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My Story | Ginny, Delaware, USA

Ovarian cancer, Stage 3c, May 1999 at 43
Surgery and chemotherapy

Thinking back, I probably had several of the 'whispering' symptoms for over a year or so. Not knowing anything about ovarian cancer, I just passed them off as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or gastrointestinal problems. In late February of 1999, I experienced severe abdominal pain and vomiting. I went to the emergency room (ER) and was admitted. After numerous tests (their first thought was my gallbladder), they found ascites (fluid) in the left pelvic area. A catheter was inserted into my pelvis and the fluid drained. I found out later the fluid was never tested.

After a week, I was sent home. My gynecologist did not feel my problem was gynecologic -- that it must be diverticulitis. The ER doctor set me up for a colonoscopy. It only showed a small, benign polyp which was removed. Trusting my doctors, I went home and got on with life.

In mid-May (at about one a.m.) the pain and vomiting returned. Again, I went to the ER, and after spending almost 24 hours there, I was finally admitted to the hospital. Tests revealed that the ascites had returned and was increasing. Plus, my white blood count (a sign of infection) was more than double normal. After a couple days of being treated with antibiotics, they decided to do exploratory surgery, and found a tumor on my left ovary which had started to connect to the bowel. My gynecologist still felt it was just a cyst -- until the pathologist's report came back. It was cancer!

I was given a complete hysterectomy, including removal of the omentum and lymph nodes. I started getting ill a few days later, and it was found that I had a bowel obstruction (caused by a section of bowel twisted during exploratory surgery). One week from the day of the first surgery, they had to go in again to repair the bowel. After spending three weeks in the hospital with a nasogastric tube and central line, being fed liquid nutrients from an IV bag, and losing 20 pounds, I went home. The next day a fluid pocket broke open on the incision line which took several months to heal. I thank my gynecological oncologist, the ER doctor, my primary care physician (who visited me twice in the hospital), my family/friends, and GOD for my survival. It's been a long road, but with medical and family support (including six rounds of Taxol/carboplatin chemotherapy), I am considered 'cancer-free'. I continue checkups with my gynecologic oncologist. I refuse to return to my gynecologist.

I started the Delaware division of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) and am its first President. I want to give back what has been given to me -- a chance to live. Cancer is frightening, but you can't let it get you down. You must not give up the fight. Live, laugh, smile. Each new day is a gift - don't let it slip away. Be proactive in your healthcare - don't let the doctors pass off your complaints. Ovarian cancer is a disease whose symptoms whisper - you have to listen! Your life depends on it.

October 2001

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