It is by the grace of God and my wonderful gynecological oncologist, Dr. Benedict Benigno, that I am a five-year ovarian cancer survivor.
My journey started in 2008. Earlier that year, in June, I had my routine exam by my gynecologist and everything seemed to be fine. During my pelvic exam, my doctor did not feel anything unusual. Then, in October, I started having indigestion and bloating in my abdominal area. I went to my primary doctor and he prescribed medication for indigestion. My indigestion went away immediately, but the bloating in my abdominal area continued. So, the primary doctor sent me to a gastroenterologist, thinking it might be my gallbladder. The gastroenterologist said it wasn't my gallbladder and scheduled a CT scan. The CT scan showed a mass on my left ovary. I then went back to my gynecologist, who ordered a CA-125 blood test, MRI and vaginal ultrasound. All tests came back positive for ovarian cancer.
I was referred to Dr. Benigno, a gynecological oncologist located in Atlanta, Ga., who saved my life with aggressive surgery and chemotherapy treatments.
On January 7, 2009, I had surgery to remove the cancerous tumor (Stage IIB ovarian cancer), an ovary, my appendix, omentum and resection of my colon. I had a hysterectomy twenty years before and, because I was only 38 years old, the doctor left one ovary for hormones. Yes, one little ovary caused all my problems.
While I was still on the operating table, I was treated with the HIPEC procedure. This treatment heats a solution containing chemotherapy to a temperature greater than normal body temperature and delivers it to the abdominal cavity. The chemo kills only the cancer cells and leaves the good cells.
Three weeks after surgery, I started the dreaded chemotherapy treatments. I had eighteen rounds of chemo within five months. I thought I would die before I recovered from that poison. It was a very difficult journey, but I survived the ordeal. I still have after effects from abdominal surgery and chemo therapy. I would not have made it without the help and support of God, my wonderful and loving husband, family, friends, Dr. Benigno and his staff. No woman should have to go through this dreaded disease without support and the healthcare they need to survive.
They sometimes call ovarian cancer the "silent disease," but the symptoms are there. Women have to listen to their bodies and demand that the healthcare community listen to them as well. Women have to be their own advocates when it comes to this disease.
My mission is to educate women and the healthcare community about the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Too many women, both younger and older, are dying from late stage ovarian cancer because they did not know the symptoms and there is no reliable screening test for this disease.
I hope telling my story will help save someone's life.