We are so excited to share stories of survivors the entire month of September. We hope you will read their stories, find hope, connection, and community. Today we are sharing stories from Andrea, a 15 year survivor, Casey, a 5 year survivor, and Milagros, a 2 year survivor. We celebrate each of you teal sisters!!!
How has treatment changed since you were diagnosed?
Because I was diagnosed early, I was lucky that I only had to do radiation. I do know that there are many new options available, new drugs with less side effects and a combination of options so the patient is as comfortable as possible.
What is something that you’ve done in your years since being diagnosed that you might not have done pre-diagnosis?
I was very comfortable speaking in front of a large group. I feel that my diagnosis gave me a voice to share my story and educate as many women as I can. I also decided to go plant based several years ago. I felt nauseous for many years and my gynecologist/oncologist could figure out what was causing this. So this change improved my energy, health and my nausea went away.
Have you connected with other survivors?
Yes, I am part of Survivors Teaching Students and enjoy meeting so many inspirational women.
I am also part of Caring Together Inc. and we all share our stories to learn from each other and help our community.
What does Teal mean to you in 3 words?
Be a voice!
Did you know that there are subtypes or different types of ovarian cancer?
Yes, I have researched this topic over the years to educate myself when I am speaking.
What's one thing you would want to pass along to anyone going through treatment?
I have found that eating healthy, exercising, meditation and staying positive is such a big part of healing. Many doctors do not talk about this and I feel it really can make a difference.
You can follow along with Andrea's journey on her website https://www.andreacomo.com
My diagnosis story -
I started having severe pain in my abdomen and chest areas. It felt like severe gas pressure. I couldn't breathe and I could barely move. I took several over the counter meds for gas pressure, but nothing helped. Finally, in January of 2017, the pain was so unbearable that I drove myself to the ER. The doctor there ran some tests, told me he saw a cyst on my ovary and told me that "The ER was for things that were more serious." he referred me to a gynecologist to have the cyst checked out and sent me on my way. A few days later, the pain had subsided and I went about my daily life. Maybe it was all in my head - I was in a very bad relationship at the time and I knew that the stress of that relationship had caused me to have several health issues. Maybe this was just another symptom of the stress and unhappiness. Fast forward to March of 2017. It happened again, the pain was back and it was more severe than the last time. This time, I decided to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist because there had to be something wrong with my stomach. At this point, my stomach had started to look distended and was hard to the touch. The gastro saw me and said something is definitely not right - he immediately scheduled me for an MRI on my lower abdomen. A few weeks later, the results were in and he called me and told me he was referring me to a gynecologist because the MRI showed a mass on my right ovary. Fast forward to April, when I was finally able to see the gynecologist - he took one look at my MRI and told me that I needed to prepare myself for surgery. I lived in a very small town, and had very little access to good medical care. He studied under a gynecological oncologist during school and he was sending me to Scottsdale, 4 hours from home, to have a consult and to have the mass removed. I drove the four hours in severe pain and I met with Dr. Dennis Scribner, the man who saved my life. At that point, I found out that the small cyst found in January was now the size of a football and approximately ten pounds. They removed the mass, along with my right ovary and tube. When I woke up, I was told that the tumor was 70% cancer free and that I could do all of my follow up surgical appointments back home. In May of 2017, I got the call - they wouldn't tell me anything over the phone, but told me that I had to make the drive back down to get my results. On May 11th, 2017, I was told I had cancer. Stage 1C - high grade serous. Six months from a death sentence.
I celebrate my cancerversary every year from diagnosis - I have celebrated by taking back my life. I got out of the terrible relationship and started living my life for me! I met a wonderful man, and together, we have traveled the world - one trip each year to celebrate each year of being a survivor. In 2018 it was Seattle, Alaska and Canada, 2019 was Belize and a road trip to the PNW. In 2020, we had a staycation to celebrate moving to a new city (Reno, NV), and 2021 we went to Lake Tahoe. For my big 5 year in 2022, we went to San Clemente and stayed at the beach for a few days.
I would tell someone who is newly diagnosed not to listen to all the noise - and that's not even from a medical standpoint. Once I was diagnosed, everyone was coming out of the woodworks to tell me what I should do for treatment, and that chemo was going to kill me! Don't listen to that noise! Find a doctor that you respect and trust, even if it takes a few tries, and then listen to what they have to say. Don't be afraid to explore other options and alternatives. If something doesn't feel right, trust your gut.
After chemo and treatment, the thing I looked forward to the most was having a cocktail, singing karaoke, and finding myself again.
I have connected with other survivors through the numerous facebook pages. They have been a life line for me, and I wish I had found them sooner. But that is really the only contact I have with anyone else that has been diagnosed with OC.
Tell us about how your ovarian cancer was diagnosed.
Sadly, i was misdiagnosed for about a year. Finally, a new gynecologist addressed the issue.
Where are you with your treatment now?
After chemo and hysterectomy, I was prescribed zejula and told I was brca 2 positive.
If could describe how you were feeling when diagnosed in 3 words, what would they be?
Odd weird calmness
What are 1-3 do’s and don’ts for handling the whirlwind that came with a cancer diagnosis?
1. Find support systems
2. Be positive
3. Speak up
What advice would you give to anyone newly diagnosed?
Have faith and don't be shy
What is one thing that you could not live without during treatment?
What were some surprising things that you experienced (good or bad) when going through treatment?
There's a great support systems out there. Research what's best for you.