On April 21, 2010 life seemed “normal”, until I found my mother laying on her living room floor, confused and hallucinating. We called 911 and took her to the emergency room. After four long hours of waiting and wondering, we got a diagnosis…a metastatic brain tumor. Everyone assumed it was a result of her breast cancer returning 8 years later. A few days following the surgery to remove the tumor the pathology came back. It was NOT breast cancer but was in fact ovarian cancer. The tests were even repeated as ovarian cancer rarely spreads to the brain.
The results of a full body scan showed cancer in various lymph nodes, chest, hip, shoulder and liver. Her oncologist was cautiously optimistic yet really would not talk about a timeline, but a year or better seemed to be the consensus. We were told that she could not start chemotherapy until the 6-week mark when she completed the radiation treatments for the brain tumor.
Two weeks after brain surgery her hip broke by simply standing up as a result of the tumor at her hip and she needed femur replacement surgery. She then spent a few days in the hospital and then a week in a rehab facility before returning home.
The following week we went to the doctors to have her chemotherapy port put in and I noticed she was acting more confused again. Her oncologist did some blood work and we went home. The next day was even worse and I called the doctor to get the blood test results. I was informed my mother was suffering “multiple organ shutdown” and it was suggested I call in hospice.
My mother passed away 3 days later, 1 day before she was scheduled to begin her chemotherapy and 5 weeks after being diagnosed.
I think about the symptoms she complained of – bloating, incontinence, bowel irregularities, reflux, shoulder & hip pain and yet – who would have ever guessed cancer? I think about the diagnoses she’d been given, irritable bowel syndrome, gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and menopause. Since making ovarian cancer awareness my goal in life, I’ve heard the same story over and over again and every time I want to cry because almost every time women didn’t know what they needed to save their lives.
As soon as my mother was diagnosed I realized there was a desperate need to educate women and healthcare providers about the symptoms of ovarian cancer so no other woman would go through what we did. So in July of 2010, I started Ovarian Cancer 101 to accomplish that goal. In the years since it all began we have become a Partner Member of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance and coordinate their Survivors Teaching Students Program for the New England region, implemented patient support and assistance programs and distributed over 100,00 pieces of ovarian cancer educational materials.
To learn more about Ovarian Cancer 101 or participate in any of our activities, visit http://www.ovariancancer101.org/. Follow us on our social media pages too.
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