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In September 2012 my Grandmother was diagnosed with liver cancer. I was in for what I thought would be a road to helping her recover. As she went through more testing, more cancer was found- this time we learned she had advanced bone cancer, in her spine and hips, but the doctors were confused and ran more tests. It turns out that both of these cancers were secondary cancers. They wanted to find where it started. I was upset, because did it really matter- they had already said it could not be cured. Why keep doing more tests. But they did. And they found Ovarian cancer, the primary cause of her sickness. My Grandmother went through one round of chemotherapy, because she had hoped they could give her some more time. After her first treatment the doctors told her that at most it would get her 6 months, but they would be miserable. Without treatment she had three. She opted out. They were right, she passed away on January 20, 2012 at home. Her courage and strength still amazes me. I hope that one day there is a cure, and no more grandchildren have to lose their grandmothers, or more husbands lose their wives, or children lose their mothers.
This Sunday, March 11th 2012 will mark the 8th anniversary of my wife's passing from this horrible disease. She was 36 years old and we were two weeks shy of our 11th wedding anniversary and it was only three weeks after our daughter turned 6.
Christmas Eve was always one of Cee-Cee's favorite days but Christmas Eve in 1999 was different. Her stomach was bothering her and she didn't get to enjoy the usual feast that my family prepared. We didn't really think it was anything to worry about and with all the Y2K stuff a week away, we were pre-occupied.
The discomfort continued after the New Year and she went to the doctor for an ultrasound where they saw a large cyst and we made an appointment to have it removed a week or so later.
January 28th, 2000 was a crisp, clear day. A little warm for January, but the bare trees and low sun reminded you of the time of year all the same.
When we arrived at St. Vincent’s hospital, we were laughing and joking as we usually did, that was the one thing that was always present in our relationship—laughter. We settled into a room and waited. The doctor came in and spoke with us, we kissed good-bye and Cee-Cee went in while I went into the waiting room. It was a little after 1 in the afternoon.
The waiting room was pretty crowded and there was a TV on in the corner, I was reading a book and barely noticed the time slipping by. As darkness began to fall and the waiting room began to empty, I started to feel an uneasiness. When the 5 o'clock news started on the TV, I was the only one left and was now concerned. The Doctor appeared in the doorway and he was white as a ghost. "We need to talk," he said to me and we proceeded down an empty hallway. I had no idea what I was about to hear but I knew it couldn't be good.
When he told me Cee-Cee had Ovarian cancer and that it had spread outside of her pelvic area, I felt like someone hit me in the head with a brick. My knees buckled and I felt like a lost child. He gave me some options and I said that I would rather discuss it with her. He pointed me to a phone but I couldn't dial, I couldn't even speak. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs but I could do nothing but cry. I finally picked up the phone and called my mother and Cee-Cee's sister Pat.
When Cee-Cee came to a few hours later (I think, time became a fog at that point) I was by her side. She knew immediately that something was wrong.
"What's wrong with me?" she asked.
"What are you talking about?" I answered without being able to look her in the eyes.
"I can see the clock, I know something is wrong."
The doctor was nearby, we both knew that I would not be able to deliver the news. When he finished explaining to her, Cee-Cee smiled (she had the most beautiful smile) at me and I saw a strength that I had never seen before and that I would never have. She said she would fight this and that she would win and she wanted to call her family. What still amazes me is that a still half dazed Cee-Cee called her family and assured them that she would fight and she would be okay.
The surgery was the following Tuesday and because of her age they were able to be aggresive and attack every cell that they could see and even some they weren't sure of. Chemo was next and Cee-Cee once again took control, shaving her own head so that the disease wouldn't control her. Six months later, she was feeling good and it looked like she was going into remission.
They always told us that if it was coming back, it would probably do so within two years. Almost two years to the day it came back. Cee-Cee once again was strong and defiant. She had the surgery and treatments and kept smiling the entire time. She even comforted the new patients while she was getting chemo, helping them deal with it as well.
Six months later, it was back again and this time it wasn't going away no matter what. When the doctor told me that she probably wouldn't make it another year I locked myself in the basement of the pizzeria that I owned at the time and broke everything I could get my hands on. I threw things, I screamed and yelled and then cried. When my parents got to me I was slumped against the wall.
The next few months were brutal, how could I look at her smiling and fighting, even while she was wasting away, smiling and fighting and I knew the end was inevitable and coming? That was the most difficult time in my life. I was resigned to what was happening, I was trying to prepare myself and she would still never give up. It was so hard to look at her knowing this.
