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My story is typical, which is unfortunate. By the time I made an appointment to see a gynecologist, the cancer had progressed to stage 3C.
Stage 3 is when the cancer has spread outside the pelvis into the abdominal cavity or to lymph nodes. The "C" means there are cancer growths larger than 2cm on the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum) and there might also be cancer in the lymph nodes.
I was in serious trouble.
Luckily, I landed in the right treatment facility, and had surgery followed by 6 rounds of chemotherapy which put me into remission for about 18 months. Then the cancer returned.
An 8-hour surgery to remove the mass, some lymph nodes and half of my left descending colon was performed, followed by another 6 rounds of chemo. During treatment I heard of a new maintenance treatment for women with recurrent ovarian cancer, but didn't think I was eligible as it was most effective on women with the BRCA mutation, and I was BRCA negative. My oncologist assured me that I was actually an excellent candidate for Zejula, and I started it in July 2017.
I've been in remission for 2.5 years now, however I still go in for CT scans every 6 months and blood work every 3 months. You see, I can never drop my guard with this cancer, which is why I work as hard as I can to bring awareness in the hopes women will be diagnosed in the earliest stages of the disease.
When diagnosed in its earliest stages, a woman's 5-year survival rate is over 90%. However, less than 20% of cases are diagnosed early, mainly due to the fact that there is no reliable, non-invasive early detection test for ovarian cancer. At least with breasts, one can perform a monthly self-exam, but I've never met one woman who self-examines her ovaries!
I'm still here 5.5 years after a late stage diagnosis, defying the odds. Why? I don't know, but I have become a teal-haired warrior to fight for all affected by ovarian cancer. Every time I hear of a TEAL sister lost to ovarian cancer, I feel it, truly feel it, like a thorn in my heart. And it hurts.
Please join Anna's Avengers in the 2020 Together in TEAL campaign. Together we can work toward Ending Ovarian Cancer to save lives.