ovarian Cancer Fundraiser Donna McClure, who has been fighting ovarian cancer for more than two years, is hoping to help others through an event at the Nyack Seaport on May 5. Donna McClure is organizing a fundraiser for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund to be held May 5 at the Nyack Seaport.
A little more than two years ago, Donna McClure fell out of a hammock and hurt her back. She went for a CT Scan, which allowed her to see that her back was fine but she learned she had another issue. McClure had ovarian cancer.
She’s had two surgeries, the first of which lasted 12 hours, and is still undergoing chemotherapy and clinical trial drug treatments. “I’m fighting the good fight,” she said. “I’m trying to stay alive and healthy.” McClure, of Stony Point, was recently given two new reasons to continue her fight back to health: grandchildren. Coincidentally, each of McClure’s sons’ wives gave birth on March 9, with one grandchild being born in Nyack and the other in New Hampshire. They are McClure’s first two grandchildren, both of whom she visited right after their respective births, thanks in part to a quick nap and four-drive up to New Hampshire.
McClure said she hopes to do a lot with her grandchildren, things like swimming in the ocean, digging dirt, reading books and just generally celebrating life. And so because of that, and wanting to get the word out, McClure is organizing a fundraiser Thursday, May 5 at the Nyack Seaport with all proceeds going to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “fund research to find a method of early detection and ultimately a cure for ovarian cancer,” according to its site.
The fundraiser, which asks for a $75 donation per person, will have a cocktail reception and silent auction. As of now, McClure said some of the auction items are an oil painting of the Hudson River, gift certificates to local restaurants and possibly foursomes for golf. The event takes place from 7:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. McClure said she came up with the idea for the fundraiser “Probably about two months ago, between darkness of this winter and just realizing that I survived for a reason and I need to start giving back.”
Her goal is to raise money, but also raise awareness about ovarian cancer. “It’s not a cancer that is easily diagnosed. I was a salesperson, I was on four planes a week,” she said, adding that her main symptom was indigestion. “It’s not an easy symptom to say, ‘Oh, that must be ovarian cancer.’”
Anybody hoping to attend the fundraiser, or simply donate, is asked to contact McClure at
When Elaine Gardiner was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1997, she was filled with questions. “I really thought it would be nice to talk to someone, and I didn’t know a soul with ovarian cancer,” Gardiner said.
Gardiner eventually found comfort and answers by talking to a breast cancer survivor about her experiences. “Sometimes it is just nice to have someone to unload on that has been through it,” Gardiner said. “Just talking to someone that has been through it can give you a lot of hope.” Read more...