Survivor Spotlight

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Anna


Tell your story of how you were diagnosed.

My diagnosis came after months of excruciating painful periods along with bloating, infertility, and a general feeling of being unwell. Once I had received the biopsy results that indicated endometrioid adenocarcinoma, at that time they thought it was endometrial cancer. We met with the kindest gynecologic oncologist who very gently told us that the best way to prolong my life was to have a complete bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.


This was not my husband’s nor my plan. We had a beautiful 2 ½-year-old son, we were going to have more children. We knew what we needed to do but verbalizing my choice to the MD to have the surgery, was the hardest thing I have ever had to say. After surgery, I remember the kind surgeon coming to talk to my husband and me. It turns out that I had two-inch tumors in both ovaries. From that, they are still unsure if I had ovarian as a primary or both ovarian and endometrial cancers.

I had a recurrence of my cancer two days short of being a two-year survivor. This was more shocking to hear than the original diagnosis! It wasn’t supposed to come back! We (it takes a village to get through cancer), fought so hard, how DARE it come back. But, we beat it again and I have been cancer free for 2 and a half years!


Do you celebrate your cancerversary?

You will never forget the day you hear the words: “You have cancer”. There is no “nice” way for an MD to tell you this. I don’t even really remember the exact dates of when I was told I had cancer and then when it occurred. I know it was in December and May, respectively.


How have you celebrated your cancerversary?

We always go out to dinner. Nothing fancy. I like to just be present with my boys and really relish that freedom that comes with being cancer free. I also like to look back on old “during cancer” posts on Facebook/Instagram. I tried to share all of my cancer ventures…the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m proud of how I was able to grow from this garbage dump of a situation

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?

1.)Feel all of your feelings with complete honesty. When someone asks you how you are doing, be honest. If you are having a bad day, let them know. Trying to bury your feelings will only make the mountain of bad feelings bigger. Honestly? Having a therapist was the biggest help to me (and my family!). It allowed me to express my feelings and learn really good coping mechanisms.

2.) You don’t have to accept everyone’s help. Surround yourself with people who “get” you. And who will be just fine laying in your bed with you watching every single episode of “My 600 pound Life” or “Gypsy Sisters”

3.) If people want to bring you food, accept it. But have rules…..Small pans, disposable pans, and NO BROCCOLI. Nothing smells worse than broccoli, during chemo!

4.) Find a way to laugh every day. I found out that I could stick a beer bottle to my bald head. I also showed up to get fluids one day and I drew on very obvious fake eyebrows. It made my nurse laugh and my aunt got a picture of that on a coffee mug for Christmas.

What were you looking forward to most post-treatment?

Just being done. With my second round, I had to continue with Avastin for 2 years after chemo ended. It was such a relief to finally be done.


How have you connected with other survivors?

Through WOCA (Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance), I was connected with an amazing mentor. She still checks in on me from time to time.

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Ashley


Tell us about how your ovarian cancer was diagnosed.

I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September 2020. For 5 months I was struggling with what I thought was a UTI that kept reoccurring. I finally had a CT scan done that showed I had kidney stones and a 16cm mass on my left ovary. I was immediately hospitalized with kidney failure and anemia. 4 days later I was diagnosed with stage 1A ovarian cancer and had the mass and my left ovary and tube taken out. I was fortunate and did not need chemo or radiation.


Where are you with your treatment now?

I am two years out from surgery. I am considered NED at this time.


If could describe how you were feeling when diagnosed in 3 words, what would they be?

Overwhelmed, scared, defeated


What are 1-3 do’s and don’ts for handling the whirlwind that came with a cancer diagnosis?

Do find a support system (friends, family, neighbors) you can’t do this alone. Do seek therapy for processing your trauma and feelings/emotions. Don’t ever give up hope. Don't read your scans without a doctor with you-it’s overwhelming, confusing and scary.


What advice would you give to anyone newly diagnosed?

Lean on your support system. You cannot do this alone. There are people to help you get through treatment and help you work through doctor appointments.


What is one thing that you could not live without during treatment?

My mom. She was SO helpful during my recovery from surgery. She came to every appointment and asked some tough questions.


What were some surprising things that you experienced (good or bad) when going through treatment?

I learned that I’m not the only one that had experienced this at a young age. Sharing my story has helped me build a community of people that have experienced similar things. The power of sharing your story and making connections is amazing.

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