My Journey with Ovarian Cancer

September is ovarian cancer awareness month.  In 2012 an estimated 22,000 women in the US will be diagnosed and 15,000 will die from the disease.  I am a survivor, and I am on a mission to raise awareness of this dreaded disease.  Cancer did not run in my family, and I didn’t know the symptoms.  I started having problems in March 2008, and I was not diagnosed until October 2008.  I was having many of the symptoms:

1) unexplained weight loss

2) increasing waist size for no obvious reason

3) unexplained bladder and bowel changes

4) unusual fatigue

I was treated for bladder spasms and UTI’s.  I was unable to urinate much of the time, and I was routinely given a catheter and told to return in two weeks.  I was examined by several different doctors, but none of them spent enough time with me to find the problem.  Finally, on October 1, a urologist sent me for a CT scan, and the rest is history.  My OB/GYN sent me to a gynecologic oncologist, and I had surgery October 20.  The reason I had bladder problems is that there was a 21 cm tumor pressing on my bladder.  It was on my left ovary and it had ruptured, filling my pelvis with brown fluid.  I also had a 9 cm tumor on my right ovary and a 9 cm endometrial tumor.  After surgery, I had recurrent lung issues as well as pleurisy, but I was finally well enough to start chemo November 18.  I regret not knowing the symptoms of ovarian cancer.  I don’t think my doctors knew what to check for, and I didn’t know the right questions to ask.  I was not forceful enough, and it nearly cost me my life.

I will use the month of September to list the symptoms of ovarian cancer and share some of my story.  It is my hope that other women will be more informed than I was and catch this disease early.  If I can help one woman avoid what I endured, I will be happy.  I was fortunate that my cancer was Stage 1, meaning it had not spread outside the ovaries.  When ovarian cancer is detected early, the 5-year survival rate is 95%.  I like those odds.  When my family found out I had ovarian cancer, they did a lot of reading on the internet.  They decided I probably had six months to live.  God had a different plan, and I am alive today.


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