Three years ago I was still a newlywed, just becoming established in my career, and excited for what the future held. Little did I know that my recently promised vows would be put to the test and my job as a dietitian for oncology patients would become very personal, ironic right?
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on January 17th 2014, when I was 28 years old. I didn’t have any symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, or fatigue, and in fact almost cancelled the appointment that led to the diagnosis. However, understanding the importance of preventative care led me to the doctor and my OB-GYN felt what was assumed to be an ovarian cyst during the exam. When I went to surgery to have the “cyst” removed it was discovered that unfortunately the benign cyst was actually low grade serous ovarian cancer.
Thankfully because of my career in healthcare I had some insight into the world of cancer therapy and was able to prepare myself for the road ahead. My treatment course has consisted of multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, clinical trials, immunotherapy, and hormone therapy. I’ve learned that many times a treatment can work for a short time but then the cancer outsmarts the therapy and you have to move on to the next one. It can feel like a constant battle.
To keep myself healthy and strong during this time I’ve taken my own advice and focused on my nutrition. Every person is different but I’ve found that for me eating small frequent meals throughout the day keeps up my energy and helps stave off nausea. I take advantage of the moments when I feel well to drink nutritious shakes or eat protein rich snacks. Not every meal can be full of healthy, cancer fighting foods, but the right nutrition can help fight this deadly disease. Two of my recent favorite additions in the kitchen have been cinnamon and ginger for their anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits.
Three years after my diagnosis I continue the uphill fight. I am being treated with an aromatase inhibitor and will have a CT scan soon to monitor my response. I would love for the cancer to completely go away, or to have a great response to treatment, but that hasn’t been the case so far. I’ve learned to take it one day at a time, one test at a time, and not to be surprised by much. My cancer diagnosis keeps me busy and on my toes, but it doesn’t define me. I lead a full life that isn’t pushed to the side because of my disease.