Thursday, March 11th, 2004 at approximately 10:40 PM, Cee-Cee took her last breath and I was by her side. The most difficult thing that I have ever done in my life was the next morning, telling our 6 year old daughter that Mommy went to Heaven the night before.
The wake was on the Saturday and Sunday that followed and the crowd was so large that the funeral home opened three rooms for us. I was overwhelmed at the amount of people that came to say good-bye to her. Thinking about it now, I shouldn't have been surprised. Cee-Cee's smile and her faith, strength and courage touched many people.
In the year that followed, I was consumed by anger and it has taken me eight years and this site to finally allow me to air out Cee-Cee's story. I truly believe that she watches over me and every thing I do, I believe she is always still with me and helped me through that dark year and helped me get my life back together. I still see her smile everyday, I miss her and not a day goes by that I don't think about her.
Staten Island, NY
"Some 27 years ago, at the age of 66, my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Because she refused to go to a gynacologist she was being diagnosed with constipation at a hospital in Riverhead, NY & was sent home from there with a strong laxative. Her stomach became quite distended as a result of the fluid build-up from the cancer. She underwent a total hysterectomy, but by then it was too late. She was put on a regimen of Chemotherapy. Unfortunately, it didn't work. As the surgeon predicted, she passed away within that year. Ovarian cancer is a silent killer. Please ladies, go for your annual gynecological exams, or if you experience bloating, or sometimes even abdominal discomfort frequently, please get checked right away. It could mean your life. My aunt & a cousin, no blood relation to any of my family, were also diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but luckily, it was caught early enough for a total cure & they're still alive today, proving regular exams will save your life."
"I was diagnosed December 24, 2007. Had surgery on January 4, 2008. I had
just retired in Aug 2007, bought a new house. Then my world stopped for awhile.
I was just going into the hospital for exploratory surgery. They could not
find my left ovary on the sonogram. I was only to be there for about 3
days. I stayed for 8 days and was told I had ovarian cancer. Well, I knew no
one who had this, so I had no idea what I had. I started chemo on Feb. 4,
2008. Was encouraged to get on the research program of 22 treatments. I did
not want to do this, but was more or less talked into it. After the first 6
treatments, it was supposed to be just the research drug Avastin. In
December 2008, I had a scan and my lymph nodes were enlarged, so he put me
back on another cycle of a different drug. In April of this year I had 2
clean scans and have been off treatment since. I go in September for another
scan and it will determine what happens with that one.
In January 2009 my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He took 42
treatments of radiation.
I still have some neuropathy in my feet. Have just a gem of a doctor and
team of nurses. But over all doing well."
"My name is Cindy Swift and I am a survivor. Our Labrador (now 13 months old) saved my life. I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer at age 41. On Mother’s Day, May 10, 2009 our Labrador puppy tripped me and I landed on my left kneecap. One week later I went to the emergency room with severe calf pain and was diagnosed with a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis – blood clot – the DVT was caused by the cancer) and also put on crutches for an ankle injury (result of the fall one week prior to the visit to the emergency room). While beginning treatment for the DVT and waiting to see an orthopedic surgeon for my ankle I developed a fever and a cough that wouldn’t go away (the cough had been progressively getting worse for about 3 months). Since the cough wouldn’t go away I requested further testing – my internist ordered a chest CT Scan (June 22nd). On June 22, 2009 the doctors found an 8-10 cm mass on my right ovary and I was told that “it does not look good and is most likely Ovarian Cancer.” My blood work a couple of days later showed my CA125 levels to be over 400. On my second visit to my oncologist I was admitted to the hospital because of running high fevers that just would not go away. On July 7, 2009 I had a complete hysterectomy and spent a total of 12 days in the hospital. I have since received 8 chemo treatments (last one on January 7, 2010) and hope to have a full recovery (first follow-up CT Scan is scheduled for late February 2010). I am very fortunate in being diagnosed in Stage IIa – my cancer was only on my right ovary and had not spread anywhere else. My symptoms were very vague and really only included abdominal bloating and some random cramping (not severe). As we look back we found that my symptoms also included the fever and cough – the fever and cough went away almost immediately after my surgery.
After my diagnosis my oncologist had me see a genetic counselor to further investigate why I have Ovarian Cancer. I tested negative for the BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 genes and am waiting for possible further testing for Lynch Syndrome (hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)) – people with Lynch syndrome have an increased risk of cancers of the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder ducts, upper urinary tract, brain, skin, and prostate. Women with this disorder also have a high risk of cancer of the endometrium (lining of the uterus) and ovaries. We have also discovered that there has been a family history of some of these particular cancers as well.
I know that God has been with me every step of the way and will continue to be there each and every day. "