In January of 1992, I was 17 and a senior in high school, had a serious boyfriend, loved being with my girlfriends, and basically did what normal 17 year olds do when I was diagnosed with a stage 1-B complex dysgerminoma of the left ovary...
I had been experiencing some GI problems, back aches, fatigue, spotting, and noticed my pants seemed to be getting tighter. I had all but one of the symptoms for ovarian cancer. However, at the time I had no idea this is what I was experiencing.
I was scared, and didn't know what to do, and didn't want my parents to know. I went to Planned Parenthood, where they "confirmed" with a vaginal exam, and a UA, that I was pregnant. They had stated I was at least 18-19 weeks along.
I wanted another opinion, and decided to go to our county hospital. Again, a positive on the UA AND a blood draw, however, no ultrasound was done at either location.
I can't really remember the exact time line of the events now, but it seems like the next few days or so, things progressed quite quickly and I was experiencing a great amount of pain.
I remember shamefully telling my parents, because I thought I was pregnant, and we immediately went to our family doctor. With one quick vaginal exam, he exclaimed, "That's not in your uterus sweetheart, it's on your ovary! I'm going to have your folks come in so we can talk." By now, as you can guess, I was extremely confused and angry.
It seems like I ended up in emergency surgery fairly quickly, after having many tests done. (Sometimes with certain cancers, it can give off protein markers that are similar to those that show up if you are pregnant). I continued to have pain, due to the ever growing size of the tumor. They initially didn't know what they were going to find, or if it would be malignant or not.
Upon completion of surgery, they had done over 40 biopsies, obtained several cytology washings, removed the left ovary/tube contained in a mass measuring the size of a medium cantaloupe, and aspirated cells from the right ovary.
Due to the questionable results from the right ovary, I ended up having 3 rounds of inpatient chemotherapy treatments, all the while trying to carry on like a normal senior in high school. However, I had to put my entire spring and summer on hold because of this disease, and live with the embarrassment of being "bald" at 18. All I could think was "WHY ME??" With the help a tutor, I did however, graduate with the rest of my class which was incredibly awesome!
I am 35 years old now, and cancer free!!
I have a wonderful husband and am doing great!
I work in the medical field and enjoy sharing my stories with others.
This is my wish for you to take away with you: Listen to the signs your body is telling you. You can't hear enough about the signs and symptoms of this disease. If they persist longer than 2 weeks, see your OB/GYN.
Be aware that this disease DOES NOT discriminate with age or race.
Make sure you have an open and honest relationship with your doctor. This can make a world of difference if you can trust your doctor and feel comfortable with them.
BE PERSISTANT if you believe there may be something wrong. Pap smears DO NOT screen for ovarian cancer.
Thank you for letting me share my story. I know now, "WHY ME"- If I can share my story with even one person, be an advocate of sorts for this silent dilemma, and to let others know there can be hope.
I am an ovarian cancer survivor!